Market Insight

The green agenda: more certainty please

November 13, 2019

With more and more profile surrounding issues such as the climate emergency from activists like Greta Thunberg, there is more public interest than ever in the green agenda.  

And as we head towards the General Election and the political parties start to unveil their policy pledges, it will be interesting to see the extent to which the green agenda will play a role.

Indeed, the Green Party has already unveiled its plans for housing to be zero carbon by 2020, with retrospective grants to make existing homes zero carbon. 

But with imminent elections often come empty promises and if history is anything to go by, perhaps our expectations should be low. 

If we cast our minds back to the start of the David Cameron and George Osborne era and the bonfire of red tape, we saw the cancellation of the Green Deal because it was perceived at that time as being a burden on business. 

Should promises be made this general election, they will need to be stuck to in order to ensure certainty for builders and developers around the impact of greener projects and their associated costs. 

Building to a better standard costs more money and unless land costs and the profits that developers can make substantiate the added investment in green housing, the viability of greener schemes will diminish. 

However, there are schemes out there which have, nonetheless, taken the green agenda by the horns, where building green has been both good for the environment and for the owners of property. 

This is because green buildings are reasonably economic to maintain and to heat. Take the award-winning development that Norwich City Council built. This was a social housing development which, whilst the overall capital expenditure was higher than a ‘normal’ non-green development, the actual maintenance and operating costs are much less. 

With almost 3.5 million people living in fuel poverty across the UK according to charity National Energy Action, the positive impact of green housing in helping people to stay or come out of fuel poverty, should not be underestimated. 

With this in mind, government together with DCLG, has been promoting the concept of the ‘passivhaus’ or passive house for homes more generally, not just for social housing. 

This is a voluntary standard of energy efficiency in a building, whereby it is designed in such a way as to minimise its environmental impact. 

However, these days we are reaching the point where houses are being constructed almost to a passive house standard, as standard. 

Commercially, it’s a different story because there is no one standard in place and by the nature of commercial buildings they are all very different. 

However, businesses are getting better at implementing the green agenda and not just because it ticks a lot of social corporate responsibility boxes, there is an increasing ‘green conscience’ at play. 

Does it have to cost the earth?

At an individual level, improving the energy efficiency and zero carbon efficiency of your existing building, be it residential or commercial, doesn’t have to cost the earth. 

We understand existing building regulations and can help to suggest ways in which you can maximise your investment, with a green agenda in mind. 

A simple check of your thermostat to ensure it is wired correctly in particular areas, or that they are on timers, can help, whilst occupancy sensors can avoid you paying to heat or light parts of the building not in use. 

More certainty please 

In the meantime, whichever party wins the election, we would welcome more certainty around the green agenda with associated standards regarding the construction of new buildings, whether residential or otherwise, not only to give the construction industry more certainty, but also to ensure that the viability of greener schemes does not diminish.

For more information about the issues discussed in this article on the green agenda, don’t hesitate to get in touch.