Kingfisher’s Ian Cheshire on shaping the built environment
Energy efficiency to biodiversity offsetting, shaping the built environment requires us to consider all potential impacts, writes Ian Cheshire
“This is the house that Jack built.” Like all classic nursery rhymes, its linguistic skill provides enjoyment for children, but equally its underlying message continues to resonate, particularly for those of us involved in shaping the built environment.
It neatly encapsulates how Jack’s house, and all buildings, has a direct impact on how we live our lives.
That’s why it’s so important that we work together to realise the UK Green Building Council’s compelling vision for building a better future. And we have already shown what we can achieve when we work collaboratively.
Last autumn, the sector showed unprecedented unity by rallying behind the Green Building Council’s proposal to incentivise home energy efficiency measures through stamp duty reductions.
As a result, the Government was successfully persuaded to commit £460m over the next three years to implement the scheme. This is a solid foundation upon which to build, and shows the value of pooling our efforts.
Given the scale of the challenge we face in transforming the UK’s leaky and inefficient building stock, three quarters of which dates back at least 40 years, collaboration will be all the more important in the years ahead.
To better understand this, we conducted our own experiment by purchasing and retrofitting an average three-bedroom Victorian semi near Southampton.
Many of the improvements were made using materials from B&Q, and those that weren’t available gave us insights for future product development.
We also worked with independent local tradesmen to discover the barriers for those with little knowledge of how to ‘ecovate’ a property. The refurbishment took three months, led to a 70% reduction in carbon and reduced heating bills by £1,200 a year.
Ultimately though, it achieved its objective to inform our eco-retrofit learning. There will of course be some topics that will be more challenging to find common ground on than others. I’m thinking particularly about biodiversity offsetting.
As growing populations continue to urbanise, we need to start valuing nature’s services as well as the fabric of the buildings we are striving to improve.
Biodiversity offsetting may divide opinion within our sector, but it is a vital debate. As we already know from the tale of our good friend ‘Jack’, the house he built cannot be seen in isolation from its surrounding environment.
I was recently asked what I’d like to see achieved within the next decade. As I know from my long experience at Kingfisher, things don’t always move as quickly as we’d like. However, I’m greatly encouraged by the work underway, and am confident we are pushing in the right direction.
I’m also optimistic that if we continue to build our relationships, this should enable us to constructively and speedily work through those issues where we need to find compromise.
Jack’s story is already told, but we are still building ours. With so much in common, I’m certain that the more we can unify, the more we will achieve, and the better our own story will turn out to be.
Ian Cheshire is the CEO of Kingfisher plc
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