Morrell wants to see contractors retrofit Acacia Avenue

19 February 2010

Contractors need to take a central role in retrofitting 26 million homes to meet carbon reduction targets, chief construction advisor Paul Morrell told Construction News. Morrell placed carbon reduction at the heart of his mission for the industry during an interview with the magazine.

He said the opportunity was huge but that a plan was needed to take advantage of it. “The main contractors shouldn’t stay out because it will require quite spectacular programme management and integration skills – which they do better than anyone else. But at the moment we don’t really have a plan.

“Contractors will need to see longevity and they will need to see profit that matches what they can get elsewhere. But retrofitting 10,000 homes a week will be worth £5 billion to £8 billion and so you don’t need a massive share of that to make it worthwhile,” he said.

Morrell highlighted two of the most important issues to be tackled, which he said were the creation of a client side to drive demand – which might include utility companies, well-known retailers and government  – and the extent to which government was prepared to regulate to encourage consumer demand.

The challenge for the industry and government was, he said, to “create a market where there currently isn’t one”.

“I think we have reached the point where the supply side needs to come up with some propositions to show how it could make that jump easier, rather than wait for the market to come to them. Product manufacturers could ease reluctance to invest by showing how retrofit can be done more profitably,” he explained.

But he added that trust in the industry was a problem and that “the OFT inquiry and the initial reaction to it certainly didn’t help”.

He stressed his other big drive for the industry is the need to increase productivity, giving the client “more for less”, which would involve managing out inefficiency rather than pricing it in.

Morrell was speaking to Construction News at the launch of BEST, the construction clients show. In his speech at the event he said that the industry needed to “fight for” the respect that government has for other industries such as the car industry.


There is a huge market out in the social housing field by way of Housing Associations, Local authorities, ALMOs and other RSLs. A large number of these organisations are still trying to achieve Decent Homes while fighting budget cuts and the diversion of funds to new build projects.

Any company that can offer and deliver an expertly managed project that incorporates the decent homes standard with carbon reduction and other added value measures, so that these organisations are getting "something for nothing", is on to a good thing. The key is in the delivery. All too often I have seen much promised and a failure to deliver on the promise. A company that can demonstrate a good track record of delivering in this field is likely to be well recieved.

While new build is important, the major carbon reduction will come from existing housing stock, built when the requirements were less and thought to carbon emmisions was minimal if not non-existant.

Michael Neve MCIOB, 27 February 2010

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