Sustainability compliance: adding value

Taking responsibility

31 March 2011

Building surveyors won’t just add value by ensuring compliance with existing legislation, says Mat Lown, but by looking to be ahead of the game

We have to comply with an ever-growing list of targets, mandates and legislation. From the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and Climate Change Bill, to the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRCEES), the legislative landscape is vast. And more is on its way.

While much of the new legislation updates existing laws, the goal posts for reaching suitable sustainable targets are constantly moving, especially for reducing energy consumption, carbon emissions and waste. However, this approach is expected to broaden to encompass related issues, such as water efficiency and protecting/enhancing site ecology - beyond existing building regulations.

Sustainability is a global consideration and the UK government must respond to international policy and in particular EU directives, e.g. Europe is responsible for around 80% of the UK water industry’s legislation.

Current targets and legislation

The Climate Change Bill sets targets for reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. DCLG estimates that buildings create over 50% of UK carbon emissions; it is also estimated that we have already constructed two out of three buildings that will exist in 2050. If we are to meet this 80% target, reducing carbon emissions from existing buildings is essential.

Despite 2050 being a long way off, this issue must be addressed now if we are to make a significant impact. Changes to physical buildings and human behaviours are required but these will not happen overnight and to make the process cost effective we must implement carbon reducing measures during general refurbishment and building work. Embedding sustainability in everything we do will help instigate further change and minimise additional costs.

Changes to physical buildings and human behaviours are required but these will not happen overnight

The escalating requirements under Part L need to be considered with their greater emphasis on improving the performance of existing buildings. The publication of Planning Policy Statement 5: Planning for the Historic Environment also suggests stricter rules for the conservation sector can be expected (see Building Conservation Journal, Jan-Feb 11).

Waste is also a significant issue. The Landfill Tax Regulations 1996 introduced a tax of £7/tonne of waste sent to landfill. This is currently £48/tonne and will rise to £64/tonne in 2013. Other targets are likely to be introduced, following the example of the new edition of Part G of the Building Regulations, which now includes a section on water efficiency.

Our clients not only rely on us to understand the rules and regulations, but also to know the impact on their business and what risks and benefits exist.

Reducing energy consumption generates real savings and has the benefit of saving on CRCEES costs (see Investment returns). These enhancements could also improve a property’s EPC rating. Property owners and investors are taking this matter seriously, e.g. The Church of England Diocese of London’s challenging interim target of 42% cuts by 2020.

CoreNet’s research in the US indicates that occupiers will pay more for energy efficient buildings. While this is not yet reflected in the UK, it is clear there is a growing demand for sustainable property over less-environmentally friendly alternatives.

There are ways in which short-term savings can be made. The introduction of Feed-in Tariffs in April 2010, for example, has reduced the payback period of photovoltaic installations from 30 years to approximately 8-10 years.

Reducing waste can also have a significant impact in the medium term. For example, Interface, the environmentally-responsible modular carpet company, introduced a waste reduction programme and saved £275m in 15 years.

Be proactive

Collectively and proactively undertaking sustainable improvements to properties can help minimise further government intervention and the imposition of mandatory measures that can be unsuited to the needs of our industry – the CRCEES being a good example of this because of the complexities of calculating allowances. Contributing to consultations is an important way of influencing government policy.

When appraising existing buildings we need to consider the potential impact of future legislation, e.g. it is the government’s ambition that all new non-domestic buildings be zero carbon from 2019 – how will this impact our clients’ existing properties?

Clearly we need to fully understand current legislation; but it is arguably more important that we are one step ahead of the game and consider future legislation. Anticipating changes now will minimise any associated enhancement costs and maximise the opportunities for our clients.

Mat Lown is the Sustainability Partner at Tuffin Ferraby Taylor

Further information

Related competencies include: M009