Bring good ideas to the fore – and keep them there

Bring good ideas to the fore – and keep them there

BLOG · BY TTF CEO, DAVID HOPKINS · 22 February 2021

Nothing quite ruins a good idea like poor execution. The government’s flagship green homes grant programme – a central pillar of the ‘build back better’ philosophy espoused by Boris back in March and April – appears to be set to not only be scrapped but will result in the Government clawing back over £1 billion in funds set aside for housing improvements.

While the scheme had put forward a £1.5bn pot for households in England to make their homes less carbon-intensive, 95% remains unspent after long delays in giving out grants to householders and on making payments to installers.

The official government figures have shown that while over 103,000 people have applied for vouchers since the scheme’s launch, only 21,000 vouchers have been issued to households. The target was 600,000. These damning figures come after the Federation of Master Builders first raised a red flag in November 2020 when they said that of 7,400 members, 180 registered companies had expressed an interest in securing accreditation, but only three had been accredited.

It is extremely disappointing that rather than rolling through the underspend into 2021 into retrofit, a far smaller amount announced by the Chancellor – £320m – is instead to be made available from March this year for the Green Homes Grant Programme. There are already rumours the scheme could be abandoned entirely.

It must be stated that while delivery has not matched ambition, there is clear interest, demand, and a need for such a scheme to address retrofit. Rather than having the idea itself scrapped, the scheme needs to be urgently overhauled – with the funding to remain in the sector and channelled into a long-term retrofit programme.

While much of the focus of commentators on the Environmental Audit Committee report last week was on the failures of the retrofit programme, (and deservedly so, given the large gap between what was promised and what was received), there is one positive I would like to highlight from the report, with the Committee recommending;

“The Government introduce embodied carbon targets for the construction of new homes, so as to increase demand for low carbon materials, thereby stimulating growth in low emission manufacturing of traditional, local materials and promoting the use of new low carbon materials.”

This recommendation followed the testimony of RIBA Director of Policy and Public Affairs Andrew Forth, who called for the regulation of embodied carbon, whole life considerations, and the “greater use of timber and the reuse of demolished materials ought to be encouraged in construction, with less use of new steel and concrete.”

Timber is the clear choice as a building material for buildings in the future, and this is being recognised by industry, and the UK government, albeit slower than we would like, or than is necessary for the UK to reach its carbon targets. Other countries are acknowledging the role of bio-based materials in their own journey, and ultimately it will be a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ the UK Government will do the same.

One advantage of our upcoming merger with TRADA to form Timber Development UK will be the amplification of our voice to those who still need to hear it, to politicians, other trade bodies, educators, architects, builders, engineers and more as we strengthen connections between the whole supply chain.

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