Sustainability takes centre stage at BMF Virtual Conference

Climate change and the merchant industry’s part in combating it was the major thread running through the Builders Merchants Federation’s first Virtual AGM and Conference, held last Thursday (September 17th).

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the usual live event could not take place, so the AGM and conference were held over Zoom, using the latest virtual conference technology.

Lord Deben Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change avatar 1468920918

The Keynote Speaker was Lord Deben, former Minister for the Environment under Margaret Thatcher’s Prime Ministership and now chairman of the Climate Change Committee.

Housebuilders, he told the online delegates “should not build crap houses”.  He continued: “I do think that it is an unacceptable thing to build a house and then you hand it to the person who buys it along with a long term energy price commitment, which you didn’t need to give them. Build a house properly. Build a house according to standards which are close to Passivehaus. Do what they’re doing in many other countries. And then people have very, very low energy costs, and of course, that enables you to have very, very much lower emissions. We’ve got to do that, we are going to do that. And builders’ merchants will be part of the chain for the changes that will take place.”

Lord Deben was followed by Travis Perkins’ head of sustainability Megan Allard who looked at some of the lessons from the Covid lockdown and at how the industry can build itself back up going forwards.

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“Covid has given us all a chance to evaluate what is important going forwards,” she said. “To build back the economy, we do need to build back better. We need to build, build, build and get the economy moving again and we need to do so in a green way because we do need to decarbonise the UK’s housing.”

She explained that the dip in carbon emissions, globally, during lockdown was around 8%. “That dip is needed every year for the next 10 years to keep us on track to meet global carbon targets. The UK housing stock accounts for a third of UK carbon emissions so if we are going to build, build, build and meet those emissions targets we are definitely going to have to think about how we do it differently.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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