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Green Construction Board extended as minister accepts challenges ahead

Construction minister Michael Fallon has stressed the importance of getting cross-party political consensus on ‘greening’ the construction industry, as he announced a two-year extension to the Green Construction Board.

Speaking at a meeting, to which Construction News was invited, between the government and industry to mark the second anniversary of the GCB, Mr Fallon agreed that “clarity and consistency” in government was needed to encourage investment in low-carbon construciton.

The government has come under fire for its green commitments in recent months, after making extensions to the Energy Companies Obligation, slow progress on its flagship Green Deal scheme and cutting environmental guidance for businesses.

Prime minister David Cameron said last year that green regulations should be “rolled back”, prompting more than 50 firms including Carillion and Willmott Dixon to defend green policies.

But Mr Fallon insisted he wanted industry and government to work together to secure a long-term strategy for decarbonising construction.

Mr Fallon and Skanska UK president and chief executive Mike Putnam will continue as co-chairs on the board for the next two years.

The GCB was set up in October 2011 to develop and deliver a long-term strategy framework for sustainable growth in construction, as well as short-term goals and growth opportunities for business.

Mr Fallon said he saw an “emerging consensus” towards long-term thinking between business and the government, via the industry strategy for construction, Construction 2025.

This consensus, he said, included the Labour Party, the CBI and the government-commissioned Lord Heseltine review on economic growth, No stone unturned: in pursuit of growth.

Construction 2025 highlighted how low-carbon and sustainable construction could be important growth markets up to 2025 and beyond.

Asked by Mr Putnam how construction compared with other industries pushing for sustainable growth, Mr Fallon said the industry was at a different stage to other sectors such as the automotive industry.

However, he said he saw “common themes” across many industries, including constraints on skills and supply chain finance.

He pledged the government’s long-term support to the construction industry but added it was down to business to take the lead on finding solutions to these constraints.

The government’s chief construction adviser Peter Hansford said it was up to industry to fulfil the GCB’s “ambitious targets” of reducing the built environment’s carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, set out in the Low Carbon Routemap for the Built Environment, published in November 2013.

The GCB has set reduction targets of 30 per cent by 2017 and 50 per cent by 2025 against 1990 emissions levels.

The interim targets aimed for a 30 per cent reduction by 2017 and a 50 per cent cut by 2025.

Mr Hansford also leads the Construction Leadership Council, which was set up in June last year as part of Construction 2025.

The council had its first meeting of 2014 last week, which looked at its implementation plan for the next three years.

The council also discussed skills and image within the industry, with a particular focus on the housebuilding sector, after hearing from Barratt Developments chief executive Mark Clare, who also sits on the council.

The board established six working groups to focus on varying issues in green construction: valuation and demand; infrastructure; buildings; greening the industry; knowledge and skills; and promotion. 

Working group progress

Buildings working group

Chair – UK-GBC chief executive Paul King

Set up to support low carbon and resource efficient building construction and use.

Focus for 2014:

  • Planning and establishing a support mechanism for the up-scaling of energy efficient retrofit by spring 2014
  • Commission a study to look into energy use in buildings, Operational Energy Use in Buildings  
  • Building on the Closing the Performance Gap work that was undertaken in 2013, focusing on energy efficiency in the retail sector, highlighted as one of the worst carbon emitting sectors

Knowledge and skills: working group

Chair—Willmott Dixon energy services managing director Rob Lambe.

Set up to look at the range of knowledge and skills needed to work within green construction.

Focus for 2014:

  • Understand the knowledge and skills needed between 2014-16
  • Exploring whether the UK supply chain has sufficient skilled capacity to carry out Green Deal assessments
  • Improve the development of knowledge and skills within higher education through the Construction and Built Environment Higher Education Forum

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