The Government’s Challenge to the Retail Industry
“The UK was the first major economy to embrace a legal obligation to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050” 2. To achieve this, the Government’s Ten-point plan is intended to trigger the UK’s second Industrial Revolution. This time it will be green. With the Future Home Standard underway, commercial buildings are next. One of the most pressing among the measures is the requirement for commercial properties to comply with a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of ‘B’ by 2030 3. What does this mean? 1.4bn sft of existing retail stock needs improvement 4. Why is this important? Failure to meet the target means property owners cannot levy rent. The scope of the change is enormous, the investment gigantic, yet the time to implement short. This is the Government’s challenge to the retail industry.
While what and when is clear, how and who is not. The ownership pattern of the city is fragmented: more than 60% of retail is in the hands of small independent owners. For the thriving high street, density of varied use classes supports one another. For the declining high street however, it makes collectively mobilising change difficult. Without overall direction decline hits and investment falls. Investment falling accelerates decline, worsening investment, and so on.
As for what: the question of retrofit versus new build can be complex. Much retail stock was built in the last century and expected to last thirty years maximum 3, so renovation or replacement is often overdue. A low energy retrofit can be synched to the cycle of building maintenance or, in some cases, is energy performance deficit so severe only new build is viable? Even with Whole Life Carbon Assessments by RICS 5 weighing new build versus retrofit is not binary. Architectural heritage, community value and sense of place are also issues that, while less measurable, affect a sense of place.