It was a fantastic day yesterday at the Greater Manchester Green Summit, where I was chuffed to be asked to lead the buildings theme. Here are my summary notes of the key ‘actions’ related to buildings as I see them – based on the listening events and discussions on the day – together with highlights of the Mayor’s response, which includes some key commitments.

Recommended key actions

  • Planning policy to drive up standards in new homes and buildings, setting an ambitious target and clear standard for net zero carbon in operation (and in time in construction). There is a spectrum of views on how quickly we can do that. Whatever the date, it needs to be really net zero. Not just designed to be net zero. Also strong support for using planning to improve the natural environment through integration of green infrastructure.
  • Owners and occupiers of non-residential buildings can be incentivised to cut carbon – not least by encouraging more transparency about real energy use in these buildings. Leading businesses, such as those in UKGBC membership, can and should step up and demonstrate it can be done. For those who won’t do so voluntarily, stronger measures will be needed to force the upgrading of our worst performing buildings, building on MEES. Right now, public bodies can lead from the front – by committing to only occupy efficient buildings ASAP.
  • We need deep retrofit across the whole existing housing stock – a comprehensive programme to tackle all tenures. Need to create a market for retrofit, and a workable business model – giving everybody confidence that this will get done, build a supply chain, get people trained up – the benefits in terms of jobs, fuel poverty and health is huge. That means setting targets and sticking to them and being clear about the technical standards we need to build to.
  • There is a key role for the proposed GM Energy Company. Acting as a kind of aggregator, revenue derived from investment in storage and demand response can then be used to subside retrofit. Revenues generated would be retained within the public sphere and a new finance vehicle/revolving fund used to help subsidise the delivery of energy efficiency projects, at scale. It could include integrated energy services, skills training, low-cost finance and innovation. But we also need to nudge people through tax incentives, major awareness campaigns, use of smart regulations like consequential improvements to drive energy efficiency and PV. We can get cracking right now with pilots – to test approaches, demonstrate it can be done and create exemplars.

Edited transcript of the Mayor’s response

“On new buildings, in the Greater Manchester special framework, (which we’re currently rewriting and we’re looking to publish later this year) we will have a commitment in it the point at which all homes, new buildings, should be zero carbon; the question is: when? Can we set a date, or can we set a range of dates? But I think we do need to stop adding to the problem, don’t we – at some point? And we will make that commitment to have a date, but we need to get the expert evidence – we’re also being pressed by the Government to deliver more houses – and we need to make sure that we don’t stop the supply. So, we’ll get that date right with you, but we’re going to be committing to that date.”

“On retrofitting I think its great to hear that the UK Green Building Council is taking space here because we want their help in developing a proper retrofitting programme. We’ve been told that it could create some 55,000 jobs in greater Manchester. It’s why I said at the very beginning of the day: embracing this agenda is about providing jobs for the next generation here. And actually training them in things that they’ll be able to go all round the country and all around the world in. So, we think we need to work with you, with our businesses, universities, colleges to get those training courses in place to bring through a serious programme for retrofitting of properties.”

“I think from a public sector point of view, we’ve got to try and shake the market a bit – the property market in Greater Manchester. I would ask all public bodies that if buildings that they’re in are energy inefficient, or don’t meet energy performance standards, they should vacate those buildings when the leases expire. We need to send a strong signal here that the public sector will not be continuing to take building space where they are not compliant with the standards that we expect. And I hope that will give a signal to the market of the way the whole of Greater Manchester should be thinking and working.”

UKGBC press release: on our plans for Greater Manchester.

John Alker.

Originally published as a LinkedIn pulse blog by John Alker.

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