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Rushing Bsf Projects Risks Monumental Sustainability Blunder Experts Warn

Monday, 24 November 2008

Government plans to use public spending on major projects to fend off a recession in the construction industry is "shortsighted," experts have warned.

While Alastair Darling's Pre-Budget Report announcement to bring forward public spending being welcomed by many in the construction industry, some experts say that rushing through complex projects such as Building Schools for the Future risks repeating mistakes made over the past decade.

Jim Costello, director of consulting engineer Hulley and Kirkwood, explained: "Rushing the next generation of BSF projects through may be good for construction in the short term, but it risks ignoring the shortcomings of the last decade of public private partnerships in education.

"Design excellence, especially in areas like sustainability, has lost out to the issue of short term costs on many PPP projects.Lessons from this experience should be learned as we begin to really ramp up into BSF."

"Now should be a perfect time to take stock and make sure these issues are addressed, rather than simply rush through a thousand more schools that simply aren't as energy efficient as they should be."

Hulley and Kirkwood has been involved in public private partnerships to build schools since 1997, during which time local authorities have repeatedly begun by commissioning beacons of sustainability which would inspire generations to come, only to settle for much lower standards in order to save money in the short-term.

Jim cites examples of steel framed buildings being used even though concrete delivers much better energy performance; or cases where the space given to plant and distribution was squeezed in order to maximise internal floor area, despite the fact doing so compromises design and maintenance regimes for years after building is complete.

The result is that while instead of raising industry standards with state-of-the-art public buildings, commercially-driven bids have caused local authorities to end up creating hundreds of schools with relatively poor BREEAM  ratings.

Before projects are brought forward to inspire economic growth, lessons should be learned from the past ten years in order to inspire quality of build as well, Jim argues.

"There are successes out there to learn from," he said. "We were involved in the design  of the first ever bundled PPP schools project  in Falkirk in which stack ventilation has been successfully used for at least eight years now.This concept has been adopted on many other projects, but not all.

"Elsewhere there are classrooms which have been designed from the inside out - starting right from the furniture and fittings - which have now set best practice for all types of buildings.

"Local authorities aren't used to complex projects like these and don't need to be rushed under the premise that the economy will suffer unless they spend quickly.

"Instead, they need to be given both the time to see how solutions which were first applied on PPP projects have now become standards, or where the Government's initial technical bulletins were challenged and successfully revisited. Only then will they have the confidence to aim to achieve the same success with their own projects.

"The choice is clear: we either insist on quality and lift standards of public building to new levels, or we rush through massive spending in the hope it gives the economy a short-term boost, then spend a generation regretting the missed opportunity we have had to revolutionise building energy use in this country."




Notes to Editors

Hulley & Kirkwood Consulting Engineers is an award winning practice dealing in the design of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Services in Buildings.  With a reputation for reliability, technical knowledge and expertise, Hulley & Kirkwood undertake engineering projects ranging from urban regeneration to highly developed new build projects. 


Established in 1953, Hulley & Kirkwood currently has offices in London, Epsom, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Manchester, Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen, in addition to their Head Office in Glasgow.  With continued investment in people and resources, the company aims to continue this organic growth throughout the rest of the UK and beyond.