As we have reached the time of year for the Building Sustainability Awards, I thought it would be appropriate to air my frustration with the current level of environmental energy policy.
The country has become besieged by an array of green measures enforced not just nationally, but as part of a wider EU directive. It seems clear to me a standardised approach is required across the spectrum to assist in reducing our sector’s carbon output. Practically speaking, this means taking into account all parties involved at every stage of the construction process and beyond.
At the moment, target-driven initiatives such as the EU’s 20/20/20 policy, the UK’s own Climate Change Act (2008) and the London Plan are pulling building and property management consultancies in different directions.
Some aim for 20% reductions by 2020, others look further ahead to 2050 by when a 60% reduction is expected by the London mayor - and we still have the coalition government’s new “Green Deal” to factor in, in the not too distant future!
At a more micro level, attempts to police this sustainability drive have clearly failed. Many commercial landlords and tenants view initiatives like the energy performance certificate as a barrier in the building and lettings process rather than a tool for encouraging more sustainable design and performance.
What we have to do is to rethink our approach to green awards for buildings. A practical solution would be to focus less on the initial project implementation phase and instead incorporate a more long-term monitoring role to ensure effective adherence to sustainable development - much like the NABERS system that exists in Australia.
Targets alone won’t solve the challenge we face in tackling the carbon issue. As sustainability grows in importance, I see a need for property consultancies to develop more practical relationships with all involved with a construction project. And the tenants occupying the building after completion to be aware of the technology in place and able to accurately monitor its performance.
Philip Shearer, partner, Robinson Low Francis