The government needs to put sustainability back on the agenda, to safeguard the UK’s environmental future and help generate growth in the industry

Sarah Richardson, editor of Building

One week into the new year, and the changes are already ringing in construction: Balfour Beatty boss Ian Tyler has revealed he will step down in March, and Persimmon’s Mike Farley is set to go in April.

Meanwhile Experian, in a sobering mood of reflection, has cut almost 1% off its estimate of construction’s performance last year and has dropped its forecast for 2013 by the same amount, predicting a 3.5% decline. So, it is clear that the new year is going to be another fiercely competitive one. It is also clear that more must be done to boost activity, if the government is to come good on its aim to use construction to boost growth. Building will be pushing this message this year, as the government looks for solutions to complex headaches such as stimulating private investment, and making sure its PF2 programme hits the ground running.

David Cameron’s husky-hugging pledge to deliver the greenest ever government may be his most discredited pre-election promise

But one major area in which we believe the government needs to - and can - get its house in order immediately, is green building. Looking back, 30 months after the coalition was formed, David Cameron’s husky-hugging pledge to deliver the greenest ever government may be the most discredited of his pre-election promises. Despite the Climate Change Act target of reducing carbon emissions by 34% by 2020, a series of policy U-turns and the watering down of environmental ambitions have signalled dangerous backpeddling on the green agenda.

This is bad news for two reasons. As scientific evidence shows ever swifter and more worrying effects of climate change, the need to find a more environmentally sustainable way to live is more urgent than ever. And, of more day-to-day concern to a construction industry in deep recession, is the fear that the government is squandering opportunities for work that green growth could offer. The Confederation of British Industry says that the “green market” (not all of which is related to construction) accounts for £122bn, or 8% of GDP, and may have provided a third of all growth in the economy in 2011/12.

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Building is therefore launching a Green for Growth campaign. We are calling for the government to stimulate investment in green building as a way to both safeguard the UK’s environmental future and help generate growth in the construction industry. The campaign will focus on five key areas, explored in detail here. These are: the Green Deal; ringfenced spending for public sector retrofit programmes; zero-carbon housing; Display Energy Certificates; and clarity around long-term energy infrastructure investment.

The government’s lack of leadership on these issues has led the industry to stall on investment in the skills that this new economy will need. But Building believes, if the coalition puts sustainability firmly back on its agenda and reconsiders its most damaging decisions, the construction sector can play a crucial role in tackling global warming, developing expertise that will be in growing demand the world over. If you agree, please kick off the new year by going to and adding your support to the campaign. Together we can protect construction jobs while helping to save the planet.

Sarah Richardson, editor

The world’s biggest event for sustainable design, construction and the built environment

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The issues raised in our campaign will be discussed at Ecobuild

To register for Ecobuild go to
Tues 5 - Thurs 7 March 2013