This week’s hot topics include regulating the biomass energy sector, the problems of public sector procurement and the enduring importance of building control officers

Under control

We were very disappointed to read your jibe about “rabid, nitpicking building control surveyors acting like traffic wardens” (Leader, 3 February, page 3). Whether it’s public or private sector building control, professional users see the sense in a system of independent third-party checking.

Specifically in the Green Deal, many of the likely major providers are talking to building control because they are concerned about how to verify the overall quality of assessments, recommended work and installation. We already understand the issue of upgrading old buildings. We frequently suggest solutions to achieve goals in less invasive and more affordable ways.

While our obvious role is protecting end customers, our added value is in getting the industry to react to systemic issues. We encourage manufacturers and installers to streamline solutions to reduce risk, cost and disruption. Generally this feedback is valued.

But who wants to ruin flowing copy? I’m sure, sometime soon, you’ll drop the criticism of us being over-officious and start calling us laggards for not enforcing!

Paul F. Everall, chief executive and company secretary, LABC

Small matters

I fully agree with architects about public sector procurement (online, 22 March). Often framework arrangements do not offer value to organisations and usually exclude smaller local businesses that can offer design excellence and better value for money with lower overheads and hourly rates.

Furthermore, frameworks do not allow wider involvement or concomitant design ideas. In every respect, frameworks end up costing more and allow fees to creep up.

Crazy Official Journal regulations are specifically aimed at eradicating any preference for local businesses, thus allowing big national firms to dominate.

Gareth Llewelyn Lewis via

Biomass under fire

In your article on biomass energy (Economics, 16 March, page 54) you say: “Demonstrating the sustainability of the chain of custody is a key credibility issue for biomass energy operators, and schemes are operated by the Forestry Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) to provide this certification.”

But you don’t comment on how effective these arrangements are. The SFI certification schemes have long been criticised by environmental groups in North America - from the time the organisation was primarily run by the paper and pulp industry to give their own products a sustainability ticket.

See Greenpeace Canada’s report “Fuelling a biomess” at and Forest Ethics’ 2010 report at The latter says: “The SFI is funded, promoted and staffed by the paper and timber industry interests it claims to evaluate. SFI’s audits are dangerously relaxed. In one case, two auditors spent just five days single-handedly assessing more than 46,875 square miles of public forest. They reported no violations of SFI standards and didn’t identify a single opportunity for improvement.”

Up to 90% of timber from some markets is logged illegally. If biomass expands to the levels proposed, wood supplies will not just come from US and Canada; countries with poorer governance and a history of corruption will join the party and certification will be even less believable.

UK consumers and the industry cannot close their eyes to this simply because EU officials deem wood burning as “renewable”.

Robert Palgrave via