25 July 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
The Building Engineering Services Association has urged the newly formed government and PM to "dramatically shift policy on the built environment".
The newly formed government has "an unprecedented opportunity to dramatically shift policy on the built environment" BESA said this week.
It said the new cabinet and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have the chance to "deliver higher standards of safety, sustainability and social justice".
BESA urged the new administration "to back up rhetoric around climate change with robust legislation; to enshrine the recommendations of the Hackitt Review to improve fire safety in buildings; and tackle the scourge of late payment that is undermining thousands of SME and driving many into insolvency".
It said the current lack of detail behind its commitment to a net zero carbon economy by 2050 could be addressed "if government worked closely with specialist sectors like the building engineering industry". It also said the issue of overheating in buildings was becoming increasingly urgent and should be addressed alongside plans for reducing carbon.
Adoption of the Hackitt Review recommendations for ensuring a more competent workforce and enforcing compliance with legislation would help "achieve the higher standards needed to deliver a higher quality building stock that could also help safeguard the health and well-being of building occupants", according to the association.
The harm caused by late payment and retentions should also be addressed to provide the necessary business confidence for the specialist firms that would be pivotal to any climate change strategy.
BESA president John Norfolk urged the government to "show courage and leadership" by seizing the opportunity to build these recommendations into legislation.
"This is a once in a generation opportunity," he said. "Public opinion is solidly behind the principle of climate change action and people are looking to Parliament to show leadership." He added that people wanted to do "all the right things", but there still needed to be an element of compulsion to secure the "harder choices".
"Most right thinking people want to reduce environmental harm and they want society to benefit from better quality buildings. However, taking individual action - particularly when it may involve extra expenditure - requires an element of compulsion.
"So this can't be left to the private sector. This has to be a collective effort and if you have public opinion behind you then government has the mandate to impose tough legislative measures," said Norfolk.
He said that government policy should also be "business-friendly" because people must be engaged and encouraged and "not just beaten into submission".
The association also announced a list of "industry-led declarations committed to tackling the 'crises of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss'" .Several large construction consultants and structural engineers, including Aecom, Arup, Atkins, BuroHappold, Mott MacDonald and WSP, have signed declarations titled UK Building Services Declare, UK Structural Engineers Declare and UK Civil Engineers Declare, and have committed to 11 points of action.