Opinion Former Article

Construction Products Association: Sustainable construction offers business opportunities

John Colley, the President of the Construction Products Association, told an audience of industry leaders, politicians and government officials that although delivering all new housing to zero carbon by 2016 would be a tall order, it should also be seen as an excellent business opportunity for the construction products industry. However he warned of the importance of retaining public support for new and innovative solutions.

Speaking to more than 400 industry guests at the Annual Lunch of the Construction Products Association, John Colley said; 'the industry needs to be vigilant. We must be wary of people making claims for their products in terms of energy efficiency that cannot be supported by independent assessment. Public support is vital if we are to achieve the long term goals that government is setting and so we have to ensure that we make available quality products that do what they say they do.'

Colley stressed the need to work with contractors and specialists to ensure people were trained to properly install and maintain products throughout the lifetime of the product, as zero carbon must be for life and not just the first few weeks that a building is occupied.

However Colley also raised the importance of addressing the carbon efficiency of the existing housing stock and called on the government to provide householders with incentives to achieve this. He said; 'if we are talking about reducing carbon emissions, then the first place to start must be the existing housing stock. The average house in this country emits four times more carbon than those built to

the latest building regulations, but every pound you spend on increasing the energy efficiency of new build beyond Level 3 of the new Code for Sustainable Homes would typically save 50 times more carbon if it was spent on improving the existing stock.

What the Government needs to recognise is the vast majority of private householders are unlikely to make the kind of investments necessary without some form of positive incentive. The current programme of incentives is far too limited and uncoordinated. Phase II of the Energy Efficiency Commitment has been so heavily subscribed that we now have a hiatus until Phase III starts some time next year. But the golden opportunity is there with the introduction of new Energy Performance Certificates. House purchasers will be given a very clear picture as to how to improve the energy efficiency of the property they are buying. What Government needs to do is to provide them with the incentive to act on the basis of that independent report by offering some form of tax break or grant if, within a year of moving in to their new home, they invest in the improvement measures identified in these Certificates.'

Colley also highlighted other key issues in his speech, including the need to set clear output targets for the Comprehensive Spending Review later this year especially as the government had missed its own targets for improving social housing, school buildings and the condition of hospital buildings. He was also very critical of the deteriorating condition of the transport network and called for urgent investment to remedy this to ensure that industry competitiveness was not to be further undermined.

The Construction Products Association represents the UK's manufacturers and suppliers of construction products, components and fittings. The Association acts as the voice of the construction products sector, representing the industry-wide view of its members. The sector has an annual turnover of more than £40 billion and accounts for 40% of total construction output.

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