NFB ‘disappointed’ with Heat and Buildings Strategy
By Leila Steed21 October 2021
The National Federation of Builders (NFB) has criticised the UK Government’s new Heat and Buildings Strategy for its lack of detail.
The strategy document - which is part of the wider Net Zero Strategy outlining the country’s roadmap to reaching net zero carbon emission by 2050 - includes plans to install heat pumps in new homes and provide £5,000 grants for existing ones, as well as green training schemes, social housing decarbonisation, rebalancing energy prices, and proposals for district heating.
Construction trade body NFB, which represents 21,000 employees from sole trader businesses to multi-billion-pound construction companies, said that while it was “hard not to compliment the ambition” of the strategy, the plan also had “clear omissions and no mention of a national retrofit strategy” to reducing emissions.
Richard Beresford, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Builders, said, ”Despite the positive headlines on heat pumps, the Government has failed to deliver a coherent insulation strategy, which would make heat pumps even more attractive to consumers and ignored the impact a broken planning system has on obstructing retrofitting solutions and onshore renewable energy.”
While the NFB reacted positively to many of the strategy’s proposals, it expressed “disappointment that the opportunity was not taken to provide a comprehensive focus on incentivising and improving the energy performance of existing housing stock through a fabric-first approach, which is widely seen as a necessity for heat pumps to perform effectively”.
What the Heat and Building Strategy means for SMEs
Alongside the installation of 600,000 heat pumps by 2028 and the implementation of whole-building energy strategies, the Government strategy also aims to kickstart a green jobs revolution through long term work pipelines.
According to the policy document, investing in the green recovery can support up to 175,000 green skilled jobs by 2030 - rising to 240,000 jobs by 2035 - and provide “a huge range of skills and opportunities” for new and experienced industry workers.
However, Beresford said, “Unless construction SMEs, who train 7 in 10 apprentices and make up 90% of the training capacity, are front and centre of procurement, policy and opportunity, the Heat and Buildings strategy will fail in its delivery.
“We’ve already seen this reality with heat pumps in new build housing,” said Beresford.
“SMEs have typically been the ones who install them, yet because planning favours volume builders and large sites, SMEs have not been able to progress this vital industry.”
How the Heat and Building Strategy affects construction sector employment
According to the NFB, it will take an “army of retrofitters” to deliver the energy improvements the country’s existing housing stock needs.
The NFB said that “without a secure pipeline, SMEs will not have the confidence to invest in the training and upskilling” of workers.
Instead, the trade body would like to see a 30-year long commitment to green jobs.
Beresford said, “We must see a much clearer and longer-term pipeline for all energy efficiency improving works. Without it, any future schemes will fail as the Green Homes Grant scheme has”.
He added, “The early closure of the Green Homes Grant was predominantly influenced by too few companies being able to complete the insulation works at the standard and speed the Government expected – they needed much longer to invest in training the workforce.
“It’s a real missed opportunity that the Government’s strategy made no mention of the construction industry-led National Retrofit Strategy, which contained a number of non-taxpayers funded solutions to build the retrofitting workforce.”
Similarly, other leading construction industry associations have also spoken out about a lack of clarity in new climate change documents recently published by the Government.
UK Net Zero Strategy
Speaking about the wider Net Zero Strategy, which was published just three days ago and outlines country-wide plans for the lowering of carbon emission by 2050, the Construction Equipment Association’s new Chief Executive, Suneeta Johal, drew attention to the need for additional information.
Johal said, “With COP26 fast approaching we are anticipating the Chancellor to make some announcements about the government’s promise of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
“As it currently stands, construction equipment doesn’t feature in the government’s carbon budget until around 2035, so we are hoping there will be changes in that respect once the detail is published.”