As COP26 approaches it becomes clearer that, other than regular declarations of intent, Westminster is unlikely to achieve anything of real significance to mitigate Climate Change in buildings.
The construction industry has a significant role to play in reducing current and future emissions and energy demand but it really needs to make its own decisions to get on with the job, rather than waiting for legislation eventually to shove it forward.
Build Back Better is a good slogan, but there are few signs of better specifications or training for higher quality standards. Yes, it may well – but not necessarily – increase costs today, but that will be a fraction of the cost of the upgrade in less than ten years’ time. Improving just the building fabric will reduce energy demand, eliminate fuel poverty, simplify services and improve levels of occupant comfort.
Building fabric is the key to long term stability – Fabric First is another good slogan! Design and specification of materials and systems of proven performance and durability is key to construction’s role in stabilising the environment. Zero energy, Passivhaus or whatever other tagline appears, future buildings will be designed without active heating/cooling systems. Building fabric solutions are already proven and by 2030 energy solutions should be widely available.
Nor do fabric solutions have to be imported from other parts of the world, subject to the pressures of foreign competition in the universal race to build more houses. Better and more refined use of our own natural resources, including recycling, will give greater focus on the efficient use of local resources, labour and materials, contributing to a more balanced community and a more stable environment.
Westminster makes for a good advertising agency with plenty of good slogans, but it remains for the construction industry to take the initiative and get on with the job.
We have the technology – and that’s not wishful thinking.