The government is getting tougher, too. Last year, it issued a revised version of Part L of the Building Regulations, which made buildings more energy efficient. Other sticks were an aggregates levy to stimulate demand for recycled materials, and a landfill tax to encourage the industry to produce less waste. And as the government looks likely to miss its target of generating 10% of the UK's energy from renewable energy by 2010, there are probably more regulatory changes to come.
The government has produced a few carrots, too. These include the carbon trading mechanism, which allows a business that has invested in energy-efficient buildings to sell "pollution credits" to other less green companies. There are also tax breaks available in the form of enhanced capital allowances for energy-efficient products.
It is not only the UK government driving the green agenda. A European commission directive to be issued this year proposes that all buildings be given an energy "MOT" test. This is good news for contractors, because substandard buildings will have to be brought up to scratch. But it could be bad news for developers, as buildings that do not make the grade may end up being demolished.
Already, buildings are changing in response to clients' demands for energy efficiency. Perhaps the most prominent example is the Swiss Re, under construction in the City of London. This will combine natural ventilation with air-conditioning units sized to meet local heat loads. The result it that the building will use 40% less energy than a standard office of an equivalent size – and all because Swiss Re's environmental policy demanded it.
The year ahead
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