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‘Building back better’ starts now as the UK economy splutters back to life, but what does that mean for the industry?

The UK has a vision for a ‘green industrial revolution’ backed by £12bn in government investment, which could create up to 250,000 new jobs.

Decarbonising the heating and cooling sectors sits at the heart of its plans, which includes a pledge to tackle energy efficiency in hospitals, schools, and other public buildings through the £1bn Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.

We’ve now seen the demise of The Green Homes Grant for homeowners, but even before the announcement, the Construction Leadership Council was calling for greater ambition on this front via a national education programme to persuade Britons to spend £525bn on home improvements.

This would need an additional 500,000 people to join the industry’s workforce – doubling the present numbers over the next 20 years.

All of this promises exciting economic opportunities for our industry

David Frise BESA. David Frice Chief Executive at The BESA

Ambitious programme

The biggest hospital building programme in a generation is also underway including six confirmed major projects worth £2.7 billion due to be delivered by 2025.

The government’s Health Infrastructure Plan aims to use more standardised design elements and modular construction methods to speed up delivery.

Eventually, the aim is to deliver another 30 new hospitals over the next decade.

The COP26 climate summit hosted by the UK in November will also have a heavy focus on buildings after its president Alok Sharma announced plans to include a ‘built environment day’.

He said that “action to decarbonise the buildings and construction sector is critical to meeting our Paris Agreement goals”.

Building greener

A new net zero building package worth over £3 billion will focus on making our “homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, whilst supporting up to 50,000 jobs by 2030”, according to Sharma.

All of this promises exciting economic opportunities for our industry; from the creation of ‘green’ jobs to being instrumental in tackling the climate crisis.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has also taught us some important technical lessons that we can use to improve the health and well-being of all building users at the same time as lowering their carbon footprint.

Indoor Air Quality

The Environment Bill recently went through its final stages in the House of Commons and now includes newly added specific references to indoor air quality (IAQ).

This is a welcome development and something BESA has been lobbying for through its Health & Wellbeing in Buildings group.

The Bill is expected to be enacted this Autumn and will place a responsibility on both central and local government officials to set out IAQ actions. They will undoubtedly need the support of experts such as BESA members to work out what to do in practical terms.

Our contention has always been that good IAQ does not need to come at the expense of energy efficiency.

Well-designed, operated and maintained mechanical ventilation systems can improve conditions for building occupants in a way that minimises energy use at the same time – by making greater use of heat recovery technologies for example.

David Frise is Chief Executive at BESA