Chancellor announces £1bn pledge to 'green up' public buildings

Hospitals will get increased support to meet carbon zero targets

The Government has this week announced a £1billion commitment to ‘greening up’ public buildings.

The move, which was announced by Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, includes investment in making hospitals and health centres more environmentally friendly.

And it follows the announcement, last month, of a major investment in capital building projects as part of a plan to get the construction industry moving again and to create much-needed jobs.

“We welcome with open arms the Government’s commitment to ‘greening up’ public buildings and hope this is a sign of impactful intent to where value is placed throughout the procurement process and beyond

The investment in public buildings will help the NHS to meet tough new targets to reduce the health service’s carbon footprint to net zero by 2050.

And it was announced alongside a multi-billion pound pledge to minimise emissions from residential properties across the country.

The investment is being welcomed by architects and construction companies.

Speaking to BBH following the announcement, Alfonso Padro, principal at HKS Architects, said: “We welcome with open arms the Government’s commitment to ‘greening up’ public buildings and hope this is a sign of impactful intent to where value is placed throughout the procurement process and beyond.

“For too long the focus has been on upfront capital costs, which to some degree has affected the competitive tendering and sustainable quality of buildings.

“Consideration given to the long term running costs of public buildings will benefit schools, hospitals, and, ultimately, the public purse and the environment.”

For too long the focus has been on upfront capital costs, which to some degree has affected the competitive tendering and sustainable quality of buildings

And Richard Hyams, former Norman Foster architect and founder of astudio, said this funding was an ideal opportunity to change the way we think about the built environment.

He added: “Buildings and construction together account for over a third of global energy use, and nearly 40% of all CO2 emissions in the UK.

“To ensure a green and socially-responsible recovery from this pandemic, we need to fundamentally change how we look at these buildings.

“We think of buildings as absorbers of energy, but they should become generators.

“Beyond introducing new insulation for public buildings, we should be assessing its carbon footprint, omitting the use of fossil fuels, and retrofitting buildings with innovative materials, such as smart glass or ‘living walls’ lined with algae compounds that can generate biofuels.”

And he called for greater take-up of innovative offsite construction methods such as mobile and modular buildings, which offer quicker timescales and lower carbon and waste generation.

The use of offsite construction is supported by Kirk Taylor, head of development at Kajima Partnerships, who told BBH: “Many of the UK’s schools, hospitals and other public spaces are adapting to cater to future generations, evolving to be more resilient, more flexible, but also more sustainable through use of smarter, more-intelligent buildings.

“While a pledge of £1billion towards improving the energy efficiency and environmental impact of these buildings is a promising step, there is further we can go to meet the net-zero carbon emission goals for 2050.

To ensure a green and socially-responsible recovery from this pandemic, we need to fundamentally change how we look at these buildings

"In addition to improving the energy efficiency of buildings themselves, we must turn to more-sustainable construction methods, critically important for an industry in which buildings and construction together account for over a third of global energy use and nearly 40% of all CO2 emissions.

"Offsite modular construction is one such solution that we now must seize with both hands.

“Modular construction can deliver precision-engineered operating theatres, hospital wards and community care facilities affordably, sustainably, safely, and at pace.

“And improving the efficiency and environmental impact of existing buildings is critical and we must look at every step of the building process if we are to deliver a greener future for the generations to come.”

Companies