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Quintain chief slams green cynics

Developer slates contractors for paying lip-service to sustainability and calls for more action from politicians

One of the UK’s leading developers has said contractors are “a bunch of hard-nosed cynics that don’t give a f***” when it comes to sustainability issues.

The outspoken attack has been made by Adrian Wyatt, the chief executive of Quintain, the company that is revamping much of the area around Wembley Stadium in north London.

Mr Wyatt is hoping to convince senior figures in the industry to join him on the board of the Sustainable Environment Foundation, a charity he has set up to bring together industry, academia and politicians to share information and research into sustainable practices.

Mr Wyatt is particularly keen to develop ‘cradle-to-cradle’ technologies, where the remains of used products can form the basis of their replacements - such as Serrastone, the demolition waste by-product which is created by putting gypsum along with aggregates under high pressure to create building blocks.

He added: “I am hoping the industry will play a significant part. I will be looking for a trustee who is one of the doyens of the construction world. They can help us on this common journey.”

But he said too many construction boardrooms were paying lip-service to the idea of sustainability and added: “The industry just seems reactive at the moment. It doesn’t have a view because at the minute there is more work than they can throw a stick at.

“They say that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. The point is that it is very broken. The whole
system is.”

He said that he recognised that contractors fear that by using new materials they might leave themselves open to added costs and risks associated with their use, but that this was not a reason for avoiding them.

“Attitude is not enough. We need to see action. Contractors need to have a business culture that is prepared to take risks, and even fail from time to time,” he said.

Mr Wyatt also turned his ire on politicians and called for the Government to do more to encourage sustainable building by providing expedited planning for those developments that meet required green credentials.

He said: “Planning is a shambles because of a lack of urban development corporations or unitary authorities to give -expedited planning.

“What might be a good idea is to have an enterprise zone like Canary Wharf, but make it a green enterprise zone where you are allowed to build
according to principals rather than rules.”

Developer looks north and south

Quintain began life in 1992 and is working on a number of high-profile jobs, including the Wembley project, which will feature 4,200 homes and 100,000 sq m of retail space by 2012.

It is also working in a joint venture with Lend Lease to redevelop the O2 Dome site. Sir Robert McAlpine completed the Dome refurbishment earlier this year. Work will start on the first of 10,000 new homes early next year. A further 35,000 sq m of office space also set to be built.

And it has plans to build a zero carbon community of 750 homes in Middlehaven, Middlesbrough.

Anaysis: The bottom line is the driver of change

ByAlasdair Reisner

It all comes down to cold hard cash.

While sustainability can be seen as something that stands in the way of making profits, more and more developers are starting to assimilate environmental excellence right into the heart of their business model.

The property industry is renowned for its ability to sniff out every last ounce of value from the work it does, so when firms such as Quintain are driving attempts to improve sustainability, you can be sure they are doing so with one eye on how it will benefit the bottom line.

Self-described ‘avowed capitalist’ Adrian Wyatt is now calling on the construction industry to share in the financial benefits of a more sustainable future, with a welcome side-effect of helping to save the planet at the same time.

He might not endear himself to many by referring to contractors as hard-nosed cynics who couldn’t give a stuff about sustainability but it’s a call firms will find increasingly difficult to ignore.