The Business Green

  • Building Design Expert
  • 4 years ago

Living under a rock is probably the only way you will have avoided the tsunami of apathy generated by the Green Deal. At the last count, after near enough nine months of operational exposure, there were 16 recorded and active Green Deal applications. It’s been said often enough, and not least by me, that the governments insistence that the altruistic path through the forest would prevail, providing sufficient reason for the great British public to queue up to borrow the cash being made available to ‘green-up’ our homes. Maybe the price of energy isn’t high enough yet? And, as has been said before, the prospect of even a little, let alone a great deal of disruption to our homes is not the price we want to pay to see no change whatsoever to our energy bills. After all, the Green Deal promises nothing more than to reduce our energy consumption, but not the amount we pay.

What’s in it for me? should have been the question at the top of the list of the government’s pre-emptive assessment of how this scheme would be received. After all it occurred to the rest of industry. But then governments have developed an unfortunate knack of not listening to the very people whom they serve, and the factions that should be advising them. How can I sit back and smugly say I told you so? Well it’s like this …. If we could have predicted the public reaction, then to foresee the reaction of businesses would have been akin to falling off a log. Excuse me while I brush myself down.

I have just completed a building survey for a commercial client wishing to purchase an office building. Constructed in 1994, the building can achieve only an energy performance rating of ‘E’ on the current scale. At only 19 years old, the building has been well constructed, largely due to some good professional design and detailing. The hand drawn design drawings have been meticulously preserved by the current owner, which takes the guess-work out of the equation, and makes the survey assessment so much easier, and of course accurate.

Knowing, with reasonable certainty, how a building has been constructed, makes it so much easier to design in alterations, or indeed upgrade its thermal performance. Achieving that can be done in any number of increments: We can introduce more efficient plant, with ultra refined control systems to realise a bespoke optimal performance. We can also seek to enhance the thermal performance of the building fabric. After all if we are to listen to the Building Design Experts out there; ‘Fabric First’ is the most cost effective application, and should be our chosen route to goal. Some, or all of the possible methods of energy reduction may be available under the Green Deal, with some being more viable than others, and with a variety of RoIs. But how can any professional advise their client to undergo the pain of abject disruption, for that client’s business simply to stand still? Disruption is an investment, just as important as any financial, and needs to see a return. A return in five to ten to twenty years doesn’t necessarily cut it, so here the Green Deal’s ‘Golden Rule’ turns out largely to be a thinly plated tin pot.

The terms of the Green Deal are quite clear: It will not fund the office redecoration after installers have torn the roof apart to upgrade the insulation, and it will not pay for new floor covering similarly disrupted. That would be a cost to the business. And as if we need reminding that times are, indeed, still very hard. Spare cash to make good the indirect consequences of a ‘Green’ intrusion, remains something that few businesses have available, and therefore without any prominent form of incentive, why should any business owner do the right thing and potentially consume less energy, produce less carbon, all so the government can stand tall against our European peers.

If the Green Deal for home owners requires incentivisation, then it doesn’t take much to predict the business case for commerce and industry. At the time of writing the government have hoovered up the Green Deal, with an indication that they intend to give it another good chew so they can spit it out again in a more attractive form. It’s still available in its original design, so you never know, but a building treated under the original Green Deal may well attract a premium through sheer novelty kudos!! The jury’s out, and the country awaits their decision and sentencing recommendations; hopeful that the original ‘life’ on ‘rock cracking’ hard labour might be commuted to a paid job in the library.