Enterprise is a £1.4bn turnover infrastructure management company with clients in local authorities and the public sector. Part of my role is looking for business opportunities in the low-carbon economy, and making sure we’re ahead of the curve in business intelligence.
So we’re trying to understand the nuts and bolts of Feed-In Tariffs to establish what the market opportunities might be. I’ll be attending the seminars on FITs and networking to find out more and perhaps identify potential partners.
We also work for major energy suppliers such as Eon and EDF, and I’ll be hoping to find out more about their future workload.
I’m also interested in what organisations such as BRE, the Renewable Energy Association and British Standards Institute are doing. So it’s intelligence gathering and networking targeted at the renewable energy sector.
FITs are complicated, and we’re waiting for the final guidance from government
to find out just how complicated. For instance, how many tariffs will there be, and who will control them? As far as I understand it, we have 22 proposed tariffs, while Germany only has nine.
We’re also thinking about the infrastructure that goes behind FITs.
How complicated will they be for clients and energy supply companies to administer? Could our company be the middleman, or provide the finance, or administer the system?
The key to FITs is transparency and ease of use. It could turn out to be a nightmare in terms of administration costs. And what’s the situation in terms of taxation? If I’m getting revenue from my domestic wind turbine, I expect the Inland Revenue will be interested. It’s not all done and dusted yet, that’s why there’s a conference session on FITs at Ecobuild.
Making renewable energy happen
Wed 3 March
Tues 2 March
Cost-effective sustainable energy: making the case for community distributed generation.
Thurs 4 March
Following the feed-in frenzy, assessing the business opportunities.
In the current downturn, many businesses are looking at their operational effectiveness. Sustainability can be a driver for greater efficiency, it can drive down costs and also bring money into the company through improved access to government spending programmes. For example, a contractor doing work under the Decent Homes programme could access cash from Beyond Decent Homes funds operating in some areas.
Sustainability policy also brings the potential for branding an organisation as one that adds value through care for the environment.
But we find that a lot of organisations and institutions in the sector aren’t leading by example – people want to talk about it, but there’s very little action. They’ll tell you what they’d like to see, but what are they prepared to do?
Corporate sustainability is about measurement, reporting and transparency; it’s adding sustainability to the trinity of cost, time and quality. In everything the business does, it’s about factoring in sustainability as the fourth dimension. For a contractor, a corporate sustainability policy would be evident in its contract clauses with sub-contractors, or its design guides.
At the moment, ISO 14001 is the only real measure of corporate sustainability
that has commonality across different types of organisation. However, the Global Reporting Initiative – which in many respects goes beyond the standard set by ISO 14001 and is recognised by the UK Green Building Council – is working on a sector supplement for the property and construction sector.
I think the writing’s on the wall for corporate sustainability reporting to be as commonplace as financial reporting, the law will change and then it will be a matter of course. In Malaysia, for instance, if you don’t have ISO 14001, you’re not in business.
It’s about integrity. If I’m saying to a [client] “let’s do this”, I think it’s important
that I have at least travelled the path. It’s also about changing the industry’s culture, and institutions have a role to play. But none of the sector’s institutions – including the CIOB – have ISO 14001.
At Ecobuild part of the seminar programme is devoted to greening our business culture. Corporate sustainability is a step of leadership. If you can take one or two steps at a time, you’re on the way.
Wed 03 March
Creating an eco-centric business: understanding the new eco-nomy
Thurs 4 March
UK plc – a vision for a sustainable future.
There are one or two issues I hope will come to the fore at Ecobuild – such as the consultation on revising the Code for Sustainable Homes, which finishes on 24 March and the proposed Code for Sustainable Buildings. The homes code is being aligned with the new definition of zero carbon and changes to the Building Regulations. There are some serious questions surrounding the code. For instance, rainwater harvesting might become a mandatory requirement, but that doesn’t tick the box with the Environment Agency on controlling the volume of run-off.
With the Code for Sustainable Buildings due to be issued this year, the stakes are quite high – it’s an important part of the built environment and needs to be addressed urgently. The code should be applied to refurbishment of existing buildings, but we don’t know if it will be.
There’s relatively little at Ecobuild on this, although Michael Finn from the Building Regulations Advisory Committee will be giving a talk. He always gives good sound advice.
I’m interetsed to hear views on Feed-in Tariffs and renewable energy, but I fear the tariffs are set too low for commercial enterprises. The biggest beneficiaries of FITs are the energy supply companies that own and manage the assets. They receive an income stream from the energy generated, and reflect that in the energy prices passed on to homeowners. But when you’ve got multiple users and renewable generation appliances, the system proposed is very convoluted.
We can no longer test and evaluate new products, processes and procedures. Now, we’re relying on housebuilders and occupiers to do the laboratory work. Things are moving very quickly and the economic climate is not exactly helpful.
Zero carbon non-domestic buildings – rhetoric or reality?
Thurs 4 March
Only connect: codes, standards and regulation reviews
The revised Code for Sustainable Homes and the definition of zero carbon.
