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Porritt lashes Egan over sustainability

ENVIRONMENTAL GURU Jonathan Porritt this week lashed out at Sir John Egan's Rethinking construction report, branding it a 'phenomenal missed opportunity'.

'I can scarcely believe there is not as much as a passing reference to sustainability in the Rethinking construction report,' said Porritt. 'It is the most important document in a decade. If this is joined up thinking then God help us.'

Porritt's outburst was delivered to an audience of civil and structural engineers at the Institution of Structural Engineers' two-yearly Maitland Lecture. His address tackled the industry's responsibilities in eliminating waste and meeting the targets agreed at the recent Kyoto climate change conference.

Egan, he said, is developing 'a classic, very old-style way of looking at industry - it is a phenomenal missed opportunity. It is all to do with getting a better result on the bottom line.'

Porritt was outraged that Egan had completely failed to mention or make reference to the need for sustainability in his report and in particular to the Government's recent consultation document Opportunities for change - sustainable construction published last summer.

Like Rethinking construction, the document was championed by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. It sets out the issues facing the construction industry from planning through to construction and demolition. Consultation with the industry was completed in September.

Opportunities for change suggested targets for reducing raw material use, cutting waste generated and for increasing the amount of recycling in the industry. Like Egan's report, best practice is demonstrated using case studies.

Both Prescott and the head of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions' construction directorate John Hobson made passing reference to sustainability and Options for change in speeches at the Rethinking Construction conference last week.

In his speech Prescott said: 'This year we have published consultation papers on climate change and sustainability. Efficiency and sustainability are two sides of the same coin. The elimination of waste - one of the key concepts in Egan's report - is also one of the key elements of sustainable development.'

'I hope that some of the demonstration projects will also show just how much construction can contribute to sustainable development, and that the industry as a whole will rise to this challenge,' he added.

But Porritt was adamant that by excluding any reference in the text, Egan's report had failed to utilise the advances made by the consultation paper. 'I'm not exaggerating the report's inability to see the potential win-win situation,' he insisted.

'Opportunities for change was clearly of no interest to Sir John Egan; it is not as if Sir John is unaware of environmental issues - BAA is having to deal with some major problems on a daily basis.'

A spokeswoman for the DETR insisted sustainability and the Opportunities for change consultation had not been forgotten by Egan. 'Sustainability is not mentioned explicitly in the text of Rethinking construction but it is implicit,' she said.

Responses to the Opportunities for change consultation, she added, suggested the industry was very keen to embrace sustainable construction.

But she was unable to confirm whether any measurement criteria to be used to assess demonstration projects would specifically target the promotion of sustainability. All criteria, she said, were still being discussed with an announcement expected next month.

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