Budget Comment: 
Sustainable regeneration - a move to a low carbon future? | Mace

Budget Comment: 
Sustainable regeneration - a move to a low carbon future?

On 22nd April, Chancellor of the Exchequer Alastair Darling delivered the UK's first official carbon budget aimed at tackling the problems of climate change to achieve a low carbon future. 

Darling announced that £405m is to be provided to finance the development of low-carbon energy and advanced green manufacturing sectors.  A further £375m will support energy and resource efficiency in businesses, public buildings and households for the next two years, £100m of which is allocated to social housing and another £100m for the construction of new green homes. 

Domestic energy consumption accounts for more than a quarter of the UK's carbon emissions contributing to climate change (source: Direct.gov). The construction industry alone accounts for approximately 50% of carbon emissions, making this sector the largest carbon emitter in the UK. The new budget aims to cut 34% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, keeping the UK on track for its long-term goal of cutting emissions by 80% by 2050.

With increased investment in resource efficiency and new, innovative energy projects that will provide a low carbon infrastructure, the UK is set to take the lead in the global drive to achieve low carbon recovery. Project and construction management company Mace Group has been assisting local government in the delivery of green housing and regeneration programmes for some time; the group is appointed to the Homes and Communities framework and in addition to its involvement in regeneration schemes in Bradford, Corby, Derby, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield, Mace has also delivered the UK's first eco school, Howe Dell in Hertfordshire. 

The group's regeneration teams believe that the recent announcement is a positive step to building sustainable communities. However, given the prevailing economic climate and the constraints businesses are currently having to work within, a legally binding ‘green budget' is needed to finance the new Code for Sustainable Homes and BREEAM standards which are now being imposed on the industry and clients.

In addition to the £375m funding announced, a further £70m is earmarked for small-scale, decentralised low-carbon energy projects such as the Howe Dell School. This exemplar project highlights Mace Group's expertise in successfully delivering a complex energy management operating system. The expectation is that this new source of funding will encourage the implementation of energy efficient technologies at a community level.

The funding set aside for housing and green stimulus initiatives is a subject of debate among construction industry professionals, many of whom believe it falls short of what's needed.

John Boulby, Mace operations director with responsibility for the regeneration sector, commented: "In a climate where both businesses and government are forced to cut costs, I believe that the announced budget will make the delivery of three million new homes by 2020 an even bigger challenge. Although the budget shows a strong commitment to creating a low carbon economy and kick-starting project financing, this is not enough to encourage new exemplar projects, with investments in renewable technologies, to exploit the anticipated £107 billion environmental economy. The budget is a step in the right direction, but doesn't go far enough."