Ecobuild speaker Dan Labbad explains why he accepted an invitation to join the Green Construction Board

It is timely, in the week of Ecobuild, to be writing this column. In late summer last year, business minister Mark Prisk asked me if I would consider joining him as co-chair of the Green Construction Board (GCB). The board would take forward the Low Carbon Construction Action Plan that was published in response to Paul Morrell’s insightful Innovation and Growth Team report.

While I realise the green agenda has its cynics, in my mind its relentless pursuit is not negotiable.

It must be linked to innovation and growth and success will rely (in a large part) on unprecedented collaboration between industry and government. I was, therefore, happy to accept.

Mark Prisk’s vision is clear and one which I share. He had been greatly impressed by the way the Innovation and Growth Team had brought business thinking into the heart of Whitehall. Equally, he wanted to retain that capability beyond the point of making recommendations through to the point of delivery, with a focus on business opportunities and the transition to a green economy.

His proposition to me was that he would bring senior government people to the table if I did the same with industry. Our shared ambition was to create a close and effective collaboration between industry and government.

It is natural for businesses to lead discussions on where the opportunities for growth lie - and this is what the Green Construction Board is all about. Its role is to influence decisions and ensure they are taken with the benefit of the knowledge and advice of senior business people from industry. It will not take a “public” position on issues as that would reduce its capacity to be a positive influence, a trusted source of advice, and an honest broker.

So what has the board been doing since its first meeting at the end of October 2011?

  • We have set up seven working groups to cover the following areas: route map; buildings; infrastructure; knowledge and skills; greening the industry; promotion; valuation and demand.
  • Each working group is sponsored by a GCB trustee and chaired by a senior industry or government figurehead. For example, Paul Morrell chairs the route map working group and Paul King chairs the buildings working group.
  • Each working group has defined its scope and the Low Carbon Action Plan and IGT recommendations it is seeking to address. Rather than reinvent the wheel, each group will connect with current work in progress in the market. Progress will be reported publicly on a quarterly basis following each GCB meeting.
  • We have developed an early draft “route map” which starts to set out how the industry will play a full role in ensuring the government meets its 2050 Climate Change Act targets.
  • At the same time we are working through proposals on knowledge capture and innovation. In parallel, we have issued a “call for evidence” to build as clear a picture as possible of current or planned knowledge and research.
  • So far 40 actions from the Low Carbon Action Plan have been completed, about 25% of the total.

While I’m pleased with the early progress that has been made to date, our journey is only beginning, with many challenges ahead. Our biggest is to help UK plc make “green” and “growth” one and the same.

I joined Mark Prisk at Ecobuild this week, now the world’s biggest event for sustainable design, construction and the built environment - positive proof that an increasing number of people see the green agenda as a catalyst for growth.

Dan Labbad is chief executive of Lend Lease and co-chair of the Green Construction Board