Tuesday, 25th July 2023: Last week, the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) submitted its pre-budget submission. The document sets out a series of recommendations to decarbonise Ireland’s built environment while tackling the housing crisis and addressing the issue of inflation in construction.
Pat Barry, CEO of the Irish Green Building Council said: “EPA figures released earlier this month revealed a marginal decrease of only 1.9% in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions for 2022, making it increasingly challenging to meet our climate targets. This situation emphasizes the urgency for immediate action. It’s hence critical that in 2024 all government expenditure and fiscal policies align with the objective of halving emissions by 2030”.
The IGBC’s submission includes several recommendations to support better use of the existing building stock and high-quality energy renovation, as well as the development of more sustainable new homes.
Speaking about new builds, Mr Barry said: “Government must lead by example when providing funding for public procurement or grant aid to private developers. It must require evidence of enhanced sustainability beyond minimum building standards for all new housing and construction as is already done in other jurisdictions”.
While new homes are needed, Mr Barry stressed the absolute necessity of better supporting the reuse of our existing buildings. According to the IGBC, the carbon cost of a home deep retrofit is approximately a quarter of a new build.
“Many vacant and underused properties to be retrofitted are in easily accessible locations with reduced dependence on cars. Encouraging reuse would help reduce Ireland’s fastest growing carbon emissions namely from transportation. Furthermore, this approach will help provide more housing while revitalising city, town, and village centres.”
Actions recommended by the IGBC to support this approach, include extending the “First Home Scheme” to renovation projects in village, town and city centres, making the “Vacant property refurbishment grant” available in instalments, and allocating funding and resources to pilot a one-stop shop for re-use to make it easier for building owners and prospective buyers to bring back properties into use.
Other budget asks for 2024 include:
- Allocating funding for a well-resourced community energy advice service in each local authority.
- Reform the Free Energy Upgrades scheme to ensure low-income households living in low BER homes are eligible – regardless of home ownership status and/or welfare payment eligibility.
- Introducing a 9% VAT rate on construction products which contribute to carbon savings in the operational phase of a building life cycle, highlighting that within two years, this reduced VAT rate will be reviewed to take into account embodied carbon emissions.
- Allocating funding and resources to local authorities to better support re-use of construction materials. E.g., storage facilities for large quantities of high-quality construction materials for reuse.
The Irish Green Building Council’s pre-budget submission was developed in close cooperation with its members and is available here.