Green specialists charging double construction rates

Skyrocketing costs for skilled workers in sustainable construction threaten progress towards zero carbon targets, a key report warns.

The latest international construction market research by cost consultants Turner & Townsend has warned that installers of insulation, solar panels and heat pumps are typically charging £70 an hour in London.

This rate is well more than double that of ordinary workers in the capital, the study found, raising concerns about the viability of desperately needed measures to reduce carbon emissions from the built environment.

The situation is not much better outside London, with the average UK salary for these ‘green specialists’ at £47 an hour, around twice the cost of hiring a traditional site operative.

Chris Sargent, managing director of UK real estate at Turner & Townsend, said: “As a nation we have a relatively old and inefficient housing stock, and construction is absolutely essential to achieving our targets for net zero emissions and make our homes, offices and public spaces. buildings ready for the future.

“Fundamentally, this cannot be done without manpower. Hundreds of thousands of new trained specialists are needed to give the sector the capacity it needs for the green transition.”

Sargent acknowledged that high salaries attracted more people to these key positions.

But he added: “Green construction cannot afford to be in a separate cost bracket from traditional works. We must help make net zero achievable and affordable by investing now in creating and training the pipeline of skilled workers we need, and adopting innovative digital tools to improve productivity and outcomes.

All nine UK regions surveyed reported skills shortages, with four in five saying this was already having a “major” or “significant” impact on programs.

While salaries for green specialists have risen by more than a fifth over the last year, according to the study, average salaries in construction in the UK have increased by more than a tenth.

London now ranks as the 10th most expensive construction market in the world, up from 14th in 2023, with typical construction costs above £3,500 per m².

However, UK construction inflation is falling, according to the report, which forecasts costs to rise by an average of 3.0% in 2024, down from 4.2% last year.

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