Wednesday, 2 March 2011

How will we retrofit 26 million UK homes?

The three-day Ecobuild conference in London kicked off yesterday with Transforming the existing stock.

BBC journalist Stephen Sackur chaired the panel, which featured Gregory Barker MP, Paul King, CEO of UK-Green Building Council, Robert Peto, President of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and Kevin McCloud, presenter of Grand Designs.

Carla Jones reports.

The basic issues were clear: our homes account for 27% of our carbon emissions. So we need a big shift if we are going to meet our 2020 carbon reduction target. But what will drive the retrofitting of UK households over the next 10 years? The Government says it has the ambition to achieve this aim. But what exactly are the practical changes that will get us there? And will the changes be driven by "carrots" or "sticks"?

Kevin McCloud said: "Regulation is a critical 'stick' for sending a clear message to the market. It is fundamental to boost change and instill confidence" But Greg Barker was reluctant to use coercion, which he argued would simply annoy people.

The discussion centred around how change would be funded. The various suggestions emphasised that the money should clearly come from a set of taxes for a direct subsidy of retrofitting changes, including VAT reductions for retrofitting and reclaiming the potential for the Green Investment Bank to reduce the risk from of private finance. Greg Barker emphasised the Green Deal pay-as-you-save scheme, but was hazy about any details, prior to the Budget announcement on 23 March, as to which tax measures would incentivise change.

The panellists all agreed that changes must be stimulated at the community-level. People will be more likely to act if their neighbours were getting similar work done and the resources could be collectively leveraged.

The overall motivating force for change? People act because they want a "nicer" home, above and beyond financial or environmental reasons.

McCloud summed up the need for clarity to drive this action:

"For people to make decisions to retrofit their homes we need to be offering clear 'no brainer' solutions - it needs to be clear what they will save and how it will operate".

No comments: