Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460-479)|
1 NOVEMBER 2006
Q460 Chairman: I welcome our witnesses
today, Martin Mayfield, Stewart Davies, Stan Terry and Alan Yates
and say thank you very much for the giving of your time to come
before this Committee. I know that we have the power to persuade
you to come if that was necessary, but it is always nice when
people come on a voluntary basis. This is a very important inquiry
for us. As you know as well as we do, £42 billion of our
country's money, taxpayers' money, is going to be spent on building
schools for the future. We actually want to make them schools
we can be proud of and that will be appropriate in their design
and everything else for the 21st century and, with the backdrop
of the publication of the Stern Report this week, I think
all of us have sharpened our interest in all things sustainable.
We really want to get as much as we can out of this session. May
I thank in particular Martin Mayfield from Arup who I think was
dropped into this by two colleagues we met recently. We said,
"What you have been telling us is so interesting, would you
like to come and give evidence to the Committee?" and they
said, "We would not but we have a member of our staff, a
colleague, who is much better than we are". So, you were
rather dropped into it. We welcome Stewart Davies from the Sustainable
Development Commission and thank you very much for your briefing;
it was extremely useful. Stan Terry is from HTI (Heads Teachers
and Industry Ltd) and Alan Yates from BREEAM. May I begin the
questioning by saying to you, Stewart Davies, here we are perched...
well, I say "perched" but we have begun. We went to
a school in Elsea 10 days ago and we were told that they had suddenly
been chosen to be in the programme. They were more or less told,
"You have hardly any time at all. You have to start this
whole process yesterday". We said, "Everyone tells us
that the school should be fully engaged, the students, the staff,
the support staff, everyone should be engaged in this process
of deciding on design and so on" and they said, "Well,
no time". Is that typical or is the slower, more gradual
approach more typical?
Dr Davies: I have certainly heard
that same story, that the actual processes of procuring and agreeing
the specification for schools somehow ends up in a mad rush where
it is not absolutely clear who the ultimate client is between
local authority, head teacher, partnership for schools and so
on, and that the timescales can seem incredibly rushed. The point
I would make in response to your question is that key to getting
sustainable schools is to get the right basic structure designed
in. This is not really about bolt-on windmills and so on, it is
about getting a fundamental construction that is resource efficient.
Getting that design process right, having the client interaction
right and having the right information and time for that have
been less than adequate.
Q461 Chairman: Why is there this
inadequacy? There is a first wave, is there not? We have interviewed
some of the first wave schools and their partners. Why is it that
we are not giving people enough time? Who is not giving the schools
Dr Davies: I am going to run out
of detailed knowledge of that but it is certainly coming about
through the bidding process that is somehow compressing that time
allowed for client and designer interactions.
Q462 Chairman: Do any of our witnesses
this morning know why we have this truncated period of time?
Mr Terry: The reality is that
head teachers would love to have new schools built and therefore
they are very keen on the idea of having a new school built and
I think, the truncation occurs because it can be circumvented.
You can come in with a proposal and people say, "Thank you
very much, I would love to have that", but they do not actually
spend the time getting the process right at the front end because
time equals money and there is a kind of urgency factor that is
built in to try and move this agenda forward. Certainly some of
the evidence is that, in the initial phase schools, they are not
necessarily fit for purpose because they have not actually spent
time talking with who the real client is and I think you made
the point that who the client being very often clouded. The client
should be the school/head teacher and the community which it is
Q463 Chairman: Dame Ruth Silver,
the Principal of Lewisham College, last night said to me that,
when she heard that we had been looking at the FE sector, she
said, "What our principals in the FE sector need to be taught
is to be good clients". I said, "Ruth, 50% of the estate
has been renewed already; it is quite late on in the process".
Are you telling me that we are too late to save the sustainability
and the good design of the first wave?
Mr Terry: I do not think that
it is too late, I think the issue is that, in terms of school
leadership teams for example, you have to train those clients.
I know that the National College for School Leadership is in the
process of developing a programme at this time which is being
trialled at the present moment and is going to be run out next
summer depending on how it is evaluated, and that is going to
be developing things for those leadership teams in schools.
Q464 Chairman: But no school has
yet been built under the programme, has it?
Mr Terry: No.
Mr Mayfield: The majority are
under contract or at the preferred bidder stage on the wave one
Q465 Chairman: Martin, would you
say that it is too late to make sure that they are of good design
Mr Mayfield: Yes.
Q466 Chairman: Yes?
Mr Mayfield: Because the requirements
that the bidders have been asked to fulfil do not reflect a sustainable
level of development. They reflect at best very good or possibly
excellent BREEAM which is an incremental step in building standards
but go nowhere near as far as they need to go to achieve a sustainable
level of development.
Q467 Chairman: Alan, would you agree
Mr Yates: I would agree with that.
The issue really is that it is down to the basic inherent quality
of the initial thought process in the design and we need to start
getting the inherent nature of the building design sorted earlier
on in the procurement process. If you then come in at a later
stage, you are tinkering around the edges. I would suggest that
there probably is some scope to make some improvements to the
first wave but you are not going to achieve very high levels of
performance over and above those that are currently in the contract.
Q468 Chairman: Let us take a real
school in a real first wave. Who are the villains here? Are there
any villains or is it all poor leadership that is shared amongst
contractors, clients, heads and the Government? Who is to blame
for this? This is going off half cock, is it not?
Mr Mayfield: Yes. There is a balance
of the methods of incentivisation and the standards which people
are holding up as good standards and high standards. There are
also elements of contradiction between the relevant building bulletins
which are acknowledged within the marketplace but also drive towards
solutions which are inherently higher in terms of carbon emissions
occasionally and do not drive in a clear
Q469 Chairman: Can you explain to
me what these building bulletins are.
Mr Mayfield: Building bulletins
were originally produced by DfEE as guidance for school designers.
So, they were produced as guidance documentation but they are
now used within the BSF environment as benchmarking and in a much
more legislative manner. They are giving standards rather than
guidance, so the language of them is not quite right. For instance,
there are guidance notes on acoustics, on energy, on IT, on lighting
and so on and, whilst there have been some efforts to move these
forward and coordinate them... For instance, the acoustic guideline
drives for a very high level of acoustic quality which drives
for buildings to be sealed, which drives for buildings to be air
conditioned and the carbon emissions of an air conditioned building
is around double that of a naturally ventilated building. So,
it is pushing it in the wrong direction for good reasons but there
are contradictions there which need to be addressed.
Q470 Chairman: How do we make the
best of the situation now? How do we learn from these mistakes,
this early wrong start? How do we put it right?
Dr Davies: I would start with
being very clear about what the deliverables of the programme
are in terms of sustainability because that has yet to be properly
researched and mapped out. I think getting a clear link from the
Government's stated policy to how much sustainable development
improvement this programme is required to achieve is essential.
Q471 Chairman: The people in the
DfES do not know anything about this. They are civil servants,
for God's sake! Arup is one of the leading names in engineering
and in construction. You are the expert. Your Commission are the
experts. You guys are the experts. Civil servants will by and
large be led and guided by you. We are going to wait a long time
for some expert on sustainability in the department, are we not?
After all, they work in a greenhouse! It must be one of the worst
buildings in London! Come on, where is the leadership? You are
not going to get it from the department, surely.
Dr Davies: If there were a defined
task to do that mapping, I think it could be well led by DfES
but with support from experts.
Q472 Chairman: How do we get that
kind of quality of knowledge and leadership in the Department?
Who gives it to them? Who physically goes into that building and
says, "This is the way. We will all sit around this table
and we are going to sort this out"? Who should be at the
Mr Mayfield: I think that there
is a need for a clear understanding of what we are trying to achieve,
which is technically there. I am afraid that I have not written
anything for today but I have read the SDC1 and I think that there
are some very good statements in here about where we should be
going. We should be quite clear about what we are trying to achieve
and then that should be held up as BREEAM excellent or as whatever
we choose to define it as and then we can work away from that.
At the moment, we are working down from where we are. We need
to work away from where we need to be, not from where we are.
So, there needs to be a clear set of standards developed, which
I think is quite easy to do. For the wave one projects which have
been built it is too late, but what we must make sure of is that
the future schemes developed through the wave one relationships
do not suffer the same fate because there is pressure now on a
number of projects to deliver the next set of schools and the
next set of schools and the next set of schools rather than saying,
"Hang on a minute, what are we really trying to achieve here?"
Q473 Chairman: Alan, if you were
advising the Department, what should they do?
Mr Yates: I think the most important
thing is to learn the lessons and to make sure that you have a
good feedback mechanism from that first plan.
Q474 Chairman: We have already built
how many Academies? You would have thought, here is a laboratory
to try this stuff out. Did no one in the Department actually look
at the Academy programme? How many are we up to? I see Philip
Green Fashion Academies. I think we are in the mid-thirties and
they are up and running, they have been designed and built.
Mr Yates: Yes.
Q475 Chairman: Did no one from the
Department go round and say, "The most sustainable and the
model that we should learn from are these"?
Mr Yates: I think that there has
been some review of what has happened, but I do not think that
there has been a coordinated gathering of that feedback from past
experience. If we are to ensure that the later phases of the BSF
programme achieve the sorts of standards that we perhaps all would
like them to achieve, then let us use that and have a really coordinated
effort to collect that feedback. We can debate whether the standards
are the right standards or not, but the practicality and the experience
of actually putting those existing standards into practice provides
a sound framework for applying whatever standards are felt to
be appropriate. BREEAM can provide this framework. It is very
easy to set environmental standards; we could all advise on setting
those and we could get some wonderfully high level standards.
At the end of the day, like most things in life, this is a matter
of priorities and where you set the balance between very high
environmental performance standards and the other aspects of sustainability
in terms of costs, in terms of social impact and so on. Those
all need to be balanced. In terms of what the Government need
to do, they need to provide that set of priorities to the programme.
The panel here are sustainability experts particularly in terms
of the environmental aspects of sustainability, certainly the
BREEAM side, but really to input into the process and to advise
the Department on setting appropriate standards and achievable
standards on the environmental side, there needs to be that sort
of political decision in terms of priorities.
Q476 Chairman: It is a little depressing,
is it not? Here we are on course to spend £42 billion of
taxpayers' money and you are saying that we are not doing it right.
Mr Terry: I am not sure that spending
£42 billion/£45 billion on new schools necessarily fell
within a kind of sustainability envelope initially with the idea
of building the new schools; sustainability has come on board
in the process. I wonder about a government which is spending
that amount of money but not making demands on the construction
industry by saying, "You must do this". I look at the
study that WRAP did, the Davis Langdon study, which actually identified
that you could put up to 30% of recycled material into new building,
new school buildings in this sense, and it would not impact on
cost. The Partnership for Schools has reduced the level to 10%.
Why? I think they identified in that study that you could save
up to 4,000 tonnes of waste material going to landfill, but they
have opted for a lower standard. I do not understand why because
I am not involved at that level, but I would like to see who made
Q477 Chairman: We have Partnership
for Schools coming to see us and we might ask them questions about
that. Martin, you are the lone industry person here in a sense.
Is it partly your fault? Should a company of your quality or Skanska
who have given evidence not come before the Committee and say,
"Look, this is what we want. Please, build us something"?
If they said, "Look, we want this, we don't want any of the
recycled stuff", surely it is up to you to have said, "No,
no, no. You want sustainability. This is what adds up to sustainability".
Mr Mayfield: I think that there
is a moral dilemma for us because the construction market is driven
by the needs that are presented in front of it to build these
things as quickly as possible to move forward the agenda and there
has not been enough time given to understand what is sustainable.
I think that the marketplace is capable of delivering. There are
not good examples in the UK; there are good examples globallyScandinavia
is one place to lookbut I think that the marketplace is
responding to the agenda that is placed in front of it.
Q478 Chairman: You work all over
the world. You helped build this building and this is supposed
to be sustainable.
Mr Mayfield: Yes and it is. Keeping
it to BSF, I think that the construction firms, particularly the
international ones, can deliver this. However, they are not being
presented with the right set of hierarchical needs to enable them
to focus on these issues and they are not being given time to
do them in the BSF process either because it is far too quick.
I have personally been party to schemes where we have tried to
do as much as we can within cost and time envelopes and we know
that the winning schemes have not done as much but have given
a bit more area or a bit more this or a bit more that and it has
been pushed by the wayside. The agenda is moving quite quickly
which is helping but historically it has not. There are schemes
on site now and in design that have no level of climate change
resilience and if we even hit the medium/low climate change scenario,
those schools will need air conditioning over their design life.
So, their carbon emissions will go up over their design life,
not down. There has not been clarity of requirements coming out
to allow somebody to say, "Actually, that works and that
Q479 Chairman: How many schools are
in the first wave? Does anyone know? I do not think we have had
that evidence given, have we?
Mr Terry: There is evidence that
has been talked about here regarding the time envelope, actually
doing the research. There is evidence in the States that shows
that naturally ventilated buildings improves student performance,
so it should be one of the strict criteria that says that is what
you build. However, if we are building schools which have to be
sealed because of the criteria and therefore have to have air
conditioning and part of that is that we are putting a lot of
money into ICT but that generates heat in itself and increases
the amount of energy use that has been... There needs to be a
much clearer image of what we are trying to achieve in terms of
sustainability built into the process and I do not think that
it exists at the moment.