The government wants to fuel business growth and force a green revolution – can it have it both ways?
In the green economy, reconciling the irreconcilable is difficult at the best of times. When it comes to striking a balance between fuelling growth by limiting the amount of red tape business has to grapple with and wanting to be known as the greenest government ever, the task is fraught with risk. All the more so in times of fragile politics at home and a eurozone slow motion car crash abroad. But such a reconciliation is exactly what the coalition is considering as part of its proposed changes to the energy governance of buildings under Part L of its regulations. The good news is that, give or take a few tricky details, the balance looks about right. Look past the naysayers and negative headlines protesting at the further watering down of green targets, and what’s before you is the second part of a structural reform that will make possible the retrofitting of the UK’s domestic and commercial buildings. The first part is the Green Deal. Together, both sets of measures provide the industry with its greatest opportunity to date to meet some of its green targets, accelerate the retrofit market and make a difference to the existing stock and the future generation of buildings.
Consequential improvements are likely to be policed by building control officers who often behave with the rabid nitpicking tenacity of traffic wardens
At their worst, these proposals mean that housebuilders face signing up to a burdensome accreditation system to measure their eco performance in a bid to drive out the cowboys and drive up compliance. In return housebuilders who agree to be accredited will only have to meet the proposed 8% carbon reduction target. Those who refuse will have to achieve 3% above that. The only point of contention is whether housebuilders are receiving preferential treatment at the expense of
other developers - the targets remain far more stringent for commercial buildings at a proposed 20%.
Then there is the wider issue of “consequential improvements”. This is likely to be policed by Building Control officers who often behave with the rabid, nitpicking tenacity of traffic wardens and it’s here where implementation starts to become a little more problematic. What it all means for the general public is that whether they are installing a new boiler, converting a loft or replacing front windows, they will have to spend 10% of this cost upgrading the wider energy efficiency of their property, which is made cost neutral under the Green Deal. But does the principle of being forced to renovate a 100-year-old property really make sense when all you want to do is, say, replace a boiler? And can you put a price on the disruption and hassle of getting another group of workers in to install energy saving measures? This is all far from practical and, what’s more, may be nigh on impossible to implement, or police.
The Green Deal is still being finalised, and the changes to Part L will inevitably undergo further tweaks as it makes its way through parliament. But one thing’s for sure - the building blocks are in place and the government doesn’t want to have to choose between reducing red tape to fuel business growth and forcing a green revolution by mandating targets. It wants to do both.
Tom Broughton, brand director