Government buildings failing on sustainability

Government departments and agencies are failing to meet standards for sustainable building, a House of Commons committee has concluded.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee said Government should be setting an example but its departments are making poor progress on implementing better environmental standards.

Government departments and agencies spend about £3bn a year on new buildings and major refurbishments and ministers have set estate-wide sustainability standards for this construction work.

In 2005-06, mandatory environmental assessments were carried out in only 35% of new builds and 18% of major refurbishment projects, the committee found, and only 9% of projects met the required standards.

MPs said departments were also making poor progress against their environmental targets for estate management, including reducing water consumption and carbon emissions and are failing to assess costs and benefits of sustainable design options on a whole-life basis, partly because of pressure to reduce initial capital costs.

The report said: “The poor performance against sustainability standards reflects the low priority accorded to this agenda within individual departments.”

The committee recommended better monitoring and leadership systems, more guidance from Defra to departments, and more help from the Treasury to purchase sustainable design options.

The report was backed by the Environmental Industries Commission, which has written to the Environment Secretary to support the committee’s criticisms.

Director Merlin Hyman said: “The EIC has been actively campaigning on Government’s poor performance in meeting sustainability standards in its own buildings.

“It is no surprise that the Public Accounts Committee has found that only 9% of projects have met the required environmental standards.

“EIC has written to Hilary Benn to call for Government to urgently review and improve its poor performance in ensuring that public buildings meet high standards of energy efficiency and sustainability.”

Kate Martin

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