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Industry fights for BREEAM-rated schools

The construction industry is fighting to keep BREEAM-accredited schools after Construction News revealed new schools may no longer have to achieve a ‘Very Good’ standard.

The Chartered Institute of Building, Construction Products Association and consulting engineers Ramboll are among the latest industry bodies to write to Education secretary Michael Gove about the potential scrapping of BREEAM requirements in schools.

CN revealed on Tuesday that the government is considering scrapping the requirement, previously BREEAM ‘Very Good’ for new schools under the scrapped £55bn Building Schools for the Future programme.

The government is considering removing the requirement as part of its drive to streamline procurement and reduce costs in the process and the Department for Education is believed to have written to remaining government departments to seek approval for the measure.

Construction News can reveal (see attached letter) that CPA chief executive Michael Ankers has joined a growing list of industry chiefs opposed to the move, stating it would ‘add to the impression’ that the government is not committed to the long-term sustainability agenda.

CPA chief executive Michael Ankers:

Reversal of the policy on BREEAM would further add to the impression that government does not have a long-term commitment to the sustainability agenda, and that the innovations and investment needed to deliver the products and solutions that will create a more sustainable built environment are best developed elsewhere.”

In an open letter to the education secretary, the CIOB backs a letter written by the UK Green Building Council and Aldersgate Group calling for the move to be dismissed.

CIOB president Alan Crane stated: “This is a misguided move that contradicts the coalition’s statement that they aim to be the ‘greenest government ever. Designing, building and operating to BREEAM standards yields hugely beneficial energy savings for minimal capital cost, reducing both operational expenditure and carbon emissions.”

The CPA has also written to Mr Gove on the matter and director of external affairs Simon Storer told CN that it would be ‘bizarre’ for the DfE to push through the move without consulting the industry.

“You have a situation where one bit of government is trying to achieve certain objectives and [in BREEAM] you have a useful and pretty credible mechanism for doing so and yet to ditch it seems completely contradictory.

“The government is saying one thing and doing another which I find very worrying. Look at the Olympics as a good example of where the government set the sustainable agenda and everyone was signing from the same hymn sheet. We know this is about them thinking they are saving money but it is stupidity to link initial costs and long-term benefit.”

Ramboll UK managing director Charles McBeath said: “We support the Sebastian James review and the need to obtain better value from capital investment in school buildings.

“We also support the recommendations of the James review to develop an abridged and consolidated set of design guidance documents, and statutory obligations for educational buildings, including the development of a new environmental assessment method that simplifies the current ‘BREEAM’ assessment process.

“However, we are not aware that a replacement to the existing ‘BREEAM’ assessment process for school buildings has been prepared, and your current proposals to scrap ‘BREEAM’ will therefore leave a void in the DfE driven obligations to embed sustainable design into any new or refurbished educational building.”

In a letter to Mr Gove revealed in CN this week, UKGBC chief executive Paul King said: “BREEAM is well understood and widely recognised by the construction industry. Removing it would introduce enormous complexity for non-expert construction clients, arguably increasing bureaucracy and thereby causing delay in the design process and driving up costs.”

Sebastian James’ Capital Review for the DfE, published last April, heavily criticised the excessive burden of regulation and guidance in procurement, including average costs of up to £3,000 for carrying out pre-assessment of BREEAM for schools.

Willmott Dixon and Interserve are among the contractors who have already defended the BREEAM scheme and told CN that despite ‘not being perfect’, the scheme is necessary for benchmarking and improving green standards in the industry.

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