A radical report trying to get out?

Will Paul Morrell’s report, delivered at the end of last month, turn out to be a turning point for the construction industry or will it get lost in the plethora of policy initiatives coming our way next Spring, when the Government is due to respond.

The voice of the Government’s chief construction adviser comes through loud and clear. Anyone who has heard Morrell speak will recognise the logical approach and the pithy, punchy style. With a few exceptions it is also mercifully free of jargon.

The topic, nothing less than the re-engineering of an entire industry to meet arguably the most pressing problem facing the world, is enormous and it must have been difficult to know where to stop.

The Innovation & Growth Team’s remit was to look at the construction industry’s readiness to take on the challenge of carbon reduction but the report does not confine itself to technical matters of embedded carbon and Display Energy Certificates. It ranges across procurement, skills, innovation, regulation and data gathering.

What’s very striking is the number of recommendations that call on the Government to do something. Conceived under Labour, it was commissioned by Peter Mandelson, these aspects of the report might receive a frostier reception from the coalition. Morrell has said that, for this Government, regulation is the last resort.

The report makes 65 recommendations and there are some quite radical (or just plain sensible, depending on your perspective) ideas amongst them.

How about requiring landlords and tenants to co-operate on an energy management plan for their buildings?

Why not offer enhanced capital allowances for whole buildings, rather than just plant and equipment.

Not radical enough? Well what about this: “It may therefore be necessary to implement regulations to target the worst performing buildings by simply making it illegal to sell, lease, or insure them after a certain date. The 6% of buildings with EPC “G” ratings are responsible for around 15% of carbon emissions. Although there will be some overlap with other measures, this would ensure that the worst-performing buildings do not slip through the net.”

The final recommendation is not as strongly worded but it will be interesting to see the response of the property world to that one.

The report talks of a “quite spectacular programme of work, stretched out over at least the next 40 years.” That’s eight five-year parliaments. Throughout the report there are arguments for clarity and stability. The 2050 Group of young professionals calls for “confidence in the direction of long term policy.”

If the construction industry (and that very much includes FM on Morrell’s definition) is to achieve anything like the programme being suggested, then some sort of cross-party consensus must be reached. These policies need to survive changes of government.

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