Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

Building a Greener Britain


In 2007/2008 ECI researcher Gavin Killip was commissioned by the Federation of Master Builders to write a report outlining practical policy recommendations to help encourage householders to make their homes greener.

The report on transforming the UK’s existing housing stock, published in July 2008, shows that a long term policy commitment to low carbon-refurbishment will create jobs, improve health, comfort and eradicate fuel poverty.

The UK has over 25 million homes contributing nearly 30% of the nation’s CO2 emissions, and the technical potential for radical improvements to the existing housing stock has been well known for many years. The small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the construction industry are key to delivering the necessary improvements on the ground, but there is an almost total lack of knowledge, training, incentives and infrastructure to make low-carbon refurbishment mainstream. The market is estimated at between £3.5bn - £6.5bn per year for over 40 years, while other benefits include greater resilience to energy price increases, eradication of fuel poverty and greater comfort and health.

A long-term policy commitment to low-carbon refurbishment from government would stimulate industry response in the key areas of training for skills and product supply chains. Innovation can best be supported at regional level, aiming to create a mature market within a decade. Policy needs to be built on the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which gives a rating from A (best) to G (worst) and is issued every time a property is sold (the EPC applies to rental properties from October 2008).

In the first 10 days after the report launch:

  • The 3 recommendations on training have been welcomed by ConstructionSkills, the body responsible for developing training in the construction industry
  • A motion has been tabled in the Scottish Parliament in support of the report, proposing that the Scottish Government take forward the recommendations as they apply in Scotland
  • The report has been welcomed by Jane Davidson AM, Welsh Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing
  • A copy has been requested by the Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on Environment, Energy and Climate Change Policy
  • The report is being used in the preparation of a government consultation document in autumn 2008 on reducing the environmental impacts of existing homes
  • The All-Party Parliamentary Group on roofing has offered to help lobby the Treasury on VAT reform

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