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How Can Construction Help the UK Meets its Sustainability Targets?

The Government has rightly set ambitious net zero targets but they will be much more complex to meet, unless it recognises the challenge facing the renovation sector.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), said: “The NFB is currently working on its third carbon report and net zero monitoring, but government intervention is very much required.

Through training, such as PAS2035, consumer understanding, like a Retrofitting Passport, a roadmap, in the National Retrofit Strategy (NRS), or a VAT cut on appropriate renovations, construction can more quickly help the UK meet its net zero target.”

The NFB therefore reiterates the following recommendations, which would get us closer to delivering the environment required to meet our targets.

PAS2035 is a recognised retrofitting framework and standard borne from the ‘Each Home Counts’ review, but which needs greater industry take-up. This take-up could come in the form of government funded works, consumer confidence, training schemes or guaranteed retrofitting direction of travel.

Other recognised standards, such as EnerPHit and MCS prove the value of having a direction of travel and for consumer protection, could be underpinned by insurance products or accreditation, such as Trustmark.

A trained workforce is vital and this was identified before and during the Green Homes Grant, as MCS registered works, like solar thermal and heat pumps had industry capacity to meet consumer needs but PAS2035 works, like insulation, did not.

Retrofitting Passport and National Retrofit Strategy (NRS)

Retrofitting or Building Renovation Passports give consumers greater knowledge of the works available to them and which have been done. They would also act as a precursor, or partner for the industry led NRS, which identifies a roadmap through finance, policy, training and innovation, in how we retrofit the UK’s 28million existing homes.

VAT Cut and Stamp Duty Rebate

Industry has long supported a VAT cut for renovations, but treasury is understandably concerned about losing revenue on 28million houses.

However, to help build capacity in the retrofitting industry and improve the least energy efficient buildings, a VAT cut to 5% on retrofitting works and materials – decided by English Heritage and recommend by the Heritage Alliance – could be offered on the 8million homes regarded as traditional, heritage or in conservation areas.

Separately, the Government could extend its stamp duty holiday for new homes meeting EPC A, or rebating stamp duty on existing homes achieving EPC C within 2 years.

Beresford continued: “There is broad agreement across industry around our recommendations, many are already ready to go, and some could be supported by the delayed Heat and Buildings Strategy. With COP26 approaching, the Government could, at the stroke of a pen, signify its intent, build the right sort of workforce capacity, and further deliver on its net zero promises. Now is the time to make the strategic, phased change the UK needs.”