I’m particularly interested in water consumption, so at Ecobuild I hope to look at technologies for reducing consumption, rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling. On completed projects, we find that these systems are always falling down because they’re hard to maintain. On some developments built to the Code for Sustainable Homes standards rainwater is supposed to be collected by water butts, but we find that the residents just aren’t using them.
Around the world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, we’re starting to see battles fought over clean water supplies. Once everyone’s calmed down over carbon emissions, I think that water consumption will be the next issue to hit us. It’s tackled to some extent in Building Regulations, BREEAM and the Code for Sustainable Homes, but there isn’t much pressure on clients to address it.
All the water that flows through our taps is processed to drinking quality standards, and that has a huge environmental impact. Plus, a huge amount of water is wasted in the network through leaks. With a growing population and urban growth, there will be growing pressure on supply, so costs will increase.
We’ve done some really good work on water consumption, and got it down to extremely low levels – it’s possible using water recycling, low-flow taps and recycling of grey water. But the systems are heavy on maintenance, so we need more reliable technologies.
Getting Water Wise
Tues 2 March
Water efficiency – linking design, technology and behaviour.
Wed 3 March
Short-cutting the water cycle using rainwater harvesting and grey water.
I’m very excited about how fast things are changing. We are on the crest of a wave. And the pace will have to pick up even further: to achieve the cuts in carbon emissions we need by 2020, we need to start today.
I was recently master of ceremonies at an exhibition called UK-Aware, where there were lots of highly ethical and “deep green” exhibitors. Some visitors were rightly shocked to see conventional tungsten light bulbs being used to light the stands. So at Ecobuild, to what extent are the exhibiting companies and speakers doing what they’re saying?
The days are gone when making green claims was just a way to add value to your product: now, the level of change people are looking for is deeper. So does the high efficiency boiler manufacturer use its own product? How have they transported their products to the exhibition? How do they package them?
Visitors to Ecobuild won’t just be looking at the product but the integrity of the whole offer. I’m sure exhibitors will say they’re not totally in control of what happens at Earls Court, but they will still be judged by it. Companies using LED lighting, for example, will stand out and people will take them more seriously.
Environment first – profit second: living within our means
Tues 2 March
Cradle to cradle : remaking the way we make things
Wed 3 March
Around 500 CIOB members are dual-qualified as Chartered Environmentalists. But with sustainability now underlying almost every aspect of construction, it’s thought that as many as 90% of members could have enough experience of the green agenda to put themselves forward for the qualification.
The figure comes from Steve Wielebski, a CIOB ambassador and chair of the institute’s interview panel for CEnv candidates. As he points out, an individual whose primary job function is site management may feel their sustainability expertise isn’t wide or deep enough. But as CEnv status is an adjunct to core professional skills it demonstrates the holder’s grasp of sustainability in a construction context rather than as a specialism per se.
“There is nothing that should deter any member or fellow from coming forward. Any project manager who has put together a Site Waste Management Plan has already ticked one significant box on the way to becoming a Chartered Environmentalist,” says Wielebski. “80-90% should be capable of presenting a credible case to becoming a CEnv.”
The main proviso is that members must demonstrate experience over at least five years. But there is no requirement to have a job with sustainability in the title, or even as its core function. David Stockdale CEnv, for instance, submitted evidence of working on PFI submissions where sustainability was part of the bid criteria.
The Society for the Environment, established in 2002, brings together 24 organisations whose professional members all contribute to the advancement of a sustainable society and economy. Along with the CIOB’s construction cousins such as the RIBA, RICS and CIBSE, the SocEnv represents industries such as waste management, forestry and agriculture. The member organisations represent more than 400,000 professionals.
According to its chief executive John Carstensen, the society welcomes a wide range of Chartered Environmentalists.
“The value of the society is the way it brings together different disciplines looking at sustainability from a different point of view. For instance, a water engineer might see different solutions to a construction manager.”
Advantages of membership include access to CPD events at reduced rates, and members-only information on the website. But the main benefit comes in the credibility it adds when the holder is advising on projects, to the extra dimension it adds to personal CVs, and to the standing of bid documents presented to clients.
“Employers look favourably on people who have the qualification. It shows you take sustainablility seriously, and are able to apply the multi-disciplinary thinking that lies behind it,” comments Carstensen.
Wielebski echoes this view.
“Organisations like the Homes and Communities Agency will be impressed if a company has three or four individuals with CEnv on its team to show they’re focused on good environmental practices.”
Applicants must fill in a report template, submit their CV and CPD records, and a chart explaining their role(s) within their employer’s organisational structure. An assessor then decides whether the individual is ready to face an interview panel, or needs to gain more expertise in specific areas.
Interviews are conducted by a panel of dual-qualified members chaired by Steve Wielebski. “Once you’ve decided you want to do it, it isn’t a long-winded process,” says Sharon Stephens, the CIOB’s head of membership and business development, whose team will be at Ecobuild to answer questions.
As the low-carbon economy becomes a reality, Chartered Environmentalists predict the qualification will be seen as an essential adjunct to CIOB, RICS or RIBA status. “Within 10 years, every board member will be expected to have the qualification if they want to win public sector work,” says David Stockdale. “The government’s carbon transition plan hinges on having enough trained experts to guide the strategy, and that’s why we need members to come forward.”