Heat And Buildings Strategy Is More Heat Than Buildings

NFB National Federation of Builders logo Comment from the National Federation of Builders.

With the Governments ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy’ finally released, it is hard not to compliment the ambition but there are clear omissions and no mention of a national retrofit strategy encompassing a holistic approach to reducing emissions.

The strategy included a number of positive announcements including heat pumps in new homes and £5,000 grants for existing ones, a decision on the viability of hydrogen gas as a future home-fuel source by 2026, green training schemes, social housing decarbonisation, rebalancing energy prices, district heating and growing the electricity network to meet demand.

However, the NFB has expressed its 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.

Commenting, 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.”

The Government also announced a commitment to install 600,000 heat pumps by 2028, implement whole-building energy strategies, to digitise energy and work more closely with local authorities to support and deliver solutions.

A key component of the strategy was to kickstart a green jobs revolution through long term work pipelines which would support 175,000 skilled green jobs by 2030 and 240,000 by 2035.

Beresford continued: “A three-decade commitment to green jobs will ensure the UK builds a workforce capable of decarbonising Britain’s gas network. However, the long-term strategy only really applies to heating and 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”.

The NFB has warned that without a secure pipeline, SMEs will not have the confidence to invest in training and upskilling the army of retrofitters the country will need to deliver the huge improvements in energy performance required in the country’s existing housing stock.

Beresford added: “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. 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.

"Similarly, 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.”