A radical report trying to get out?

Will Paul Morrell’s report, delivered at the end of last month, turn out to be a turning point for the construction industry or will it get lost in the plethora of policy initiatives coming our way next Spring, when the Government is due to respond.

The voice of the Government’s chief construction adviser comes through loud and clear. Anyone who has heard Morrell speak will recognise the logical approach and the pithy, punchy style. With a few exceptions it is also mercifully free of jargon.

The topic, nothing less than the re-engineering of an entire industry to meet arguably the most pressing problem facing the world, is enormous and it must have been difficult to know where to stop.

The Innovation & Growth Team’s remit was to look at the construction industry’s readiness to take on the challenge of carbon reduction but the report does not confine itself to technical matters of embedded carbon and Display Energy Certificates. It ranges across procurement, skills, innovation, regulation and data gathering.

What’s very striking is the number of recommendations that call on the Government to do something. Conceived under Labour, it was commissioned by Peter Mandelson, these aspects of the report might receive a frostier reception from the coalition. Morrell has said that, for this Government, regulation is the last resort.

The report makes 65 recommendations and there are some quite radical (or just plain sensible, depending on your perspective) ideas amongst them.

How about requiring landlords and tenants to co-operate on an energy management plan for their buildings?

Why not offer enhanced capital allowances for whole buildings, rather than just plant and equipment.

Not radical enough? Well what about this: “It may therefore be necessary to implement regulations to target the worst performing buildings by simply making it illegal to sell, lease, or insure them after a certain date. The 6% of buildings with EPC “G” ratings are responsible for around 15% of carbon emissions. Although there will be some overlap with other measures, this would ensure that the worst-performing buildings do not slip through the net.”

The final recommendation is not as strongly worded but it will be interesting to see the response of the property world to that one.

The report talks of a “quite spectacular programme of work, stretched out over at least the next 40 years.” That’s eight five-year parliaments. Throughout the report there are arguments for clarity and stability. The 2050 Group of young professionals calls for “confidence in the direction of long term policy.”

If the construction industry (and that very much includes FM on Morrell’s definition) is to achieve anything like the programme being suggested, then some sort of cross-party consensus must be reached. These policies need to survive changes of government.

Learning from the Olympics

What’s the largest building on the 2012 Olympic Park? At 300 metres long, it’s the Media Centre. Together with ancillary buildings it will accommodate around 22,000 journalists and technical staff covering the Games. The media will outnumber the 17,800 athletes and team officials expected.

Of course, these numbers are dwarfed by the 100,000 workforce, including 70,000 volunteers, needed to run the Games.

These figures, part of a dazzling array of statistics and facts, came out in presentations to the second meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, held in the House of Commons last Monday evening.

John Armitt, chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, along with John Hopkins, responsible for “parklands and public realm”, and Don Ward from Constructing Excellence all gave enlightening talks at the event.

For all the emphasis on design and construction, Armitt highlighted that it will be management and maintenance that will largely determine how the Olympic Park looks in 2012 and beyond.

The landscape of the Olympic Park and the setting of the various venues promises to be a highlight for those visiting. Serious thought has gone into the planning and creation of the park – this will not be just a few trees plonked down (although 4,000 are being planted).

Several waterways which cross the site have been restored to health, wetlands and meadows have been planted and riverside paths created. More than 300,000 wetland plants will also be planted in the Park. It will be the UK’s largest ever urban river and wetland planting. The 2012 Gardens will celebrate the British passion for gardens and horticulture.

Don Ward explained that the success of the development programme owed a lot to upfront good practice – in procurement, employment, training, health & safety etc. This approach helped the ODA deal with the turn in the market and supplier insolvencies.

Legacy is an Olympics buzzword. Ward set out the legacies for the construction industry, including the 2012 Construction Commitments, experience that has helped on other large projects such as Crossrail, 300 apprentices that will hopefully transfer to other projects and employers, and the work on sustainability.

The ODA is working with several professional bodies to make sure this legacy is captured and there is likely to be an event to showcase the sustainability achievements.