- Promoting sustainability in construction
- Taking the UK towards a low-carbon future
- Enforcement of the Building Regulations
- Action on the Renewable Heat Incentive
- Introduction of the Green Deal initiative
- Impact of the Carbon Reduction Commitment
- Proposed pan-European phase-out of HFC’s
- Contractor pre-qualification reform
- Reducing rate of VAT on home improvements
- Improving public sector payment culture
- Review of construction contracts legislation
- Implementation of Agency Workers Directive
- HMRC action on “false self-employment”
Promoting sustainability in construction
HVCA is committed to ensuring that its members derive maximum advantage from the commercial opportunities that are available to the sector from the increasing quest for sustainability across the built environment.
The Association’s principal objectives are: (a) to raise awareness among members of those commercial opportunities; (b) to provide practical guidance on the application, design and installation of renewable technologies; and (c) to work with other public and private sector interests and organisations that have a complementary role to play in the creation of a low-carbon future.
Fulfilment of the key objectives is being progressed under the management of the Association’s recently-appointed head of sustainability – partly via M&E Sustainability, the joint initiative with the Electrical Contractor’s Association (ECA).
A principal element in M&E Sustainability’s communications strategy is its website. Which can be accessed at www.mech-elec.org.uk.
CURRENT POSITION An updated and enhanced version of the HVCA’s sustainability strategy will be presented, for discussion and endorsement, at the December 2010 meeting of the Association’s Council.
Taking the UK towards a low-carbon future
With the heating, lighting and cooling of buildings being responsible for some 60% of the nation’s carbon emissions, the Government is looking to the built environment to contribute substantially to the UK’s achievement of zero-carbon status by 2060.
The importance being placed on this target – along with long-term concerns over the security of the nation’s energy supply – indicated that energy efficiency and reduction strategies and the promotion of low and zero-carbon technologies will be the subject of increasing focus in the years ahead.
As part of the trend, a revised Part L of the Building Regulations has been introduced. This will be followed by further revisions in 2013, 2015 and 2018 – the overall objective being that all new buildings will be “zero-carbon emitters” by 2018.
Revised Parts F, J and G of the regulations – dealing with reducing water usage and wastage – also came into effect in October 2010.
CURRENT POSITION HVCA is working closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Scottish Building Standards Division and the corresponding authorities in Wales and Northern Ireland on the revision of the Building Regulations and the production of supporting guidance.
Enforcement of the Building Regulations
Under the Building Regulations, a range of “controlled services” work must be notified to local authority building control, or be self-certified by a “competent person”, who is a member of a recognised Competent Persons scheme, such as that operated by HVCA subsidiary Building Engineering Services Competence Accreditation Ltd (BESCA).
The failure of Government to promote compliance with the regulations – and local authority building control to police the notification arrangements – continues to be a major concern.
The Association was active in the Non Compliance Costs campaign – against non-compliance with the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations (from which the Building Regulations in part derive) and the F Gas Regulation – which was launched by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers and gained the support of a number of other interested industry bodies.
CURRENT POSITON The Association continues to warn Government that its lack of rigour over enforcement is seriously jeopardising the achievement of the UK’s carbon reduction targets. Specific initiatives include hosting a round-table discussion – involving Government, industry and client representatives – of the barriers to effective enforcement.
Action on the Renewable Heat Incentive
The Government has confirmed its commitment to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), in line with its pledge to increase the use of renewable technologies in heat generation from a current level of 1% to 12% by 2020.
However., the Department for Energy and Climate Change has changed the basis of RHI funding – which will require an initial Government investment of £850m – from a “fossil fuel levy” to general taxation, and has delayed implementation for three months to June 2011.
Details of the technologies to be included in the scheme, and the extent of the RHI tariffs, are due to be published before the end of this year.
Although the Association recognises that the introduction of the RHI is likely to increase the uptake of renewable technologies, it is concerned that lack of detail of the scheme is causing such projects to be delayed in the short term.
CURRENT POSITION HVCA is working to ensure the availability to its members of a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) that will allow them to qualify for, and derive maximum business advantage from, RHI-funded installations.
Introduction of the Green Deal Initiative
The Government’s Green Deal initiative – which is expected to come into effect in the autumn of 2012 – is designed to fund energy efficiency improvements in residential and commercial buildings, by allowing customers to pay for the work through their energy bills over a 20-year period.
There will be no cap on the side of the loans available, provided the “golden rule” is adhered to, whereby the expected savings in energy cost are greater than the cost of the project being undertaken.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) estimated that, by 2020, between £50bn to £80bn will have been generated by projects funded via the Green Deal scheme.
CURRENT POSITION The HVCA believes that the Green Deal represents a valuable business opportunity for its members, and is maintaining an ongoing dialogue with DECC to ensure the establishment of appropriate standards and levels of competence.
Impact of the Carbon Reduction Commitment
Following its recent comprehensive spending review (CSR), the Government has announced that the mechanism whereby carbon credits would be refunded under the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) is to be dropped from the energy efficiency scheme.
This effectively converts the CRC into a “carbon tax” on the 5,000 large public and private-sector organisations which are in scope to the scheme owing to their high levels of energy consumption, and which should already have registered with the Environment Agency by the deadline of 30 September 2010.
The sale of carbon credits, which was due to be introduced in April 2011 with the price set at £12.00 per tonne, has been postponed for 12 months to April 2012.
This change represents a potential increase of 6.6% in electricity prices and 10% in gas prices for organisations covered by the scheme.
CURRENT POSITION HVCA is monitoring the impact of the introduction of the CRC and, in particular, the extent to which it encourages (or otherwise) those organisations within scope to undertake energy reduction measures, thus providing additional business opportunities for members.
Proposed pan-European phase-out of HFCs
A debate is ongoing across Europe on the future of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used by the refrigeration and air conditioning sector as a practical alternative to the ozone-depleting – and now banned – chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Although HFCs have no effect on the ozone layer, the fact that they are considered to have global warming potential has given rise to a campaign led by some member states for their early phase-out.
While acknowledging that HFCs will be superseded in the fullness of time, the HVCA Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC) Group believes they still have a vital role to play in the transition from ozone-depleting to more environment-friendly refrigerants. The group also believes the proposal to ban HFC use as early as 2011 is impractical in that it would require wholesale plant replacement programme that end users could not afford to carry out.
As things stand, HFCs remain the most energy-efficient choice for most refrigeration and smaller air conditioning applications.
CURRENT POSITION HVCA and the RAC Group are urging the European Commission to approach the review process with an open mind – and to consider very carefully the relative pros and cons before rushing to judgement on the HFC issue.
Contractor pre-qualification reform
The Association continues to pursue a strategy designed to counter the proliferation of discrete contractor qualification schemes and to put in place “deemed to satisfy” arrangements that offer its members automatic entry on to “approved” lists.
HVCA has achieved membership of the Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) Forum which was established by four of the UK’s leading operator of approved contractor schemes, Forum members recognise each other’s schemes – so that, when firms have pre-qualified under one scheme, they are “deemed to satisfy” the health and safety requirements of all SSIP schemes. This enables HVCA member companies automatically to satisfy the health and safety tender requirements of the increasing number of clients who are limiting their use of approved contractor schemes to those operated by members of the SSIP Forum.
The Association has also been engaged – through the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group – in developing PS91, a “publicly available specification” that establishes minimum quality criteria for pre-qualification schemes.
CURRENT POSITION Following the introduction of the PAS91 publicly available specification, HVCA is actively promoting its use across the public and private sectors.
HVCA adds value to members’ businesses by providing quality services, promoting excellence and shaping the commercial environment through representation and leadership.