Leading Lights: BMBI Experts Views on the challenges & opportunities for the industry in 2021; Knauf Insulation

The pandemic has superseded most issues over the last 12 months and has become the primary thought. Without it, I expect there would have been a lot more focus on Brexit.

Nevertheless, leaving the EU raises concerns over two key issues. The first is on skills shortages, which will undoubtedly impact house building and achieving the Government’s target of 300,000 houses a year. So we need to work harder at developing skills within the construction industry. It’s a short term pain for a longer term gain.

The other major issue is non-tariff barriers, in particular product testing and certification. The industry has yet to realise how much more complex it will become to import and export products. The EU will not accept products where testing has been carried out by a UK approved body or laboratory. Testing has to be done in the EU to achieve full acceptance. The UK Government is likely to do the same, which means all CE marked products will have to get re-tested. Mutual recognition is the ultimate goal but there is no transition period for it. Duplicated paperwork, extra costs and product delays are expected. It’s going to be an erupting volcano for many manufacturers, across all sectors.

On the positive side, leaving the EU gives our Government and the UK a stronger opportunity to drive its low carbon agenda, and take the lead on climate change and become the world leader in energy efficiency and zero carbon. One third of our carbon comes from buildings, and 70% comes from heating so a Fabric First approach is essential. The Green Homes Grant failed, but it was launched as a six month initiative, which was never going to be long enough to get the support of the supply chain. It’s also a complicated scheme design borne from a lack of understanding of what is actually involved in planning for these schemes and incorporating them as part of what you do. A mix of recruiting, upskilling and training is needed. That’s a cost builders and contractors are not going to invest in, while they’ve got more fruitful work to be getting on with, like servicing the core housebuilding market.

Ideally, Government should use policy to drive improved energy efficiency in homes. For example, linking Stamp Duty rates to the relative energy efficiency of the building would be a strong incentive to buyers, and create a solid pipeline of work for all. It would also contribute to the Government’s ambitious targets of powering all homes through wind by 2030. A win, win.

All the BMBI Expert comments, along with additional insight and perspective from global insight agency GfK, the Builders Merchants Federation and MRA Research, can be viewed and downloaded here.

The full Leading Lights supplement can be viewed or downloaded from BMN’s website here.

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