Parity Projects is now in the final stages of launching a project designed to open up Government’s upcoming Green Deal to organisations of all sizes. The Green Deal Conduit will build a network of small and medium sized organisations involved in the assessment and refurbishment buildings throughout the UK. To date SMEs have voiced concerns that the scheme will only benefit larger companies.

The initiative, which is expected to be owned by its members, is backed by a range of professional institutions and trade associations which combined represent almost 100,000 SME and micro businesses in the UK. These organisations will ensure their members have fair access to the Green Deal scheme without ending up at the tail end of the supply chain.

Those involved include the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), National Federation of Builders (NFB), Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Building & Engineering Services Association (B&ES), The Renewable Energy Sector, The Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA), Institute for Sustainability (IfS), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the British Institute for Interior Design (BIID).

Russell Smith, Managing Director of Parity Projects said, “A strong presence for smaller companies in the energy-focussed refurbishment market is desirable for two key reasons; firstly, homeowners will desire more than just a choice of high street brands. There are excellent, locally-focussed advisers and contractors that will be more preferred and trusted by some of the market.

“Secondly, smaller companies need to protect their existing refurbishment market which may be eaten into if some of their usual work can be funded by others. If there is no deliberate effort by smaller companies to access the Green Deal, they and homeowners will both lose out.”

Members of the Conduit will work independently but within a framework which allows members to work with each other and for a lead organisation. All providers involved will need to meet all Green Deal requirements.

“There are many critics of the Green Deal, and most of them expect the Government to be dumping work in the industry’s lap. The construction industry has always had a tendency to wait for work to come to it. In this case we have a new mechanism to drive change and the opportunity is really limited by our imaginations. The Green Deal Conduit has already captured the imaginations of many businesses around the country,” added Smith.

The Conduit has already seen interest from approximately 200 small construction practitioners across the UK however the group is now looking to attract others who want access to the Green Deal including contractors, energy assessors, architects, surveyors, builders’ merchants and community groups.

“We have spoken with DECC and they are excited by the prospects of the model but it will need genuine Government support to take it to the next level. As it ticks so many boxes such as building a local economy, creating a market for apprentices and providing a mechanism for community groups to drive change in their areas whilst minimising carbon dioxide emissions we hope Government do find a way to help it grow.

“The big question now is which Green Deal Providers are really serious about wanting to use smaller practitioners and if they are they will want to get in touch and start dialogue.”

Paul Reeve, Head of Business Policy and Practice and the Electrical Contractors’ Association, said: “Small businesses will not only provide more choice, but also the service flexibility and innovation that will encourage a much broader range of customers to engage with the Green Deal. We fully support the Green Deal Conduit.”

Meanwhile Anna Scott-Marshall, Head of External Affairs at RIBA said: “The Green Deal should be accessible to all sizes of business. If small businesses struggle to access the Green Deal market this may impact on those who currently undertake building renovation work. We must create a competitive market to respond to the challenge of renovating our national housing stock to be more energy efficient. The Green Deal Conduit is a way of addressing this concern.”

“The Green Deal not only represents a huge opportunity to increase the efficiency of our homes and buildings but also to stimulate the construction sector during these difficult economic times. Yet with the vast majority of construction firms being SMEs, there is an urgent need to ensure smaller builders can access the Green Deal and benefit from the new economic opportunities it has to offer. The FSB believes Green Deal Conduit offers the means for small firms to access the Green Deal and let customers choose their local builder for their Green Deal work,” David Caro, Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses Environment and Energy Committee, concluded.