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Government must uphold sustainable standards

The Government is failing to meet its own sustainability standards for its own buildings – according to the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC).

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee is undertaking an inquiry into how to make Government operations more sustainable and EIC has submitted evidence which it claims highlights a lack of action.

The EIC argues that under the Government’s Common Minimum Standards set down in 2002
all public sector building projects should be assessed according to the BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM).

Under these standards new buildings were required to achieve an “excellent” rating and refurbishment projects were expected to gain at least a “very good” rating.

Merlin Hyman, EIC Director, said: “In 2006 to 2007, only 46 of 351 Government new build or refurbishment projects were assessed against BREEAM. This is against a requirement for all public sector projects to carry out a BREEAM or equivalent assessment.

“Of the projects that did carry out an assessment only 28 met the Common Minimum Standards. Overall, for all 2006 to 2007 projects, only eight per cent achieved the required standards.

“The Government should act now to improve its leadership on sustainable buildings and procurement.”

The EIC’s letter to the committee states: “EIC members’ experience of supplying to public sector construction projects is that they commonly procure the cheapest, most polluting option, even where whole-life costs are higher than with more efficient alternatives.

“The Government could show a significant degree of leadership by simply meeting its own targets. Policies such as requiring all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016 can be significantly undermined by Government that fails to achieves its own targets.”

The EIC was set up in 1995 to represent the UK’s environmental technology and services industry and has more than 330 members.

The Environmental Audit Committee will be receiving evidence at a session on April 29 and a report will be released later this year on its findings.