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Industry leaders back £525bn home improvement plan

17 Dec 20 The Construction Leadership Council is calling for a national education programme for UK homeowners to persuade them to spend £525bn on getting the builders in.

The UK needs twice the current workforce t deliver on the CLC's £525bn national retrofit strategy
The UK needs twice the current workforce t deliver on the CLC's £525bn national retrofit strategy

The mass education campaign is a precursor to a ‘national retrofit strategy’ published by the Construction Leadership council to promote home improvement schemes.

It says: “The UK has some 28 million homes, the vast majority of which need retrofit work and bringing up to a better state of repair. Our goal is to tackle the challenge systematically and pragmatically, establishing firm foundations for scaling up to meet the volume of work needed.”

It says that it will cost £525bn over the next 20 years – or about £25bn year.

However, the authors of the strategy document also recognise that the construction industry is not able to deliver without training half a million new entrants – a ‘retrofit army’ – more than doubling the existing workforce in this market.

The national stratgey, published as a consultation document*, is the brainchild of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), whose members are predominantly domestic repair & maintenance firms. Last month the FMB was given a seat on the CLC, the government’s advisory council on all things construction.

The CLC is throwing its weight behind the FMB on this, agreeing that a home improvement drive is needed to help the UK meet its carbon reduction targets. Housing uses 35% of all the energy in the UK and emit 20% of the carbon dioxide emissions, they say.

The national retrofit strategy, titled Greening our existing homes, says: “Without a plan, the existing workforce cannot deliver the ambitious programme which could transform both our building stock and the construction industry. A systematic scaling up approach is needed to meet the volume of work needed.”

It says: “In partnership with industry, the government is asked to invest and create a long term policy framework which will meet its statutory carbon targets and trigger wider confidence to unlock private investment from property owners and financial institutions.”

Phase 1 of the plan is to get the government on board.

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Phase 2 is “the education of householders and the wider industry through a clear communications campaign” couple with a mass recruitment/training programme so that there are enough suppliers capable of delivering the work – another 500,000 plumbers, glazers, joiners, plasterers and insulation specialist should be enough, they reckon.

Phase 3 is described as “a ‘quick’ middle period based on a mature supply chain eco-system and strong customer protection”.

Phase 4 is “a ramp down of pace towards the end focusing on hard to treat properties, and also a phased redeployment of resources to alternate sectors”. (What those alternate sectors might be, to mitigate the boom and bust, is not discussed.)

The strategy document says: “Any initiative at this scale needs strong, inspirational and clear leadership. A central Retrofit Delivery Agency will be needed to provide oversight, a drive for continual improvement, the opportunity for learning between areas, and to ensure that all stakeholders are fully enfranchised. Feedback and knowledge sharing will be needed to ensure continuous improvement. A ‘Great British Homes’ programme or similar should be positioned as aspirational, linked to themes of keeping our families healthy and safe at home, British pride in our homes and neighbourhoods, increasing asset value, and being in control of our own environment and futures. This requires a meticulously planned communications campaign that involves all stakeholders: MPs and policy makers, local authorities and housing associations, community groups, local advocates, green finance and funding experts, industry bodies and regulators, private sector partners, and existing retrofit customers.”

The strategy envisages workload peaking in 2030 [click on image to enlarge]
The strategy envisages workload peaking in 2030 [click on image to enlarge]

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “I am delighted that the CLC has adopted this important strategy. Greening our homes satisfies a wide range of the government’s policy priorities including ending fuel poverty, unlocking jobs, and levelling up communities across the country.”

He said: “The FMB has called for many years for a national retrofit strategy that sets out a comprehensive plan for upgrading our homes. To see the leaders of the construction industry adopt the plan, Greening our existing homes, is a significant step to help create a low carbon built environment. Given that homes contribute 20% of the UK’s carbon emissions it’s very important that we make them more energy efficient if the UK is to achieve its zero carbon target by 2050.”

Mark Reynolds, the Mace chief executive who takes a leading role within the CLC, said: “This strategy puts forward an ambitious plan for tackling climate change and creating jobs. It is fantastic to see the high level of support for the strategy from our industry. The CLC looks forward to working with BEIS and the Treasury to determine how the government can adopt the strategy’s recommendations.”

* Greening Our Existing Homes: National retrofit strategy

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