Monthly Archives: May 2008

Carbon Trust could do better

Carbon Trust “could do better”

The government-backed Carbon Trust’s contribution to reducing UK carbon dioxide emissions is “pretty small beer” and it can do better, the Committee of Public Accounts said in a report on Tuesday.

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FMB Condemn eco towns

Press Release from FMB, thanks Jane:

Lord Rogers is absolutely right to describe eco town plans as ‘one of the biggest mistakes’ the Government could make, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Brian Berry, Director of External Affairs at the FMB says:

“Eco town plans are nothing short of a Government ‘greenwash’ to hide its outdated housing policy. The reality is that we already know how to create sustainable settlements as demonstrated by the BedZed affordable eco-homes development in south London which has been a shining example to the UK house building industry since 2002. The simple fact is that building brand new ‘eco-towns’ outside existing towns and cities is a really bad idea when there are 675,000 homes in England alone sitting empty and ripe for refitting with green technologies.:

Berry continued:

“Given that demand for housing is right across the UK it makes more sense for every village, town and city to have new housing rather than creating brand new settlements. How green are these new towns are going to be in transport terms? The sad truth is that any new eco-town can only be another car-based satellite suburb. Even with car clubs, cycle lanes and a top-notch bus service, these places are going to be packed out with new roads and, as we all know, new roads lead to more car use – and more carbon emissions.”

time to re-read rethink construction…again

Following my post yesterday and having had chance to read the transcript of Egans speech on 10 years of rethinking, I am convinced that this is a must read for all in the construction, and indeed in the built environment, to understand What the report set out to do?; What’s going wrong?; and how do we fix it?.

I am sure Egans comments will be picked up and discussed by many in the UK built environment blogging fraternity,  giving a wider view – for example take look at Mel’s comments over at Elemental

Egan cites the successes within the demonstration projects, producing some 20-30% cost savings.  In addition I am aware of and work with projects that have achieved similar benefits that are not demonstration projects. Yet for many the understanding of Egan, the Rethinking Construction report and targets just isn’t there. KPI’s derived from the Egan Report are seen as a nusaince, something to get through for bidding, rather than used or real improvement.  At mosts events and training sessions I lead I have to distribute copies of Rethinking Construction.  (A copy can be downloaded through the documents link on the left hand side panel on this page)

Egan’s recommendation for the future is to … go back and read Rethinking Construction and try and get it right second time around.  The key for me, ever since first reading back in 1998 (although I must admit to providing some input, albeit remotely) was in the title Rethinking Construction.  And I think ever since I have used the Einstein quotation of not being able to solve todays problems with the pattern of thought that created them. Those that have embraced new patterns of thought with in the industry are those who see benefits in winning work, in profit and in working conditions generally.  Those who haven’t still fight for work in competion on lowest cost, (ie on lowest profit) struggle to make margins and profits and generally have a hard time of it.

Egan on productivity:

The activity rate on a building site is still probably I guess no better than 30-odd per cent, and yet 60-odd per cent is quite easily attainable with good pre-planning and having everything available when you want it on the site.

Egan on lowest cost

I think lowest cost tendering (and I think the government is absolutely the culprit here, they were very bad as the main buyer of projects, still buying the education department with lower cost tendering) is absolutely ridiculous.

Egan on collaboartive working:

And the point to remember is that it’s a team that does it – a designer, a construction team a supply chain and so on. Working hard together they can produce a good cost. But they can’t do it if they work separately. And lowest cost tendering starts them off as separate groups.

And on how to fix it:

So, I think if anybody wants to know how to reduce the cost of what they do a lot, they could read the ‘Rethinking Construction’ report all over again. Any of the steps you miss out will cost you. I think if you don’t do all of the steps you’ll fail. But in the mean time, I think there should be the concept of two teams of target costs with plus or minus 15% gained or pained between the client and the industry, and perhaps then we might start seeing some real improvements.

reconnect with nature: return to the outdoors

Connecting with nature is one of the underlying themes to this blog, (see the welcome panel on the left), but unfortunately that gets lost sometimes with the more day to day built environment stuff. I feel this is important – to experience the outdoors, whether by walking or cycling, camping in the backgarden, under a tarp or bivvy under the stars on a Scottish mountain top. We need that reminder of context and time to think.

