Government strategy shows lack of leadership

The Government’s draft strategy for sustainable construction falls very short of the mark, according to the mechanical and electrical sector’s leading sustainability initiative.
Pulling no punches, M&E Sustainability condemned the proposal as short on clarity and urgency making it unlikely to produce the necessary changes that would dramatically reduce carbon emissions.
The draft strategy, drawn up by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) is designed to:

  • Reduce the carbon footprint of activities within the construction sector;
  • Produce zero net waste at construction site level;
  • Develop voluntary agreements and initiatives between the construction industry and its clients with the aim of reducing the carbon footprint and use of resources within the built environment;
  • Create a safer industry by improving skills, boosting the numbers of workers taking part in training programmes, and retaining more skilled workers.

M&E Sustainability Chairman David Frise said these aims were welcome, but described the BERR proposal as just “a bundle of separate measures”.
He urged the department to focus clearly on specific initiatives to cut waste, energy consumption and to reduce water use.
“The Government needs to actively support the uptake of low and zero carbon technologies,” added Mr Frise. “It needs to substantially force the market with fiscal support and incentives – just as the Government did when it transformed the market for unleaded petrol.
“It also needs to give positive support to ‘Merton type’ initiatives. We are not convinced that on their own the measures in this document will deliver significant and sustainable reductions in climate change impacts.”

BERR has put the creation of professional standards for working with low and zero carbon technologies at the heart of its strategy, but M&E Sustainability pointed out that standards could not be effective unless they were enforced and the Government’s track record in this area was poor.
M&E Sustainability, which is a joint venture formed by the ECA and the HVCA, produced a detailed response setting out a range of key proposals to sharpen up the draft strategy. It suggested the development of core criteria for assessing the green credentials of firms working in the sector and urged BERR to base these on existing systems such as CHAS.
It called for a simplified pre-qualification process to help small companies achieve compliance because the current “myriad of vetting processes is having a negative impact on environmental pre-qualification”.
“There needs to be low barriers to small businesses…and clear advice, not so much on what to do, but how to do it cost-effectively,” said M&E Sustainability Secretary Paul Reeve.
He also suggested a simplification of the UK waste regime, which he said was too complex for many small businesses to understand or comply with.