Consultant takes legal advice as ODPM prepares to use version of EcoHomes in Code for Sustainable Buildings

The country’s leading built environment research consultant has sought legal advice amid fears that the government will steal its eco-rating system for buildings.

Industry sources have said senior members of the former government funded agency BRE, have consulted lawyers as the ODPM gears up to adapt a version of the industry-recognised EcoHomes rating for use in the Code for Sustainable Buildings.

A source said: “The last I heard, the BRE Trust were busy consulting solicitors. The government stands accused of possibly making the BRE lose a great deal of revenue. Everyone is very irritated.”

Insiders agree there is not room for two eco-ratings systems in the market. The BRE would lose a major source of revenue if the ODPM was to use a revised version of the environmental assessment method, which is a trademark of BRE and has taken 10 years to perfect. There could also be the issue of a breach of intellectual property rights.

The news comes in the wake of a long-running dispute between the ODPM and BRE over the content of the delayed Code for Sustainable Buildings. Industry sources say the government has kept the consultant at arms length, despite BRE making several attempts to engage with the ODPM. BRE proposed several joint ventures, based on the EcoHomes rating, which have all been rejected.

I understand negotiations have been quite fractious so far

Lynne Sullivan, Broadway Malyan

Lynne Sullivan, director of sustainability at architect Broadway Malyan, said the way forward was unclear. She said: “I understand negotiations have been quite fractious so far. It should be so easy to resolve but they are still wrangling over the details.”

Martin Wyatt, chief executive of BRE, played down situation. He said: “We have not specifically sought legal advice but we reserve the right to do so and could do in the future.” A spoksperson said some members of the BRE Trust are lawyers so they have probably given their opinion.

The Sustainable Buildings Steering Group, which is charged with overseeing the code, is due to meet at the end of October to sign off the final version. It is expected to be published in early November.

An ODPM spokesperson said: “We enjoy a positive working relationship with BRE and are in discussions with them on their involvement with the Code for Sustainable Buildings and the implications for EcoHomes.”