Focus on refurb not new build, govt told

Captains of industry have teamed up with leading politicians and environmentalists to lambast the government for failing to do enough to promote low carbon buildings.

The Aldersgate Group, a collection of companies and campaigners, claims the government is risking making a mockery of its own green building agenda through confused and contradictory planning policy and weak enforcement.

A report by the group, Better Regulation for a Sustainable Built Environment, applauds Government’s ambitious targets on sustainable building.

But it suggests that they will not be met as regulation is “fragmented, inconsistent and poorly applied”.

This could all change if the government provides serious incentives to improve the environmental performance of existing housing stock, which is a far bigger opportunity, says the coalition, than new buildings.

The report is also critical of what it sees as a lack of urgency in the way that the government and other public authorities deal with their own estates.

Peter Young, Aldersgate Group chairman, said: “The UK must rapidly and consistently reduce the impact of existing and new buildings if it is to have any chance of meeting its climate change commitments.

“Better measurement and enforcement of standards must be a fundamental and driving ingredient in the way in which we respond to this challenge.

“The low hanging fruit is the existing building stock. This represents a sizeable chunk of the UK’s carbon emissions but is routinely overlooked. A more rational, visible and joined up approach is required.”

He added that the credit crunch could in fact help attempts to green Britain’s housing stock.

“The house-building slow down is releasing exactly the hard to come by skills to accelerate the greening of existing building stock, but the lack of drivers to grasp this opportunity is painful to see,” said Mr Young.

“Quick action is needed if we are to get the win-win of securing more jobs in the building sector, reducing energy costs for occupiers by green refurbishments, and leaving our building stock better suited for the low carbon economy of the future.”

David Gibbs

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