Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 520-539)



  Q520  Stephen Williams: What sort of message does it send out to children and parents who go to a "pass" school under BREEAM as opposed to an "excellent" school?

  Mr Yates: None of the BSF schools should be "pass" because the requirement is for a "very good".

  Q521  Stephen Williams: The requirement is for "very good", so you would not expect any to be "pass"?

  Mr Yates: You should not. I think it is fair to say that there are probably some at the moment because of the issues that we have talked about in terms of the speed of procurement in the first round. The issues that needed to be considered have not been considered early enough in the process. There are some at the moment. I am aware of one that has gone through certification and has achieved a "pass", there is another one that has achieved a "good" and there is one that has achieved a "very good". Those are the three that have completed the process at the moment.

  Q522  Stephen Williams: So in the first wave there will be schools below "very good"?

  Mr Yates: There will be, and the important thing is to learn the lessons from that first round so that we do not find ourselves in that position in later rounds, it seems to me.

  Q523  Stephen Williams: At the design stage when all these measurements are being assessed, are you aware of any areas where it might have led to a school being rated at "excellent" or "very good" but, because of the expense issue, have been squeezed out of the design process which has led to the school going down to "very good", for instance?

  Mr Yates: I am not personally aware of that. We would not have that information because we are not involved in the detailed assessment itself, so we are not in discussion with design teams.

  Q524  Stephen Williams: Chairman, are any of the witnesses aware of schools at the design stage being squeezed out because of cost or budget?

  Mr Mayfield: Yes, all the time. I think it is also worth saying that the problem with BREEAM is that BREEAM's "very good" is not very good at all. I am not having a go at the standard, it is just that people think, "If I am doing BREEAM "excellent" then I am doing really well", when the reality is that you are doing really badly.

  Q525  Stephen Williams: Even if you are excellent you are doing badly?

  Mr Mayfield: Yes.

  Stephen Williams: You need to expand on that?

  Q526  Chairman: You are saying BREEAM is useless then.

  Mr Mayfield: No, I am saying that BREEAM as a process is a useful tool kit. I am just saying that the data that are set within there, compared with where we need to be sustainable, it is not even nibbling away at the edges, well, it is nibbling away at the edges.

  Mr Yates: It comes down to the initial point that was being discussed, which is how we define a sustainable school, does it not, and the balance between the environmental impact of that building and the impact in terms of cost, particularly because we are about cost. The parameter that was used in terms of setting the different rating thresholds did have a cost element to it, so the very good rating is set at a level. I have got a cost study in front of me carried out by Faithful and Gould on the cost of compliance with BREEAM standards. The "very good" level, the additional cost is somewhere in the region of 3% on the capital cost of a new school; to achieve the "excellent" standard it jumps to 10%. So, as you get to higher levels there is a significant cost implication and, therefore, in a programme like BSF there are implications in terms of deliverables.

  Q527  Chairman: What does BREEAM stand for?

  Mr Yates: It is the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method.

  Q528  Chairman: You are saying, Martin, that is not good enough. We need a different kitemark, a kitemark that says: "This is sustainable."

  Mr Mayfield: Yes; absolutely.

  Q529  Chairman: Could that be devised?

  Mr Mayfield: Yes. There is enough consensus. There is always debate about whether it is 20% of where we are today, or 15%, or whatever, but there is enough consensus on where it is to be able to develop that standard, yes.

  Q530  Fiona Mactaggart: How big is BSF as a client in terms of construction in Britain today? How does it compare with Tesco or whoever does other buildings? How big is it?

  Mr Mayfield: It is in the top three.

  Q531  Fiona Mactaggart: It is in the top three. What I am hearing from you is that you have got stupid clients really. You are saying it nicely, but basically you are saying that the clients, "Don't know nothing." You are saying that one of the top three construction programmes in the country has not got properly trained clients. I would like to hear from Martin what the difference is between these clients and their competitors in terms of the other two in the top three. What is the difference?

  Mr Mayfield: These clients hold the kids that are going to have to deal with this issue in the next 30, 40 years.

  Q532  Fiona Mactaggart: I understand that, but I do not want the politician's answer, I want the company answer. What I want to know is how differently a property developer or someone who deals with property portfolios (Tesco or whoever) deals with this?

  Mr Mayfield: I would say that the major commercial clients are financially driven. What we are seeing in those markets is a shift. The bigger developers are actually seeing this as an issue because of its impact on their stock market value and are starting to move towards it. We are now seeing developers wanting to engage much more positively and wanting to understand where this is going to take them, because they see this issue as a risk to their assets and a risk to their future profitability. So, whilst they are coming from a lower datum, they are moving quicker, I would say, than the schools estate currently.

  Q533  Fiona Mactaggart: What kind of tools do they use? Do they use BREEAM as a tool or do they have other tools to assess what you do?

  Mr Mayfield: There are a variety of tools and benchmarking mechanisms. I think BREEAM is a reasonable tool. It comes back, quite simply, to setting the data at the right level.

  Q534  Fiona Mactaggart: Are there examples? What you are saying is that public procurement, in terms of the value that it puts on sustainability, has started at a slightly higher basis than private procurement, but private procurement is moving in that direction and probably moving faster than public procurement. Is that what you are saying?

  Mr Mayfield: I would say that is correct.

  Q535  Fiona Mactaggart: Are there other tools that these private procurers are using other than BREEAM which are cleverer, more subtle, which are part of this faster movement?

  Mr Mayfield: Yes, we have our own sustainability tool, so there are a number of tools out there, and they all try to address the same issues, some more broadly and some more specifically. I do not think the tools are necessarily the issue. It is the setting of the datum and where we are trying to get to. Others do use BREEAM, others use other tools. I do not think the type of tool is the issue.

  Q536  Fiona Mactaggart: So it is not the type of tool, it is the standards inside it?

  Mr Mayfield: Yes.

  Q537  Fiona Mactaggart: In effect, what we are hearing is that, even if we set the BSF standard at "excellent", that would not be high enough?

  Mr Mayfield: Absolutely, yes.

  Mr Yates: If your aim is to achieve a real step-change in terms of environmental performance of schools and move towards a more carbon-neutral situation in terms of new school building, then that is absolutely right, but the framework works for those sorts of standards.

  Q538  Fiona Mactaggart: Is BSF actually helping to change costs of things? If we are the biggest client, is it actually shifting costs? It seems to me that the biggest clients should be the market-maker, and I am not hearing that BSF is being a market-maker at the moment.

  Mr Mayfield: I think there is sporadic evidence. There are one or two schemes which are better and they have won because they were better solutions in sustainable design terms, but there is not an overriding shift at the moment.

  Q539  Fiona Mactaggart: Is that because we are not learning the lessons of the best clients within it?

  Mr Mayfield: Yes, I think we are not being clear on what the hierarchy of needs are within that.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 9 August 2007