DETR draft guidance is “a comprehensive summary, but not much of a strategy”.
The industry has given a cautious welcome to the DETR’s draft strategy on sustainable construction, but says the government needs to provide far more detail. The document, obtained by Building, lists 10 commandments for sustainable construction. These are: to reuse buildings, design for minimum waste, aim for lean construction, minimise energy use in construction and usage, avoid pollution, preserve biodiversity, conserve water, respect people and set targets for these goals.

Architect Rab Bennetts, chair of the Movement for Innovation sustainability working group, said: “The strategy is heading in the right direction, although it is a bit long and a bit wordy, but there is nothing wrong with the contents.”

Bennetts said the big question now was whether the government would give the strategy some teeth. He said: “People won’t do this voluntarily. They won’t implement sustainability in construction unless they are given an incentive. The document needed to be more focused on the key points.”

The Construction Confederation also expressed reservations. A spokesman said: “The general view is that it is a comprehensive summary, but there is not much of a strategy.”

Sonny Masero, senior consultant at ABS Consulting and a member of sustainable construction pressure group Sponge, said the government had to lead by example: “What we need now from the government

is a wider demonstration of its commitment to the sustainability of the industry, both as a client and a regulator.”

In the document, the DETR defines sustainable construction in terms of quality of life, customer satisfaction, flexibility and efficient use of resources, but does not describe in detail how this should be achieved.

Michael Ankers, chief executive of the Building Material Producers, said the document needed to address detailed issues. He said: “To sell it to the industry, we need a far more communicative approach.” Ankers said he was glad that the document acknowledged the importance of profitability, but said he would have liked to have seen other examples of how to make sustainable construction work.

The document has only one example, Carillion’s Princess Margaret Hospital in Swindon.

“Actual examples that capture the imagination are the nub of getting a commercial focus,” he added. The confederation spokesman agreed, saying: “The business case for sustainable construction is yet to be wholly made.”