Next year the UK is set to launch its own green building council, to join other such organisations across the world. How will this council work and what effect will it have on green building in this country?
Does the UK need yet another not-for-profit group to champion the cause of energy-efficient building? The founding partners of the UK Green Building Council (GBC) evidently think so. Each has committed £15,000 a year over two years to provide start-up funding for this industry-wide coalition, whose mission statement is to 'radically improve the way [buildings] are designed, built and maintained.' The key points about this organisation are that it is industry-wide and self-funding. Everyone agrees that the UK is ahead when it comes to green building design. UK sustainabledesign services are in demand abroad, and the BREEAM programme administered by the BRE Trust has a strong track record, but this same thinking has yet to penetrate through to construction, building management, and product manufacture.
The UK Green Building Council, to be launched officially in early spring 2007, is about transforming green design from a design-led activity to the mainstream, and that means involving big business.
The idea for a national coalition for energy efficient building emerged from the 2004 Sustainable Building Task Group Report which identified many 'high-quality diffuse' organisations serving different constituencies, which meant replication of activities and a lack of overall momentum. David Strong, BRE director for environment, who has been a driving force behind the creation of the UK GBC, explains that the UK context differs significantly from the situation in the US, where there was a vacuum waiting to be filled when the US GBC was established in 1995. At that time, there was no American equivalent of BREEAM. The US GBC now has 6,500 member organisations and a staff of 60, with an annual turnover of over $24 million in 2005. In the UK, there are more than 300 existing entities, some with extensive programmes and expertise, which deal with different aspects of sustainable building. Strong believes that all this activity will be channelled and reinforced by the creation of a UK council, which will enable 'cross-sector knowledge sharing'. The UK council will join nine other existing GBCs; another 20 or so countries have GBCs in formative stages. Each GBC operates independently and tailors its requirements to its own country.
These can vary greatly depending on climate, the regulatory environment, and construction and design.
The UK GBC prospectus and website are full of words like 'radical', 'transform', and 'passion'. It is setting its stakes high, with a lot of important names among its founders. This may seem at odds with the grassroots origins of the green building movement, yet Strong believes a decentralised committee structure will enable the organisation to tap into the expertise of its varied membership.
The founding members are from all sectors of the industry and the dues structure of the membership will reflect this broad church. An interim board is to be headed by Peter Rogers of Stanhope, and a search is under way for an executive director.
A major activity of the US council has been the implementation of LEED, which to date has assessed just over 400 projects. The UK is way ahead with BREEAM, which has assessed over 65,000 buildings and has another 270,000 in the pipeline.
Even though these numbers are misleading, as they include multiunit housing projects, the difference is immense. The relationship between BREEAM and the UK GBC is currently under discussion.
Membership dues, training, and events are likely to be the mainstays of the UK GBC. Four committees are being established: advocacy, marketing, technical, and education; training; best practice; and research. The US GBC's GreenBuild, now in its fifth year, was held in Denver in November, with over 500 exhibitors and more than 10,000 delegates from 30 countries.
Clearly the US GBC has stimulated the green-building movement in its country. LEED is now required in many public buildings, and clients demanding greener buildings are forcing the industry to catch up. Its UK counterpart will enable knowledge sharing and start to pressure the supply side of the industry.
Supportive government policy will also play an important role.
However, the UK GBC enters a crowded field and will have to act strategically to make a significant impact. Its toughest challenge may be to earn the goodwill of the many organisations that have been out there doing good work for a long time and convince them to join the newcomer on the block.
For more information visit www. ukgbc. org
FOUNDING MEMBERS OF THE UK GBC
Aggregate Industries Arup Atelier Ten Battle McCarthy Bennetts Associates BRE British Land Company Canary Wharf Group Colliers CRE Faber Maunsell Fulcrum Consulting Grimshaw Halcrow Yolles Hammerson UK Properties Hanson HBOS IBE Johnsons Controls Jones Lang LaSalle Kingspan King Sturge Land Securities Group Lend Lease Europe Monodraught ProLogis PRP Stanhope Willmott Dixon Construction