UK economic recovery plan is Build Build Build

UK PM vowed to “use this moment” to fix longstanding economic problems and promised a £5bn “new deal” to build homes and infrastructure.

In a wide-ranging speech in Dudley, in the West Midlands, Mr Johnson vowed to “build, build, build” to soften the “economic aftershock” of coronavirus.

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He said the government wanted to continue with its plans to “level up” – one of its main slogans of last December’s election – as “too many parts” of the country had been “left behind, neglected, unloved”.

Infrastructure projects in England would be “accelerated” and there would be investment in new academy schools, green buses and new broadband, the PM added.

Projects in the £5bn investment plan include:

  • £1.5bn for hospital maintenance and building, eradicating mental health dormitories and improving A&E capacity – the government said this is “new” money in addition to £1.1bn in its Spring Budget
  • £100m for 29 road projects including bridge repairs in Sandwell and improving the A15 in the Humber region – this money had already been announced
  • Over £1bn for new school buildings, as announced on Monday – this cash comes from the government’s existing infrastructure plan
  • £12bn to help build 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent over the next eight years – brings together three pots of money already announced by previous Tory governments and Mr Johnson’s administration

Other projects announced in the government’s Spring Budget, which will now be accelerated, include:

  • £83m for maintenance of prisons and youth offender facilities, and £60m for temporary prison places.
  • £900m for “shovel ready” local projects in England this year and in 2021
  • £500,000 – £1m for each area in the towns fund to spend on improvements to parks, high street and transport

Source: BBC News

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Can UK Green Mortgage help climate change?

The UK has set itself a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but that will be a challenge for the housing market.

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As things stand, domestic housing accounts for nearly 20% of the UK’s carbon emissions. At the same time, there are few ‘green’ mortgage products and even fewer that have been set up to fund making homes more energy efficient.

This matters, because upgrading current buildings will be what helps cut emissions.

According to the UK Green Building Council, around 80% of the buildings that will exist in the UK in 2050 are already constructed.

Few of those are energy efficient. Based on the government’s energy performance certificates (EPC), most of the UK’s housing stock is in the middle, ‘D’, band.

Top of the list in making housing more energy efficient is cutting fuel use. Around 10% of the UK’s carbon footprint comes down to heating – mostly domestic heating.

In principle, green mortgages that help homeowners manage the cost of boosting energy efficiency should be widespread and keenly priced.

In May 2020, the Green Finance Institute published a report on financing energy efficient buildings.

This cited “growing evidence that favourable financing terms can be achieved on securities that have an environmental or social impact label or certification”. 

But only three lenders in the UK currently offer green mortgages – Barclays, Ecology Building Society and Nationwide.

Chris McHugh, our Director of the Centre for Sustainable Finance, describes the UK green mortgage market as “a cautious beginning”.

“The eligible customer base, property types and notional amounts are limited. The price incentives for borrowers appear to be small or non-existent.”

The UK green mortgage market

Indeed you can count the number of green mortgage lenders on the fingers of one hand.

Ecology Building Society and Nationwide both offer lending for green home improvements. Ecology is a very small firm specialising in green finance including sustainable builds. In 2019 it lent £43.5m across 308 sustainable properties and projects.

However, compared to many other mortgage lenders, it’s relatively expensive – with a current standard variable rate of 4.1%.

Nationwide Building Society is a much bigger player with around 12% of the UK market. It  offers preferential rates on green improvements for loans up to £25,000, but only for existing customers.

Barclays has around 8.6% of the UK mortgage market. It does offer green mortgages for “energy-efficient new-build” homes provided by “partner suppliers”. But it doesn’t have any plans to offer mortgages for green home improvements in the near-term.

Lloyds, which has the biggest overall share at nearly 16%, announced in January that it plans to launch green mortgages, but did not give further details.

Right now, lenders may be cautious about broadening their green mortgage offerings as demand is likely to have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic

“There are far more pressing matters on consumers’ minds,” says John Somerville, our Head of Regulatory Relationships.

“With all green properties and loans, there’s likely to be an extra cost and more underwriting. The appetite to jump through those hoops will be strongly diminished for some time to come.”

Source: The London Institute of Banking and Finance

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UK Property Projects: Avoid cowboys

Did you know that rogue traders are taking advantage of vulnerable UK home homeowners who are under increasing pressure to meet soaring living costs? Rogue traders will try to tempt you with ‘last minute deals’, cash in hand’ deals and installation work that is not backed by guarantees/insurance to protect you.

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Beware, not only is this illegal as the work will not comply with the Building Regulations, but the work will ultimately cost more and create more hassle in the longer term when the installation work turns pear shaped.

How to avoid cowboy builders

  • Tip 1 – Always go by a recommendation.
  • Tip 2 – Qualifications often prove competence.
  • Tip 3 – Be very specific specifying the works you want carried out.
  • Tip 4 – Agree the price of the job before starting any works.
  • Tip 5 – Pick installers who specifically carry out the works you want.
  • Tip 6 – Minimise upfront payments.

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

Building a garden wall as feature

Most gardens would benefit from a bit of hard landscaping, especially if the material used is beautiful and natural eg natural stone. Get some inspiration and ideas by visiting your local garden centre.

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Small walls, either built in stone or brick, are incredibly versatile in the gardens. They are specially useful for creating raised structures such as raised beds, which make it easier to plant and weed; brick barbecues; or raised water features. However, they can also be used to divide areas of a garden, or if you have a terraced area, they are vital for retaining soil.

