Repair and improve

Our intellect has achieved the most tremendous things, but in the meantime our spiritual dwelling has fallen into disrepair.

A mark of a civilised society must surely be that it houses its citizens in decent dwellings.

I’ve been looking through the report which the Energy Savings Trust worked on last year with Travis Perkins about the cost implications of various ways of improving the energy efficiency of 1960s built flats. One of the conclusions of the report is that making small, relatively inexpensive changes to improve the efficiency of such properties could go a long way towards reducing carbon emissions and generally saving energy and resources.

Which of course is all very laudable. But this weekend particularly it struck me that there must be the opportunity to do more to buildings like these than just make them more energy efficient. What about just making them more decent places to live?

Maybe it’s the parent in me, but the tragic fire in Camberwell made me wonder just how many potential death trap existing buildings there are with inadequate fire protection or inadequate heating or heating systems that leak poisonous gases.

Making homes more energy efficient is A Good Thing, I don’t think there’s much doubt about that, especially if by doing so we are bringing in business to the industry. But will it save lives? Probably not. But improving existing housing stock in terms of fire protection and heating systems probably will.

The Get Britain Building Campaign highlighted the need for focus on improving the existing housing stock, the Rok Repairing Britain Campaign takes it a step further.

Not only will spending on the repair and improvement of our housing stock bring in much needed business to the industry, it might stop awful events like the one in Camberwell happening again. And both of those things are worth working towards.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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