Shortfalls are disappointing
As governments, NGOs and the media consider the implications of the United Nations Bali agreement on climate change, the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) and the Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association (HVCA) are urging the Government to go further with its Draft for Sustainable Construction. This comes as part of a joint approach to sustainability by the associations in terms of industry representation and the provision of practical, expert advice to members and clients.
David Pollock, Group Chief Executive Officer at the ECA, said: “The strategy is undoubtedly a positive move by the Government and we welcome the focus on key priority themes, notably climate change and waste. However, we feel the Strategy does not give the impression that a major step change, notably on reducing carbon emissions, is going to be pushed through by Government or indeed many other key stakeholders. Much more clarity and urgency is needed if the sector is to achieve significant changes in reducing carbon emissions in the short to medium term.”
The consultation, which closed on 30 November, was launched in July by Stephen Timms, Minister of State for Competitiveness, with the aim of helping to develop a Government and industry strategy on sustainable construction. The ECA and HVCA have outlined specific areas in the draft they feel fall short of requirements.
The Government needs to focus on energy saving, waste reduction and water conservation to help to ensure that clients benefit from savings and better whole-life performance. It should actively support the uptake of low and no carbon technologies and substantially force the market with fiscal support and incentives. The Associations are not convinced that, on their own, the measures in the draft Strategy will deliver significant and sustainable reductions in climate change impacts, which rely greatly on the procurement actions of stakeholders.
Standards should be used as part of a broader approach that will force the market in low and no carbon technologies. However, Standards will not be effective if they are not enforced. If they are not enforced, environmental Standards encourage a negative market view of the sustainability agenda and how serious Government is about it. There are already concerns that current standards, such as Part L of the Building Regulations, are not enforced sufficiently.
Specifically, the WEEE Regulations, the Hazardous Waste Regulations and the Waste Management Licensing regime are obscure to most construction SME and micro-businesses. The practical implications for SMEs of these Regulations could be explained a lot more clearly by the Environment Agency and other authoritative bodies. In terms of presentation to small businesses, the ECA and HVCA consider modern (HSE) safety legislation and guidance to be a more effective model.
Robert Higgs, Director of the HVCA, concluded: “The HVCA warmly welcomes any moves by Government to push forward with a strategy on construction sustainability. We would however, have preferred to have seen a document with clearer aims and objectives; something tangible to which the industry can truly relate.
“The work already in progress within the Mechanical and Electrical sectors of the construction industry to reduce carbon emissions, reduce waste and improve resource efficiency is playing its part, but we can only go so far.
We need the Government to go further than producing strategies, and use its ability to implement change in this crucial area.”