Welsh Construction Companies and Organisations Sign up to UK’s First Green Building Charter

More than 40 leading organisations representing the construction sector in Wales have teamed up to sign the first green building charter of its kind in the UK.

They are committing themselves to support progress towards a built environment that contributes low or zero net carbon emissions as quickly as practically possible.

The 43 organisations and companies, whose combined influence on building projects and developments is hugely significant, joined a squad headed by the Sustainable Development Commission, the Design Commission for Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government.

The home of Welsh Rugby provided the backdrop for the “coalition of the willing”, as they added their names to the landmark initiative. Members of the coalition include the Federation of Master Builders, the National House- Building Council, the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment and CBI Wales.

The initiative was launched at the Built Environment and Climate Change Summit at the Wales Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, by Environment, Sustainability and Housing Minister Jane Davidson and Jonathon Porritt, Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission.

The coalition will play a major role in the development of low/zero carbon buildings ahead of the UK Government’s target of achieving zero carbon new homes by 2016 and achieve a major step change in Wales by 2011. It will also work towards significantly increasing the energy efficiency of the existing building stock in Wales, contributing towards the Wales target of 3% annual reductions in emission reductions from 2011 onwards.

The Assembly Government have stated the aspiration that all new buildings built from 2011 must be zero carbon in relation to space heating, hot water and lighting. By implementing the Code for Sustainable Homes and BREEAM it will help the industry take a stepped approach towards the target of zero carbon.

Reductions of 3% each year would enable Wales to achieve an 80% reduction before 2050. One method of reducing Wales’s carbon footprint is via improving the energy efficiency of buildings, as the direct and indirect consumption of energy from buildings generates approximately 40% of all carbon emissions in the UK.

All new housing that has Assembly Government funding or is built on Welsh Assembly owned land must meet The Code for Sustainable Homes Level 3 (moving to Code level 4 as soon as practically possible) and all non domestic buildings must meet the BREEAM excellent standard.

The SDC and DCfW were asked by Jane Davidson AM, to create a “coalition of the willing” of key stakeholders from the private, public and voluntary sectors that will commit to taking a “can do” approach to tacking climate change through the built environment.

Ms Davidson said:
“Today is another Wales first in the battle against climate change demonstrating our ‘can do’ attitude. We all believe early action is needed, and the charter confirms Wales’s commitment to do all we can to tackle climate change and reduce our carbon footprint.

“The built environment is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases in Wales. The way in which we construct and use our homes and other buildings accounts for 40% of our total carbon emissions. It is vital that all our new buildings are energy efficient and as green as possible.

“This charter is a demonstration of the coalition of the willing, of how diverse groups from all over Wales are ready to use their voice and powers to help Wales reduce its carbon footprint.”

Jonathan Porritt, Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission, said:
“It is very heartening to see that Wales has the foresight and ambition to accelerate progress towards a sustainable built environment. I hope that the collaborative, coordinated approach demonstrated today will enable it to make swift progress and be an exemplar for the rest of the UK.”

Carole-Anne Davies, Chief Executive, Design Commission for Wales said: “Wales has vast potential to realise a sustainable built environment which supports active communities and neighbourhoods. This is not something we can defer to others. Our economy and our environment will suffer if we do not act immediately and collectively. The declaration from members of the coalition sends a strong signal across public and private sectors alike, that we accept our responsibility to work towards a Wales where our homes, public and civic buildings and public realm, can and must be energy and resource efficient. ”

Peter Davies OBE, SDC Vice Chair and Commissioner for Wales said:
“Our approach in establishing the coalition of the willing was to develop the simple idea of ‘I will if you will’. SDC has set out the need to engage government, business and the community in any process that aims to achieve fundamental change, recognising that our aspirations for sustainable development will only be met through collaborative action.”

“The significant number of organisations signing the declaration today highlights that the construction sector in Wales is ready and willing to act on

the subject of sustainable construction. They now have the confidence that they will not be acting alone or against the grain.”

To take the agenda forward, a Wales Low/ Zero Carbon Hub will be established to coordinate action and formalise the process going forward. The Board of the Hub will incorporate key representative bodies from across the sector and will report through to the Minister and the Climate Change Commission for Wales. The Energy Saving Trust will also be leading a Wales Existing Homes Alliance to coordinate progress on increasing the energy efficiency of the existing building stock. There will be close working links with the UK Zero Carbon Hub and the UK Green Building Council.