Cutting tax on home improvements key to UK hitting net-zero goal

Climate change targets will be missed without a major overhaul of the home improvements market claims the Federation of Master Builders, FMB.

The trade body and the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions, CREDS, have jointly published a report Building on our Strengths outlining what needs to happen.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “It is not possible to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 without greening our homes.

“Backing builders will help create thousands of jobs in every community, helping us to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic.”

The report calls on the government to transform home improvements industry which is estimated to generate £29bn a year for the UK economy.

It advocates cutting VAT on improvements from the current 20 to five per cent or completely scrapping the tax to encourage homeowners to use regulated tradespeople.

The report calculates most of the UK’s 29m existing homes require some level of retrofit and replacing an old kitchen or bathroom could be a “trigger” for green improvements.

“Retrofit represents both a challenge and an opportunity for the thousands of SMEs in the construction industry, who undertake the bulk of repair maintenance and improvement work in homes,” said the report.


Retrofit training should be included in all construction NVQs

However, not enough tradespeople have the necessary PAS 2035/30 qualifications to do the work. FMB members have suggested the qualifications could be simplified and that an element of retrofit should be included in all construction NVQs.

The report advocates a ‘licence to trade’ for all firms in the sector so that every company director, including the self-employed, would need specified qualifications to operate.

It recommends building renovation passports contain details about a property’s energy performance, renovations, and future retrofit measures to increase efficiency.  Builders have commented that existing energy performance certificates could be improved by providing more detailed opportunities for positive change.

CREDS director Nick Eyre said: “We need a much more coordinated approach to policy across multiple domains: energy and climate; industrial strategy; education and training.”

Finance brokers Hank Zarihs Associates said that retrofitting offered immense potential for SME builders to develop their business and that lenders were keen to offer refurbishment finance.

Scotland’s local heat and energy efficiency strategies where a town could adopt district heating installation, were cited as crucial for developing knowledge and capacity for retrofitting.

The Construction Leadership Council, CLC, published its Construct  Zero performance framework yesterday where retrofitting 855,000 homes by 2024, 12.3m by 2030 and 27.3m by 2040 was outlined.

The framework calls for more than three-quarters of diesel plants to be eliminated from construction sites by 2035 and that carbon data on products be available to businesses or individuals by 2030. It pledges that in the next four years new homes will have reduced energy demand and emissions by 75 per cent and commercial buildings by 27 per cent.

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