Why Going Green Would Create More Construction Jobs

New research published by UK100, a group of mayors and local government leaders, shows that a “retrofit army” of nearly half a million builders, electricians, plumbers will be needed to meet the Government’s objective of becoming Net Zero by 2050.

The figures are being published as a cross-party taskforce of 24 Mayors and local leaders, representing 24 million people across England have submitted a proposal to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to unlock £100bn as part of the Spending Review.

The finance should be predominantly met from the private sector with the Treasury pump-priming £5bn via a Net Zero Development Bank.

In total 455,076 jobs could be created or in demand in the construction and property sectors. The construction industry has been one of the hardest hit in the pandemic, with 90% of construction businesses having applied for the furlough scheme, second only to the hospitality sector. In total, over 3 million jobs are expected to be in demand or created as part of a shift to a green economy across a range of sectors.

Comments Belfast City Council’s UK100 Taskforce representative Councillor Sarah Bunting: “Covid-19 has led to an acceleration of our action to transition to a zero-emissions economy within a generation. It has focused minds, and led to more partnership working across the city to drive jobs-led growth.

“However, investment from government is needed to ensure projects at scale are brought forward quickly, either through retrofitting of local housing or stimulus for low-emissions transport. Like many cities, Belfast needs to make a step change towards decarbonisation in this decade.  This is a profound challenge but offers substantial opportunities for our local economy.”

Analysis conducted by UK100 and Siemens, shows that a £5bn investment by the Government could unlock £100bn of private sector investment toward meeting the Net Zero goals by 2050. It includes £40bn for ‘retrofit’ such as energy saving and efficiency in homes and businesses; £10bn for renewables such as solar, wind and biomass; £30bn for low carbon heating such as district heating networks; £10bn for smart energy systems; and £10bn for low emissions transport such as electric and hydrogen vehicles.

The UK Green Building Council has estimated that to achieve Net Zero carbon by 2050, we will need to improve almost all of the UK’s 29 million homes, meaning we need to retrofit more than 1.8 homes every minute between now and 2050.

The new ‘retrofit army’ would be supported to go green with incentives to switch from diesel and petrol white vans to electric vehicles, as well as seamless access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the UK. There would also be support to encourage public transport use, walking and cycling.

Although the UK100 jobs data is not time specific, a recent report by the New Economics Foundation which interviewed industry experts found that “a period of three to four years was thought to be required to train up the supply chain to full capacity.”

Retrofit Jobs

A number of new jobs are expected to be created in the construction and property sectors as part of the shift to a green economy. Many of these are outlined in a framework of technical standards for retrofit, known as PAS 2035/2030:2019. These include:

  • Retrofit surveyors and advisers. Surveyors and advisers would provide advice to homeowners on how best to reduce energy waste from their houses, on the financial benefits of a variety of retrofit measures and support available.
  • Retrofit builders and insulation specialists. Builders and labourers will need additional skills and experience of constructing energy efficient homes, as well as installing the latest insulation in existing homes to reduce energy leakage and meet the highest EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) ratings.
  • Retrofit heating specialists. Specialist technicians, who may have worked as gas boiler engineers could install technologies such as ground or air source heat pumps which can convert renewable-sourced electricity into heating and hot water, or biomass boilers which can burn waste timber with low emissions.
  • Retrofit roofers, carpenters and electricians. A range of specialist roles will be envisaged in the retrofit industry covering the design and installation of technologies including solar thermal systems; home battery storage and thermally efficient facades, which create an airtight and insulated shell around an existing property.