REPORT FROM VICE-PRESIDENT, GAVIN DUNN
Once again it is my turn to share with you my insights from the Vice-Presidential perspective and, once again, I find myself reflecting on activities that I have undertaken in the past couple of months. I sometimes find it hard to distinguish between the activities of my various roles, but this time around my contribution has been clearly CABE including attending the 2017 Presidential Inauguration of David Taylor at the House of Lords, a fabulous afternoon to celebrate everything for which CABE stands, and the delivery of two lectures in support of the Association’s regional CPD programme – one for the southern region at Brighton University on 04 May and one with the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) at Leeds Beckett University on 08 June.
The focus on both of these lectures was on my views about how the drivers and standards for energy and sustainability in construction are rapidly changing and how this represents both significant opportunities and challenges of our sector, but most importantly CABE members.
The opportunity is how the economics of sustainable and high performance buildings has changed and how, increasingly, it is about demonstrating improved asset value and less about lowest capital cost. This change has come about for a number of reasons including that the extra capital cost of higher performance has reduced greatly and in many cases been eliminated altogether. Clever design teams use sustainability criteria to not only reduce environmental impact but also design out the need for elements and services, saving time and money. Commercial real estate investors have also woken up to the fact that high performing buildings are also better investments with improved returns delivered through higher asset values, higher rents, lower vacancy rates and lower running costs.
The challenge, however, to us in the industry is a significant change in the complexity and number of issues that we need to consider to meet this increasing expectation for higher performance and lower environmental impact. This extra complexity is being driven in a couple of significant ways; firstly, there appears to be a shift away from regulation as the main driver with much greater focus on a range of above regulatory standards tailored to different project needs. Secondly, as we move closer to low or zero carbon buildings we have to start considering in more detail the impact of other aspects of the design and construction process, especially during the construction phase as this becomes a higher proportion of the overall impact of a project as other operational and life-cycle impacts are reduced. This includes the assessment of both the contractor’s impacts on site and the procurement of building materials to account for the impact of the entire supply chain.
However daunting this sounds, this is where the standards can help us manage the inherent complexity of these issues. If we each consider the potential impact of our part of a particular project, and use the appropriate standard collectively we can manage these complex impacts. Let me give you an example: the recent Modern Slavery Act means all UK companies with a turnover of more than £30million must have procedures to manage the risk of harming people in this way. However, in construction this can be difficult considering all the different people involved on site, subcontractors and in producing the materials used – often in far flung places around the world. But this is where voluntary standards like the ethical labour sourcing (www.bre.co.uk/ethical-sourcing) can help both in managing these risks and by providing clear external validation of what an organisation is doing about it.
While it is clear that the need to deliver ever higher performance is not going away, even if there is a shift away from regulation, the complexity and range of issues we have to consider will continue to increase. However, we as an industry have the solutions necessary and I believe Building Engineers with their mix of design, technical, standards and practical expertise are well placed to help the industry deliver.
Gavin Dunn BSc MSc PhD FCABE C.Build E