Making Our Homes and Workplaces Fit for the Future 

Ensuring our homes and buildings are net zero by 2050 provides great opportunity for the construction and energy sectors.  

As part of the ‘Leading the Charge’ digital series, Jade Lewis, CEO of the Sustainable Energy Association, explains the challenges facing these sectors in the journey to net zero, and how a holistic approach across industries could be the solution. 

Q: What progress has been made so far to make sure our homes and workplaces are more sustainable?  

JL: We need to make sure that homes and buildings are fit for the future. That means they are energy efficient, net zero carbon, and warm and healthy.  

Over the last two years we’ve been inundated with policy and have no clear long-term signal of where we need to go. 

Ideally what we need now is joined up policy to allow the industry to gear up and deliver collaborative and innovative solutions and delivery models to help us achieve net zero by 2050. 

Q: A big task will be making older properties, especially from the Victorian and Georgian eras, energy efficient. How are we going to do that?  

JL: Absolutely. In the past we’ve tried to simplify this by coming up with one measure to fix everything. It used to be insulation, then more recently solar thermal PV, then heat pumps. Every building is different, and every occupant has different requirements, so I believe the solution is going to be a mixture of different technologies and solutions. It should always be a fabric first approach, we need to make sure that our buildings aren’t leaking out energy. This means we’re going to need insulation, draught proofing, energy efficient glazing, and a whole range of measures to fix the fabric.  

Then we need to look at heating sources, make sure that we have low carbon heating systems in place, so we are decarbonising for the future. Then we need to look at things like health and wellbeing of the occupants, and adaptation to climate change.  

In practice, we need a mix of measures tailored to the particular building, and its occupants, to give us the right outcomes. If we understand that this is the solution, and stop trying to pick one horse, we’re going to need a host of measures to come together so that the industry can deliver.  

Q: How does the electrical industry prepare for these future changes?  

JL: We know that government policy can change depending on the Government and Prime Minister in charge, so businesses are sometimes better off looking at industry trends, rather than changing to government policy. 

Industry trends are things like net zero, pushing for more digitalisation, and more modern methods of construction. These can all increase productivity in the sector, drive innovation, and address things like an ageing workforce.  

These trends that are going to happen anyway, and this is where there is a huge opportunity for the electrical sector, but it’s also a risk if businesses don’t change. There is a lot of help and support out there, particularly funding for SMEs to gear up and get ready for that agenda. If they look to the trends to change their business model, despite government policy, then they shouldn’t go wrong.  

Q: So, they’ve got to do the work? 

JL: If they don’t want to be caught out by changes in government policy, then that is a better option. Things like net zero aren’t going to go away. We’re going to need to address overheating, we’re going to need to address flooding, issues with buildings and adaptation to climate change. The need is there despite government policy, so if a business gears up around those trends, they’re going to be fit for the future.  

We don’t really know what the energy solution is going to look like for 2050. This is why organisations like the Committee on Climate Change are saying that we’re going to need a mix of technologies. Companies need to be flexible and adaptable to those changes, but it is a huge opportunity for the electrical sector.  

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