Estimates drawn up by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) show that it would cost the UK Government £5bn over the next four years to renovate and upgrade some of the UK’s most inefficient and draughty homes.

This report comes as the dust has now settled after the latest Green Homes Grant scheme whimpered away.

Fenestration’s role to play

In their report, which is covered in The Guardian, they claim that 100,000 jobs could be created, would bring in extra revenues for the Government and cut people’s energy bills.

The UK doesn’t perform well when it comes to the energy efficiency of homes. They are some of the worst-performing in Europe and emit nearly 20% of the UK carbon output per year. If the Government is to meet their own self-imposed carbon targets, then this is an area that is going to need addressing and fast.

To retrofit the leakiest homes around the country would be a huge undertaking. Measures would include replacing gas-powered boilers with heat pumps or hydrogen alternatives, replacement windows and doors, cavity insulation, wall insulation, loft insulation and so on.

I’m not clear the exact number of homes that are classed as the worst-performing, but the estimate of £5bn doesn’t feel like enough. Over the past year, the cost of goods and labour have shot through the roof. The fenestration sector knows this as much as any other sector, with almost weekly price increases for months. The amount of money estimated to be needed feels short of the mark.

There is also the issue of finding the people to do this work. In a report out a couple of weeks ago it was estimated that the construction sector needed 217,000 new workers in four years to be able to meet the needs of the construction sector. So whilst claiming this retrofit effort will create 100,000, it’s very clear that there are not enough people to fill the roles required. The idea of finding more than 200,000 new workers in the construction sector in just four years is simply not going to happen.

Green Homes Grant 2.0?

As the Green Homes Grant was being shut down with a whimper earlier on in the year, there were rumours that there could be another scheme coming later on in 2021 to replace it. If so, there is going to need to be a hell of a lot learned to make sure that any new scheme is far more successful than previous incarnations.

Simply, any scheme that is designed to encourage homeowners to apply for grants, and for companies to volunteer to be part of the network, needs to be as simple and reliable as possible. The last time around, companies were being delayed for payments for months, there were very few companies signed up to undertake the work, which meant those homeowners looking to have work done were unable to find enough businesses willing to quote. Add this to the fact that most sectors covered by the Green Homes Grant were booming already and didn’t need any extra work. Our sector being a good example of that.

Any new scheme needs to be easy to join, with guarantees on being paid in a reasonable time. It should not be outsourced to a foreign company to manage as it’s likely they will have no synergy with the sectors they would be working with, and homeowners need to be sure that if they are going to apply to a new scheme there will be plenty of companies available to actually do the work.

The fact of the matter is that the existing buying methods of energy-efficient products are the most effective. Any new infrastructure designed to boost the purchasing of home improvement and energy-efficient products needs to run alongside these existing purchasing routes. Schemes that require companies to jump through hoops at a time when the entire construction sector is buckling under demand is going are going to fail time after time. The government would be best advised to speak to companies actually doing work on the ground. You get the sense that whenever these sorts of schemes are dreamed up there is very little listening done to the people and companies who would actually do the work in these schemes.

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