£30bn public building decarbonisation costs ‘tip of the iceberg’
Property consultancy Rapleys has warned that government projections about the cost of decarbonising the public estate underestimate true costs.
Arguing that the official figure of £25-£30bn is “the tip of the iceberg”, Rapleys said the need to invest in infrastructure and ancillary services to make energy efficiency solutions work will drive up costs.
For example, an air source heat pump might cost £45,000 but would require an overall minimum investment of £135,000 when factoring in installation costs and potential electrical substation upgrades.
While traditional gas heating is normally costed at £500/kW, an electricity-based alternative could be double that, according to Rapleys.
The company’s sustainable building consultancy said that unless the public sector partners with experts in the private sector decarbonisation will fail “due to the inevitable inability to see the wider picture of infrastructure needed to support individual well-meaning initiatives”.
While costs are significant, the main challenge is the public estate itself. The vast majority of public sector buildings are old and inefficient, while some have heritage attributes that require complex solutions to retrofit.
Rapleys said that decarbonisation strategies, if done early enough, can build in the ancillary services and investment to ensure a smooth and successful rollout of necessary infrastructure.
Lee Fraine, head of sustainability and building services at Rapleys, said: “It’s certainly not a good idea to play the quick game and invest in off-the-shell solutions to tick a box when, in reality, significantly more infrastructure and a budget three times that spend might be needed to ensure the initial equipment works.
“Otherwise you end up with a ‘whack-a-mole’ situation whereby you are spending on one thing and that pops up another problem and another that becomes a black hole of expenditure that no organisation can afford right now.
“Transparency, understanding and expert forward planning is key.”