The government’s Green Homes Grant could be a valuable source of new revenue streams for the trades. Professional Builder’s Lee Jones investigates how you can get involved.
If you needed proof that tradespeople are a rather resilient bunch then look no further than recent research from a leading builders’ merchant. Now unleashed from the lockdown, its survey revealed that 91 per cent of respondents expect workloads to remain unchanged, or grow, in the next two months, whilst business confidence has been recorded at higher levels than in either the immediate aftermath of the credit crunch of 2008, or the 2016 Brexit referendum. Keen to create the conditions in which the sector can drive the recovery still further, the government has implemented a number of new measures designed to stimulate demand.
When Covid-19 is no more climate change will once again take its place as the great crisis of our age, and the repair, maintenance and improvement work that those on the tools routinely undertake on our existing housing stock are crucial to achieving carbon reduction targets. Whilst the plight of the polar bears won’t pay the bills, or get us out of bed in the morning, new sources of income most certainly will. The Government’s Green Homes Grant scheme recognises that reality, and is part of an avowed aim to build back greener.
As we reported in our September issue, the initiative will allow property owners to upgrade the energy efficiency of their home by applying for vouchers worth up to two thirds of the cost of hiring tradespeople. The maximum contribution will be £5,000, whilst those on lower incomes could receive up to £10,000. The vouchers will pay for the kind of improvements, that will cut energy bills, potentially saving householders significant sums in fuel costs.
So how can builders capitalise, and what kind of work will be included? It has since been announced that the jobs under the scheme must be completed by a TrustMark Registered Business. If you are already a member of a trade body, such as the Federation of Master Builders, adding your business to Trustmark is relatively straightforward, the details of which can be accessed by making use of the link at the end of this feature. The Builders Merchant Federation (BMF) will help TrustMark facilitate specialist product training for tradespeople signing up for the scheme, using the trade body’s extensive physical and on-line training capacity. The BMF has also offered its 32 Centres of Excellence across the country as potential training centres, with a number of these already located at insulation specialists such as Encon, Knauf, Saint Gobain, SIG, Superglass and Xtratherm.
When it comes to the type of work, the structure of voucher awards champions a ‘fabric first’ approach where the likes of loft or cavity wall insulation are first addressed. In terms of initial outlay versus sustainability gains, these are the most cost-effective methods of improving the energy efficiency of a building and will fall into the category of ‘primary’ measures.
Voucher applicants will need to install at least one of these before they’re able to use the voucher on ‘secondary’ measures, which include windows, doors and heating controls. Homeowners will be able to replace single glazing with double or triple/secondary glazing, as well as upgrading to energy efficient doors, but no double to double glazing upgrades will be included.
Mark Kelly, CEO at Eurocell plc, comments: “The government has put quality assurance at the heart of the scheme, stating that tradespeople must register for TrustMark accreditation to take part. Now we have the clarity and know exactly where we’re at, Eurocell, fabricators and installers alike can return quickly to servicing the needs of our customers and building the sector back up.”
Renewable energy solutions within the scope of the scheme include air source or ground source heat pumps and solar thermal, all of which will also occupy that aforementioned ‘primary’ category. In order to cash in, installers will need to be Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) accredited and, again, details of that process can be accessed via Professional Builder’s digital reader enquiry service through the link at the conclusion of this article. The Ground Source Heat Pump Association has welcomed the move and hopes it will accelerate consumer awareness of heat pumps, as well the number of installers trained and certified to carry out the work.
The grant scheme will see a Whitehall outlay of £2billion in total, is available until the end of March 2021 and could impact up to 600,000 individual homes. There has been some disappointment at the narrowness of the measures included, with water saving technologies, or hot water storage cylinders, for instance, not eligible, but it is hoped that this green homes initiative will be the first salvo in a concerted campaign to improve the performance of existing properties.