A collective failure to retrofit commercial buildings to meet Net Zero targets threatens to ignite a new energy crisis, says the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).
Reacting to a new report from property and construction consultant Ridge and Partners, The Role of Retrofitting our Non-Domestic Buildings in the Race to Net Zero, BESA said both public and private sector organisations were ‘burying their heads in the sand’, and failing to meet their energy efficiency and carbon reduction responsibilities. The Ridge report found that just one in four public or private sector organisations had invested in making their buildings more sustainable, while only one in 10 had a retrofitting budget. Most had ambitious Net Zero plans, but few included the energy performance of their building. Researchers spoke to 101 property and facilities bosses and concluded that the problem was at board level. Retrofitting to improve energy efficiency was seen as a low priority for 86% of building managers, while 23% of such personnel in the largest companies had not been involved in any form of Net Zero planning. Over a third told researchers that under 39% of the UK’s current building stock would still be in use by 2050, but in fact the actual figure is likely to be over 70%.
BESA’s Technical director, Graeme Fox (pictured), dubbed the report’s findings ‘shocking’ – and said they revealed ‘a huge lack of awareness among the people with the power to make our built environment more sustainable and resilient’. He said: “This shows there is a lot of talk about Net Zero and corporate flannel about sustainability, but many are not investing in the most obvious and straightforward measures. Retrofitting existing buildings can be done at speed, and more cost-effectively than some of the grandiose ‘statement’ measures being proposed by some organisations,” he added. “If they are serious about energy security, and protecting themselves from another price shock, they should be retrofitting now.”
The Ridge report concluded that the government could do more to make retrofitting financially attractive, with 52% of facilities managers calling for refurbishments to be VAT-free. Almost half added that business rates discouraged investment in retrofit, and a similar number argued for financial incentives. Among a few ‘retrofit myths’ exposed were a high number of respondents saying they would not need to do anything to improve their building if the grid was carbon-neutral, and 24% arguing that retrofitting would not make a significant difference to their carbon footprint.