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Retrofit revolution could be saviour

An increased focus on retrofitting buildings could help the industry survive the public sector spending cuts, experts said this week after a key report was published.

The Meeting carbon budgets - ensuring a low-carbon economy report by the Committee on Climate Change said the modest reduction in carbon emissions this year was due to the recession, rather than policy strengthening.

The report said financial support was needed for homeowners, and marketing was needed to attract participation in low carbon schemes.

It said: “It is important to develop detailed implementing arrangements, eg financing arrangements, including the balance between ‘Pay As You Save’ and other funding arrangements, to support the implementation of more expensive measures and energy efficiency improvement for the fuel poor.”

Commentators said the retrofitting market could begin to support the industry through a period of slow new build work.

John Alker, director of policy and communications at the UK Green Building Council, said: “The key is we need a step change in order to meet existing targets - let alone more ambitious targets. The construction industry is going to play a key part in the process of carbon reduction.

“There isn’t a building in the country that isn’t going to need at least some work doing to it. Both the domestic and commercial market will need lots of work.”

He added: “It is likely that retrofitting will take up a lot of the slack from new build. With the new energy bill coming up, it’s understood the Government doesn’t have any money, but it can provide the conditions for this part of the construction business to begin to thrive.”

Buildings and industry emissions comprise around 350 MtCO2 overall, of which 41 per cent is from the residential sector, 38 per cent from industry, 15 per cent from the commercial sector, and 6 per cent from the public sector.
The report recorded an 11 per cent drop in direct carbon emissions from all buildings and industry since 2007.

Emissions from residential buildings fell by 7 per cent in 2009, with reductions in both direct and indirect emissions said to be mainly due to rising fuel prices and the recession.

However, some savings were attributed to the installation of energy efficiency measures. Good progress was made on boiler replacement, with 1.2 million A-rated boilers sold in 2009. High sales continued in early 2010, encouraged by boiler scrappage schemes in England, Wales and Scotland.

Around 800,000 lofts and 600,000 cavity walls were insulated professionally under the Carbon Emissions Reduction
Target, which additionally subsidised a large amount of DIY loft insulation material.

Limited progress was made on solid wall insulation and the sales of efficient appliances, with only 15,000 solid walls insulated under CERT in 2009 and only 0.1 per cent of cold appliances sold being A++.

Paul Toyne, head of sustainability at Bovis Lend Lease UK and chairman of the Strategic Forum for Construction carbon group, said: “If we are going to tackle the challenge of climate change then we must embrace retrofitting.

“There simply isn’t the money around at the moment to go knocking buildings down and rebuilding them. We have to tackle the problem with what currently exists and that has to be through retrofitting.

“I think this will offset the loss in new build. We must offer low-carbon solutions to what we currently have - that’s the challenge.”

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