Green recovery makes way for property retrofits

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property retrofit, green recovery
© Dirk E Ellmer

The government’s green recovery plans from Covid-19 will lead to a surge in residential and small commercial property retrofits, according to Trustmark

Chief executive Simon Ayers described chancellor Rishi Sunak’s £2bn Green Homes Grant scheme and the £1bn targeted at improving public buildings as “the best kickstart we could have hoped for”.

A ‘colossal’ opportunity

Ayers told a webinar hosted by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) that the scale of the opportunity for building services contractors was “colossal” with 24 million homes requiring retroftting to meet the government’s 2050 net-zero carbon target.

He also said thousands of small commercial properties are likely to be converted into residential buildings as a result of changes to the planning process.

The chancellor said household energy efficiency measures, upgraded schools and hospitals, and ‘green jobs’ must be at the heart of the economic recovery.

In his Summer Statement he estimated that the new green grants would make over 650,000 homes more energy efficient, saving households up to £300 a year on their bills, and would also support 140,000 green jobs.

Vouchers will be available through the scheme, starting in September, worth up to £5,000. They will be available to householders looking retrofit their properties and to install energy saving improvements like heat pumps and solar panels. The grants will cover at least two thirds of the cost of the total project, but for low income households the government will issue vouchers covering the full cost of up to £10,000.

‘Pump prime’ the market

Ayers said these vouchers would help to “pump prime the market”. Although, he added that the industry would need another 300,000 skilled tradespeople to deliver the government’s overall energy improvement programme, which will include replacing 25 million ageing domestic gas boilers.

“This does raise concerns about skills and competencies. For the scheme to be a success, we must have people who are fit and able to carry out this work,” Ayers said.

Housing associations and local authorities will also be able to access around £500,000 to improve the energy performance of social housing. Trustmark estimates that only 35% of those properties currently achieve an EPC rating of C and above – the government’s target. Therefore, some of the remainder may have to be demolished and rebuilt as they are in such a poor state.

Ayers added: “I am a great believer in ‘fabric first’ so that you address the overall efficiency of the building before looking at the heating.”

He said a range of technologies would be needed to upgrade heating systems including heat pumps and hydrogen boilers.

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