‘How can we ensure that health and wellbeing is at the forefront of the Government’s decision making processes on green retrofitting and that they adopt a more holistic joined-up approach to deliver healthy homes and buildings?’
Firstly, the government and local authorities should make health and well-being a top priority, alongside the levelling up and zero carbon agendas. A focus on productivity and carbon alone puts us at risk of unintended consequences and misses the opportunity to address the multitude of health problems associated with unsafe, cold, damp, badly lit, and poor quality housing that people are living in today.
It would be great to see the UK Government replicate legislation passed in Wales. Their Well-being of Future Generations Act requires public bodies to think about the long-term impact of their decisions to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. Public bodies need to make sure that when making their decisions they take into account the impact they could have on people living their lives in Wales in the future. They must also set and publish well-being objectives.
We also need the Government to join up the relevant departments and agencies who have an interest in health and retrofit of buildings. The All Party Parliamentary group for healthy Homes and Buildings has advocated for a Cross departmental committee to be set up for health and buildings for a number of years.
A National renovation strategy is then required to set out plans to retrofit the current UK building stock. This should not only address the energy efficiency and carbon reduction requirements, but also set out plans to address the other building requirements associated with health and well-being, like thermal comfort, air quality, lighting and acoustics. The strategy should take a whole house approach, starting with the building fabric.
To do so improved tools will be required, such as a building passport. That clearly sets out the improvement measures required for a particular building.
We also need to develop the knowledge and skills for retrofitting around health and well-being across government and the industry, so it becomes standard practice to consider health and wellbeing in retrofit policymaking, whole house project design and the installation of measures.
Industry and government should work together to raise public awareness about the link between the built environment and health and well-being. This would help to create consumer demand for home improvement measures and start to create a market for energy efficient as well as healthier home retrofits.
Finally, we should measure the impact from current and future renovation schemes to build the political, economic and business case for further retrofit schemes and feed this evidence into future policy making decisions, so that health and well-being truly is at the forefront of the Government’s decision making processes.