Sustainability — your commercial opportunity

HVCA Business Plus, renewable energy, sustainability, Mike Jenkins
The sustainability challenge — Mike Jenkins.

Sustainability will be a significant focus in the years ahead. Mike Jenkins explains why you cannot afford to get left behind.

The construction industry is going through a total transformation, driven by changing legislative and social pressures and economic need. The key issue is sustainability, and while this has brought challenges, it has opened a window of huge business opportunity for our sector.

Sustainability is the future, not just to combat global warming, but also because businesses and individuals want to save money by cutting expenditure on energy consumption. Designing, developing and installing sustainable building-services solutions will help businesses gain commercial advantage by being recognised as experts in integrated energy systems and low carbon solutions.

But where do the opportunities lie? The biggest sector is undoubtedly existing buildings. There are around 26 million homes and two million commercial and non-domestic premises that will need to be retrofitted if the Government is to meet its targets for reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. The Heating & Ventilating Contractors’ Association (HVCA) estimates that the retrofit of the existing housing market alone could be worth between £5 billion and £8 billion.

Engineers must remain alert to the options this market presents and the chance to adopt new system and product designs and installation techniques. It is crucial for you to remain up to speed with the ever-widening range of schemes aimed at encouraging sustainability, such as the Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs), Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), and CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.

FiTs are the electricity part of what some people call Clean Energy Cashback, a Government-backed measure that pays people for creating their own renewable electricity. FiTs have done more than anything else to accelerate the installation of renewable energy capacity in Europe.

Similar to the FiTs, the RHI provides a fixed payment for the renewable heat you generate yourself. The new financial incentive is expected to encourage installation of equipment like heat pumps, biomass boilers, geothermal systems, and solar panels to reduce emissions.

To compete for business, manufacturers, distributors and installers will all need to understand and offer sustainable technologies. David Frise, Head of Sustainability at the HVCA, says: ‘The key is to deliver the promise of improved performance and reduced emissions. Clients are no longer buying products, they are buying performance. This is the big prize for the building-services contractors and consultants.’

HVCA Business Plus, renewable energy, sustainability, Mike Jenkins

Incentives like the FiTs and RHI are here to stay for some time, so there is a need to upgrade existing skills and expand training into new areas. Those organisations that recognise and promote low- and zero-carbon reduction strategies by investing time in staff development will achieve a competitive advantage in the market place. Training is therefore an issue that no business or self-employed engineer should be neglecting.

To help with the confusing array of initiatives and programmes, the HVCA provides a number of training courses directly and through subsidiaries such as Piper Assessment and BEST. These courses not only provide the necessary education and skills, but also ensure that engineers are adhering to existing and new legislation.

Additionally, the HVCA (working with the ECA) offers M&E Sustainability, which promotes HVCA members as experts in ‘integrated energy systems’ who can take an holistic approach to satisfying clients’ growing needs for sustainable building-services solutions. M&E Sustainability is developing a series of technical standards, training courses and awareness campaigns to ensure businesses are geared up to deal with the growing demand for sustainable building services.

Over the coming decade, our industry and the skills we require will be transformed beyond all recognition. Those who are not properly skilled in sustainable technologies and who are unaware of the issues surrounding them will be left behind and are unlikely to survive in a ferociously competitive business environment.

Mike Jenkins is the group co-ordinator of HVCA Business Plus and business development manager of Welplan.


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