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Refurb target of one building a minute, says EST research

One building must be made more energy efficient every minute from now until 2050 if the UK is to meet its emissions targets, according to new research.

Retrofitting is of huge importance, as 45% of UK emissions come from buildings and around 70% of the buildings that exist today will still be standing in 2050, the report by the Centre for Low Carbon Futures and the Energy Saving Trust says.

The report acknowledges that government policies such as the Green Deal, Renewable Heat Incentive, and Carbon Reduction Commitment have encouraged some improvements to the efficiency of buildings, but it argues that more urgency is needed if the UK is to achieve its targetted 80% cut in emissions by 2050.

“Despite the best efforts to encourage households and industry to adopt low carbon solutions through regulation and incentive schemes, they are not achieving the step changes required,” said Jon Price, director of the Centre for Low Carbon Futures.

He added that the diversity of buildings across the UK and poor understanding of energy performance mean that extensive retrofit programmes cannot be “one size fits all”.

And the likely expense and rapidly shortening timeframe need to be properly researched and understood in order to “get it right first time”.

“The opportunity is twofold: to stimulate a robust business case for city-scale energy efficiency at the household, industry and transport levels by the removal of investment uncertainties; and the social case, with the necessary behavioural, training and capacity strengthening,” he said.

At the same time, there needs to be fundamental changes to the building industry, including better training at all levels, as well as improved dissemination of knowledge and best practice, added Fraser Winterbottom, chief operating officer of the Energy Saving Trust.

“We need upskilling in the trades, a commitment to integrating low-carbon technologies, and a deeper understanding of the levers that prompt householders into action on energy efficiency,” he said.

“Most of all, tackling our housing stock has to be viewed collaboratively – a joining of knowledge, data and the on-the-ground hard work, and sharing of what succeeds, so it can be replicated for the biggest possible benefit.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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