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

Home Improvement: Is size everything?

Whatever your home improvement project is; whether you’re extending up, down, side or within, size and the use of space is vital to achieving the best design and improvement.

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To get the best home improvement, why not take a drive around your local area to see how other people have done it? Keep an eye out for properties similar in structure to your own and make a note of what to do and don’t want to achieve. Look at houses from your local estate agent, online and property catalogues. Also use your dog walks, jogging and evening walks as research trips.

Most homes are extended at the back, but you can consider extending upward,  downward or sideways depending on planning permission and building regulation. The exterior appearance and size of your property will have an impact on its value and appeal.

Extensions, conservatories, porches, driveway, garages come in all shapes and sizes, from standard to premium design and space. Just make sure it is in keeping with the aesthetic of your home and that you consider the orientation – taking into account its proximity to surrounding trees, outbuildings and neighbouring properties and how much sunlight it will get during the day. For example a north-facing conservatory can suffer from lack of sunlight and bump up your heating bills.

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

Using salvaged materials for your building project

Whatever type of building project you are preparing to undertake, it is always worth taking time to consider if there are any materials that can be salvaged for re-use, recycled or up-cycled.

As there are many types of building projects, there will also be many uses for material that you may initially believe would not be of any use to you. This is where you need to consider the building project as a whole and see what you have to buy in for the various stages and what you can salvage for re-use, recycle or up-cycled elsewhere.

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These projects could potentially involve using salvaged material:

  • Building an extension
  • Loft conversion
  • Refurbishment
  • Renovation
  • External works
  • Demolition
  • Building a new house

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

 

Does Health & Safety at work apply to my domestic building project?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have statutory obligations to adhere to, based on Common Law principles. The effect of the Act has been to bring ALL people at work (and others) under the protection of the law. The Act covers all employment activities and applies to employers, self-employed persons, sub-contractors, visitors to places of employment, employees, directors and managers, members of the public, designers, suppliers, etc. It also provides the HSE with various enforcement powers.

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Whether you are overseeing the project yourself or employing a builder or contractor to carry out the work, understanding the importance of safety, health and welfare is very important. There are grey areas of health & safety regarding projects that are undertaken by homeowners themselves. Whereas the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 encompasses all work carried out by professionals during their daily activities, homeowners who are undertaking the work themselves are not covered by it. However, there is a moral duty of care by the homeowner to any person who has contact with the building project. This means any person who has contact with the project has a right under health & safety law to be protected from danger.

If you are going to employ the service of a professional to carry out any elements of the work for example electrician or gas engineer, they should have public liability insurance and qualified to work to good building practices. All appropriate measures should be taken to remove or reduce the risks of accident or incidents, by introducing methods of controlling the risk.  It is important to satisfy yourself (as far as is reasonable) that the professionals you employ are qualified and competent to carry out the work in a safe manner.

If you are responsible for a building project site and a person is injured due to negligence on your part, legal action could be taken against you. If you are in any doubt as to where you stand with regard to health & safety, or if you require any advice or information, visit the HSE website: http://www.hse.gov.uk

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

How to know a good building contractor

One of the most important decisions you are likely to make when undertaking a building project of any size is that of employing the services of a building contractor or property professionals such as electricians, plumbers, gas engineers, etc.

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Before making the all-important decision of awarding the contract to a specific builder or professional, it would not be unreasonable to as to see work on which they are currently engaged or recently done. Seeing at first hand and speaking to the client on how they treat the client’s property and how they work will give you an idea of what to expect if you decide to employ them.

Below are some tell-tale signs of good building practice and responsible behaviour:

  • vehicles associated with the site are parked sensibly
  • the site on first appearance is clean, tidy and organised
  • roads and pavements are not damaged or muddy
  • where appropriate, suitable fencing is available
  • the site facilities are appropriate for the project
  • workers’ appearance is in keeping with a professional outfitSee the source image
  • equipment is clean and in good order
  • no trailing leads are evident, except in close proximity to the work
  • standard of work appears to be good
  • workers are polite
  • noise levels are acceptable (no loud radios)
  • security and health & safety signs are evident, ie visitors to report to site office, there are warning signs for pedestrians that construction work is in progress, standard health & safety signs.
  • workers are wearing Personal Protection Equipment
  • the company vehicles are well presented
  • a company sign is on display
  • where appropriate, material is neatly stacked and protected

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

Use of technology for your building projects

Building projects is now very much linked to the use of computer generated materials. This does not mean to say that your project will suffer if you do not use computers and computer-aided material. However, one of the major problem with producing material by hand is that it takes a long time, and if you need to update or amend something it can become quite tedious. Another problem is that if your writing is not clear it may be misinterpreted.

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Advantages of using technology

  • information can be produced and sent electronically
  • Save time and speed up communication.
  • Ensure orders and specifications are clear and done in good time
  • Can be easily stored, retrieve and resent
  • Can be sent to multiple recipient at the same time
  • Saves resources and cost
  • environmentally friendly

To get the best of technology, it is worth pointing out that with the advancement of technology, digital cameras are now widely available at very reasonable prices. It is worth investing in one even if you do not own or use a computer. Alternatively you can use your mobile phone if it has a good digital camera. You can take and store hundreds of pictures of your project and documents without having them processed or printed. This may be vitally important in the event of any discrepancies and clarifications. If there is a problem or situation that is of urgent concern, the pictures can be sent electronically. This gives the person at the receiving end a visual aid and therefore action may be taken more quickly.

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk