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Improve the energy efficiency of our current housing provision to have any chance of hitting Government’s carbon neutral target – Simon Ayers, TrustMark CEO.

The Government’s target of being carbon neutral by 2050 is a welcome one, but there is no doubt, that it is a massive challenge. Some evidence suggests we won’t hit that target and some evidence says that we don’t actually have until 2050 to make significant changes.

Climate change is a daily news topic and the action to reduce plastic and bring pollution levels down are common discussions around the dinner table. However, worryingly we are not thinking enough about the reduction of carbon in the same way and the damage that society is allowing to happen to the environment continues.

Within the construction industry some positive steps are being made – new technology is being developed to move towards electrification and hydrogenation. But these steps are small.

The only way to have a realistic chance of meeting the Government’s 2050 deadline is to improve the energy efficiency of the homes we already have. Our housing stock generates a large percentage of our overall carbon output and every small action we take as occupiers of homes, can build to deliver a major impact. Even turning down the heating by one degree, will make a difference.

Around 80% of the homes we will be using in 2050 are already standing – so as a construction industry, retrofitting these properties will allow us to reduce our carbon emissions, make them healthier places to live and help bring 2.5 million people in the UK out of fuel poverty. We would also see other net benefits unlocked by being more energy efficient, the NHS for example, is estimated to save £0.42p for every £1 spent on retrofitting fuel poor homes.

But we need to start now. To make a positive impact, we need to be improving about 17,000 homes per week starting now, to hit the Government’s target.

The Government’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO) has been introduced to tackle fuel poverty and deliver quality and high standards or workmanship, which consumers can rely on. It will also help the construction industry adapt to the challenge of upgrading around 24 million homes over the next 30 years.

ECO is mainly focused on improving the insulation areas around fuel poverty and bringing a vast amount of property to better levels of warmth through its delivery.  ECO works on the basis of a ‘fabric first’ principle to ensure that any property that is being treated is done so in a logical and practical manner.

When retrofitting a property, the new PAS 2030/19 and PAS2035:2019 standards, which will come into force through a transition process for ECO3, will encourage us to look at the complete property, instead of a single measure. How many times has a boiler been replaced in a property that has 30-year-old radiators or a poorly insulated roof?

Looking at the entire fabric of the house – from the heating systems, to the electrical usage to insulation – will see the biggest energy efficiency improvements for the property. The introduction of Retrofit Assessors and Retrofit Coordinators will be key in evaluating a property as a whole and deciding on the work that is needed and working with the property owner and the installer to ensure the highest standard of technical standards and professionalism.

Some within the construction sector have challenged ECO3, saying it will increase costs, mean more red tape and could exclude smaller businesses from quoting for retrofit works. There is no doubt that the construction industry needs to change and is under scrutiny. But with change comes opportunity.

The drive to become more carbon neutral at home will develop new marketplaces worth billions of pounds per year and we need the supply chains for the delivery of these projects to grow and build their capability, no mean task when we have a recognised shortage of skilled trades and technicians to deliver both the existing and new technologies as they come to the market.

The key is to work together as an industry to ensure all sectors remain busy, train new tradespeople and upskill existing personnel to provide the highest quality of service for the consumer. Only by embracing ECO3 and improving the energy efficiency of our nation’s homes will we see the biggest reductions in carbon emissions and give us the best chance of meeting the Government’s 2050 target.

Simon Ayers Bio

Simon’s career runs into the best part of 30 years’ in energy, construction and related sectors.  He is currently the Chief Executive of TrustMark, which connects consumers with competent, vetted tradespeople to work in or around their homes.

Following the implementation of findings from the Each Home Counts (EHC) Review, TrustMark has expanded this remit to include Repair, Maintenance & Improvement (RMI); Retrofit and Energy Efficiency Measures to enhance the protection and choice available to consumers wanting to improve the energy performance of their homes.

Simon is currently navigating TrustMark through these changes as an organisation, helping to develop a level playing field of Government Endorsed Quality for any home improvement, as well as driving continual advances in cross-sector standards.