The time to prepare is now

CITB-ConstructionSkills has welcomed the launch of the Green Deal, and urges small and medium sized (SME) contractors to act now so that they are ready to take advantage of the opportunities the scheme has to offer when work begins in January 2013.

Mark Farrar, Chief Executive of CITB-ConstructionSkills, said: “The Green Deal represents a huge opportunity for SMEs across the UK, and its launch represents a major opportunity for low carbon building and installation work.

“It is vital that government builds the momentum of this flagship scheme to realise the potential it has to offer for the environment and wider economy. Fourteen million homes could benefit from energy efficiency upgrades under Green Deal by 2016 and winning this work could be a lifeline for many construction firms. But only businesses that can demonstrate that they have the right skills and qualifications will receive the Green Deal Quality Mark, and be authorised to deliver services through the scheme. Those without accreditation will miss out.  My message to SMEs is – the time to prepare for the future is now.”

New research helps shape Government’s approach

The Department for Energy and Climate Change is advocating a new approach to the retrofit of traditional buildings following new research published by the Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance (STBA), whose members include historic buildings and mainstream construction groups.  The Responsible Retrofit Report is calling for an overhaul of the retrofitting process to maximise the effectiveness of sustainability improvements to buildings built before 1919  which account for a quarter of the country’s housing stock. 

In response to the STBA’s report findings, the Government is committed to re-writing industry best practice. This includes funding further research and a new retrofit guidance tool specifically for traditional buildings developed by the STBA.

Gaps in understanding

Neil May, Project Lead for STBA, comments: “Retrofitting the UK’s older buildings is not a one size or tick box solution. There are many gaps in our understanding and many complex interactions to take into account. Our findings reveal that if six million traditional homes are to be radically improved in their energy performance, then we need to see the application of a more informed, learning-based process that acknowledges the uncertainties and engages all parts of the supply chain as well as building users and owners. Our guidance tool will help this new process as well as linking to the best available research.

“We are glad to be supporting the Government in finding safer and more effective ways to undertake the retrofit of traditional buildings and DECC has responded very positively to the findings raised in the report. If the recommendations are fully grasped and implemented then the STBA is confident that the Green Deal and associated retrofit processes could not only transform our building stock but also construction industry skills and public understanding and engagement.”

The STBA was commissioned by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to examine the gaps in research and guidance about the retrofit of older properties.  It analysed 521 separate pieces of formal research and guidance, and over 100 pieces of implicit guidance from industry and regulations, and found a significant lack of relevant research on traditional building performance and the outcomes of retrofit. 

Different procedures

One of the report’s key findings is that traditional buildings often perform considerably better in terms of heat loss through fabric than stated in standard models and assessment methods. It also found that traditional buildings require different assessment procedures and measures when it comes to the control of moisture. Current assessment fails to deal with driving rain, rising damp, residual moisture and moisture movement in traditional construction.

Furthermore there is a significant lack of available research for areas including traditional building energy performance, traditional materials data, occupant behaviour in older buildings, overheating, indoor air quality and ventilation rates. All of these gaps mean that it is almost impossible to predict the impact of retrofit programmes, which may also miss the opportunity for more effective measures.

The group claims a step-change is needed in the way the industry approaches the retrofit of older buildings to ensure their success. Working with DECC, the STBA is developing an interactive guidance tool for the industry that moves away from the notion that there is one solution for every building or problem. Instead the tool takes in all parts and participants in the process of retrofit and links them with the best available research in an open and discursive framework. The DECC is strongly recommending the tool and it will be trialled by Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service and others in the coming months.

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