Headlines: April 20th, 2007



Most government departments and agencies are falling short of targets to make their buildings sustainable according to the National Audit Office. In a report today it says the result is that departments are not getting full value for the 3 billion pounds a year which they are spending.

The report says most departments have started to consider sustainability in their building and refurbishment projects, but they are not carrying out consistently the environmental assessments needed in new projects. In the year 2005-06 only 37 out of 106 of new build schemes and only 61 of the 335 big refurbishment projects had carried out, or planned to carry out, those assessments. The NAO’s findings also show that of the projects that didcarry out an assessment, the majority failed to meet the required targets of ‘excellent’ for new builds and ‘very good’ for refurbishments. Only 14 new buildings were rated as ‘excellent’ and 27 refurbishments scored ‘very good’. That means that overall only nine per cent of projects last year met the required standards.

Today’s report identifies barriers to progress towards more sustainable buildings including the fragmentation of policy responsibility among government bodies, a widespread perception of conflict between sustainability and value for money, lack of sufficient knowledge and expertise and failure to specify expected benefits and undertake rigorous post-occupancy reviews. Recommendations in the report include the idea that bodies with central responsibility for sustainability in construction, such as Defra, OGC and possibly the DTI, should establish a resource of expertise that would be available to all departments, the promotion of low cost approaches for use in smaller projects and advising departments on when it is appropriate to undertake environmental assessments of different types.

Sir John Bourn, the Comptroller and Auditor General, said that in 2005 he had emphasised the need to consider the costs and benefits over the whole life of a building and not just the initial capital required. “Despite this, today’s report highlights a continuing failure by departments to consider the long-term value of sustainability in their new builds and refurbishments. This is particularly disappointing given the importance of sustainability in promoting a deeper understanding of value for money,” he said.