Builders call for long-term plan to support green home upgrades

Upgrades to make homes more energy-efficient are being held back by the lack of a clear pipeline of work, an FMB survey found.
A man installing wool insulation into a home.
The Green Homes Grant covers the cost of green home improvements such as insulation. Credit: Pixabay

Green home improvements that make homes warmer and more energy-efficient are being held back by the lack of a long-term plan by government, new research has found.

A survey of 125 builders carried out by construction industry body the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) found that 26% said a lack of a clear pipeline of work was the biggest barrier to them installing more energy efficiency measures.

The FMB has also raised concerns that there may be a lack of suppliers of such measures. It found that just 3 out of 250 builders interested in the government’s £2 billion Green Homes Grant scheme have so far completed the necessary training to take part.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Without a long-term government plan for making our homes greener and more energy efficient, we won’t be able to tackle fuel poverty, end preventable winter deaths, or meet the UK’s climate change targets.

“Builders don’t yet have the confidence they need in the domestic energy efficiency market to invest in their businesses and start offering these services to homeowners.

“Low engagement in the Green Homes Grant scheme has illustrated this problem, with just 3 Master Builders becoming accredited to deliver this work since the scheme’s launch. A long-term plan, in the form of a National Retrofit Strategy, would address these concerns.”

Under its Clean Growth Strategy, the UK currently aims to upgrade as many homes as possible to EPC Band C by 2035 and all fuel poor households to the same standard by 2030.

One key part of meeting this target is the Green Homes Grant launched last September, which aims to help fund the cost of green home improvements and make 600,000 homes more energy-efficient.

The scheme was recently extended until March 2022 but MPs have warned that it will not upgrade as many homes as planned due to problems with the application process and in finding enough contractors to carry out the works.

19% of respondents to the FMB’s survey cited a lack of available finance for consumers as the biggest barrier to carrying out green home upgrades.

Meanwhile 17% cited a lack of consumer awareness as to the benefits of energy efficiency measures and 16% highlighted a lack of capacity and skills in the construction workforce.

The MFB has called on the government to temporarily suspend VAT on home improvements and fund the necessary training for builders to carry out the upgrades.

A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesperson said: “Residential emissions have declined by 14% since 1990, but we need to go much further and faster to improve the energy performance of homes to reach our net zero target by 2050.

“That’s why we’re investing up to £9.2 billion in helping reduce the emissions of buildings and have extended the Green Homes Grant for another year. This alone could help up to 600,000 households become greener and support 100,000 jobs as Britain builds back greener from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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