John Sandford, Sustainability Director for Wienerberger and Chairman of the Brick Development Association Sustainability Working Party (BDA SWP) explains his concerns about last minute changes to the BRE sustainability certification framework, BES 6001.
Sustainability in construction is very much a hot topic at the moment, but it is also one that is in something of a state of limbo, with companies keen to adhere to initiatives and certifications, and yet unsure as to which one has the most value and longevity. The Code for Sustainable Homes is under review by DCLG and, despite recent calls by MPs for it to be preserved, there’s no guarantee that it will be (a variety of alternative options are being discussed). As such, many companies are looking for other ways to ensure that they are manufacturing sustainably, and one of these is through certification to BES 6001.This Building Research Establishment (BRE) protocol represents a sustainability standard, incorporating organisational governance, supply chain management and environmental concerns, for companies to prove that their constituent materials and products have been responsibly sourced.
It is an initiative that my company, Wienerberger, has long supported with our Warnham brick factory being the first in the sector to be certified in 2009. Yet there are proposed revisions to the BES 6001 certification framework that give me some cause for concern – a concern also shared by the Brick Development Association (BDA) and the British Ceramic Confederation (BCC). Of course, the issues aren’t at all in relation to the principles or intentions of the scheme, but rather with the impact of these last minute changes on the prospects of attracting companies to the BES 6001 accreditation – which surely should be the aim.
Naturally, much of the minutia of the framework is very technical, but from my perspective, many of the changes – which have been made at the end of a long consultation period that didn’t suggest that such changes were coming – have made it significantly more so. The changes will increase the work that companies are required to do to maintain certification, which seems extremely counter intuitive in terms of trying to encourage more construction product manufacturers to really engage with the sustainability agenda. The danger is that BES 6001 loses its credibility as an effective framework, with large manufacturers retaining it only as a box-ticking exercise for various BRE initiatives (such as BREEAM) and smaller companies struggling to see the value of the process if they are no longer going to get any additional points in the Code for Sustainable Homes .
I don’t think that this is what any organisation committed to furthering the UK’s green building credentials really wants for BES 6001, and I think that these last minute changes need to be considered in the context of the current uncertainty around the most high profile sustainability schemes (such as the Code for Sustainable Homes). Underlying perhaps all of these issues is the position of the BRE, which many commentators think holds too much monopolistic sway in terms of delivering the important guidelines and legislation that affect such a large and varied industry.