Opinion

Chris Blythe: Green Deal is not the real deal

7 July 2011

The government is considering compelling householders to retrofit when they do other improvement work on their house.

For the alphabet soup of bodies this is great news as for them a government-mandated programme absolves their members of actually selling the benefits of the Green Deal to homeowners. There is also word that no one, including the government, is prepared to stand up and guarantee that there will be any benefits.

At the recent launch of the CIOB’s CarbonAction2050.com website, during the many side discussions it became clear that nobody really knows what the Green Deal means, how it will work or whether it will make any difference.

I posted the following question on Twitter to see what understanding there was on the issue: “Who is going to compensate the homeowner if the benefits of doing the green deal work do not happen — the adviser or the contractor?”

The only response I got was ”…the householder may have turned their thermostat up, so it’s their fault!” This response came from allegedly award-winning experts in energy and water efficiency in the home.

I never imagined the homeowner would even touch their thermostat. After all, any Green Deal work should mean that for the same thermostat setting, energy usage should fall.

If there is no assurance that there will be energy saving gains then why would a householder do it unless compelled to do so or misled? Rational householders may just decide not to do any work on their homes at all if it means the £5,000 job turns into a £25,000 job “because that is what the government wants”. It becomes a tax on homes and home improvements.

Played out on a national scale this could ultimately lead to deterioration in the national housing stock and, of course, mean less work, not more, for the members of the alphabet soup bodies. Worse, it could give more work to less scrupulous elements.

What worries me more is the response I got to my question on Twitter. If that really represents a view from firms engaged in this sort of work, then the Green Deal project is doomed from the start.

The solution is to move the problem upstream to the generation and transmission of energy. If we get rid of the carbon in the energy we generate, then householders don’t have to worry about being green.

Comments

This is the same problem as trying to get a buyer to buy into a new top rated dwelling when he doesn't understand, or want to understand, lifecycle costing. Green buildings are a buzz word that initiate a kneejerk reaction to apply additional margins without studying the overall effects. Recently we tendered a project that incorporated photovoltaic cells in the curtain walling element that covered 30% of the external building area, good for a building in the UAE you would say. However, we calculated that the employer would take 25 years to recover the additional cost of installation of the cells yet alone see the benefits of lifecycle costing. The costs have to be addressed prior to making any inroads into making things pay.

Robert (Bob) Hartle FCIOB, 16 July 2011

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