I have mentioned Yvon Chouinard many times on this blog, as inspiration for environmental and business approaches. I must also admit to being a fan of the quality Chouinard Equipment, Black Diamond and Patagonia clothing for longer than I care to remember. But it is for environmentalism through the great outdoors and wildness (or should that be wilderness) that Chouinard is best associated. Oh and fly fishing …

I was delighted therefore to receive an email from Sara at Timex Expedition introducing Return to the Outdoors, a joint endeavor with the Conservation Alliance to inspire reconnection with nature and outdoor activity. Conservation Alliance have made a number of short online films, featuring outdoors icons, with hopes of motivating everyone to spend more time outdoors and raise awareness of the Conservation Alliance’s mission to protect outdoor spaces.

The latest in the series features environmentalist and author Yvon Chouinard, founder of Chouinard Equipment, Patagonia and One Percent for the Planet, fly fishing and discussing his love of nature at a secret lake in Argentina.


For inspiration and motivation to get back outdoors, take a look at the first film featuring mountaineer Conrad Anker discussing some of his earliest memories from Wyoming’s Teton Crest, or the second film featuring Steph Davis base-jumping in southern Utah’s canyonlands.

And I should plug here my business outdoor approach – benchmarkwalks – get out of the classroom, the hotel room or conference center and do the improvement stuff on a walk, on a camp or under that tarp.

egan: four out of ten for effort

As reported on Building today, Sir John Egan Author of Rethinking Construction speaking at a reception at the House of Commons to mark 10 years since the publication of his report said he would rate the construction industry’s performance since as “four out of 10”.

Egan particularly criticised housebuilders for failing to follow the guidelines laid down in his report. “[Housebuilders] have made no cost improvements at all. Absolutely nothing. Also, their productivity processes actually generated much less than half of the demonstration projects.”

“I just don’t think they were trying. In this ‘nice decade’, as the Bank of England called it, they really didn’t try. And now they’ve got their comeuppance. It’s very, very sad.”

Egan said that housebuilders could have made progress with simple productivity and design improvements and more off-site building. “the houses could be costing a great deal less than they do, and there would still be a market.”

Egan went on to say that the government was partly to blame for “not trying” to be a good client in its construction projects.

Summing up the lasting impact of the report, Egan said: “We have to say we’ve got pretty patchy results. And certainly nowhere near the improvement we could have achieved, or that I expected to achieve.”

I would concur with Egan on this one, with some very successful exceptions, the principles and targets set by the Rethinking Construction report have not been understood or adopted let alone met. Many in the industry are not even aware of these targets. It continues to amaze me the lack of knowledge, in some cases of the existence, of the Egan report, across the industry and in education.

With a score of four, questions must surely be asked of the effectiveness of the organisations established, with government funds, to deliver Rethinking Construction.

Earthwire UK

Just added a new RSS feed from Earthwire UK to my collection of feeds into igoogle.

from the Earthwire UK web pages:

Environmental News from the United Kingdom on EarthWire

EarthWire/UK gives you a free daily overview of environmental news from the United Kingdom.

Every working day, a team reviews national, regional and local media sources for environment and sustainable development-related news stories. Relevant stories are included in EarthWire/UK where they can be viewed by country, topic, or time period. A search engine allows users to search for issues and keywords in the archive. Press releases and news from research organisations, the public sector, and environmental organisations are included as well.

EarthWire is used by government officials as a briefing on the day’s environmental news, journalists following hot issues, students and researchers looking for current information on the state of the environment, and by anyone interested in current events and the environment.

EarthWire/UK covers media sources from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. It is the fifth in a series of regional news services, the first of which was EarthWire/Norway. There is also a special edition of EarthWire for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. EarthWire/WSSD, partly financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Environment, is a joint initiative by GRID-Arendal and the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. In 2002, we started EarthWire/Serbia, in the Serbian language, as well.

EarthWire by Email

With EarthWire’s email feed, you can get environmental news from UK, Norway, Serbia, and southern Africa emailed to you every day. The email service is free and allows you to choose whether you would like to get all news compiled for our EarthWire editions, or only news related to specified environmental topics or regions we cover. Registering for EarthWire by Email is simple, and we pledge to protect your privacy.

For more information, please contact Lars Haltbrekken at UNEP/GRID-Arendal.

LEED 2009 V3

The new edition of LEED – version 3 for 2009 is open to public comment here – promising to reset the bar for green building leadership because the urgency of the LEED mission has challenged the industry to move faster and reach further than ever before.

More comments when I get chance to view the documents …..