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Government strategy is 'short on clarity'

M&E Sustainability has condemned the Government’s draft strategy for sustainable construction as being “short on clarity and urgency”. The Group believe that it is unlikely to produce the necessary changes to reduce carbon emissions from buildings.

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; and produce zero net waste at construction site level.

The strategy also strive to 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; and 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 more 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 more support to ‘Merton type’ initiatives through the planning process.”

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 HVCA and the Electrical Contractors’ Association, 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.

M&E Sustainability Secretary Paul Reeve, pictured, also 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”.

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.

The consultation process on the draft strategy closed at the end of November 2007 and BERR stated it would publish its analysis of the responses at the end of this month.