Fears are growing that architects are being marginalised in the multibillion pound Green Deal energy efficiency retrofit drive
The Green Deal has been branded damaging to the built environment and the architecture profession.
As the high-profile policy launched this week it emerged that not a single architect had signed up to oversee the programme as a Green Deal assessor and fears are growing that architects have been marginalised in the multi-billion pound retrofit drive.
Under the Green Deal, homes can secure loans to reduce the cost of energy efficiency improvements including lighting, insulation, ground source heat pumps and solar panels.
Accredited Green Deal assessors will form the front line in advising thousands of households on low-energy domestic refurbishment projects and how to secure loans for efficiency improvements.
Without architects leading the process, sustainable design experts have warned the profession is in danger of losing a pivotal role in the retrofit agenda. There are also concerns that the widespread installation of external insulation, soon to become permitted development, could impact negatively on the quality of the built environment.
Hayward Smart Architects associate Nic Robinson said this could be a ‘missed opportunity for architects to have a positive impact upon existing housing stock in terms of appearance, design quality and energy efficiency.’
Elena Tsolakis of Tsolakis Architects added: ‘Architects are much better equipped to offer comprehensive solutions to the serious problems that exist in our building stock.’
Robin Nicholson of Cullinan Studio said Green Deal assessing was an ‘ideal’ opportunity for small practitioners who would be needed for ‘most homes even when they are considered standard’. He added: ‘There’s a huge amount of work for architects if they engage with the Green Deal. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door and earn a bit of money and learn what the issues are. If they leave it to surveyors they [surveyors] will be very happy.’
John Alker of the UK Green Building Council said: ‘Every house in the country over the next 20 years will need retrofitting to a high standard. There is a opportunity for architects to tap into the Grand Designs end of the market.’
And John Kellet, director at KR.eativ: Architects said: ‘The Green Deal will mean yet another skill that architects are trained and qualified to do will be closed off to the profession by restricting it to those who have undertaken a minimal course and “registered”.’
Chris Bryant, of alma-nac
‘Architects need not worry [about the Green Deal] because it represents such minor works, anything more significant would likely require planning permission and customers would probably then seek an architect. A greater concern might be the affect is has on local tradesman and smaller energy companies. The ‘greening’ of homes is a growing market and this could be send as an attempt by the bigger energy companies to monopolise this.’
‘Saying all of that, the truth is that the Green Deal is a poorly thought out policy that will have a very low uptake. The incentives are mediocre at best; with unappealing interest rates and possible difficulties when selling a property. People would be better advised to stump up a lump sum, take out a home improvement loan, or get involved in a bit of DIY.
David Nossiter of David Nossiter Architects
‘Low end retrofit work will fall within the same bag as other low end building improvements. For the majority of home improvers cost over design, will be the driving factor. There will simply not be enough of a margin for architects to be involved. However, there will always be some clients who value the role an architect offers and will continue to seek their services.’
Elisa Pardini, founder of ElipsDesign:
‘Of course architects might be better placed to advise on the aesthetic choice than assessors. The design is done from every single item on a building, from the smallest detail and so on. To achieve an high level an architect need to have as much control as possible. So even if we speak just about an external insulation wall, this can have strong impact in both the way a building looks and in the way people perceive it.’