A BODY set up by UK building consultants to promote international best practice has been praised by environment minister Michael Meacher at its inaugural meeting in Johannesburg.
Meacher, who was attending the earth summit in South Africa, applauded the Global Alliance for Building Standards for bringing together businesses, governments and non-governmental organisations. He said: “It’s important that this is a transnational, not simply UK, initiative. The fact that it is genuinely global is to be admired and supported.”

GABS is an international body created by the RICS Foundation to promote environmental standards. Delegates to its inaugural meeting agreed that sustainability must be a key criterion for all building and renovation work. The meeting was held in parallel with the summit but was not part of its official proceedings.

Meacher asked RIBA president Paul Hyett for a synopsis of the proceedings to take to the intergovernmental summit where the policy implications of the Johannesburg meeting will be decided.

Hyett rejected criticism that Johannesburg had achieved little, saying: “If we hadn’t got together there, our opinions would not have been fed to Michael Meacher.”

Speakers at the meeting included Hyett, RICS president Peter Fall and South African housing minister Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele.

In his speech, Hyett praised a decision by Bill Dunster Architects and PRP Architects to collaborate on environment-friendly projects.

He praised two of their schemes – Skyzed, a 26-storey, petal-shaped tower, powered by renewable energy, and a 3500-unit green housing development in China.

Hyett and Meacher both emphasised the importance of sustainable facilities management, as buildings accounted for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Representatives of more than 40 organisations signed up to a Charter for Action, which said: “We are committed to closing the gap between policy and practice and taking practical and determined steps towards making sustainable development a reality.”