Friday, 20 November 2009

Sustainability consultants need a professional body to maintain quality and credibility

The green industry needs a professional body like the RICS or RIBA to champion quality and consistency. Otherwise, sustainability risked being viewed as an “alternative medicine”, not a mainstream practice.
New effort is required to set and maintain standards within the field of sustainability consultancy. There are many people who call themselves sustainability consultants [or green building specialists]. If the field is going to have credibility, there must be a professional code of conduct. The main concern is whether sustainability consultants are staying true to the principles that underpin the field.
A structural engineer knows that whatever your client asks of you, the building she designs has to “stand up” The question is, If you are a sustainability consultant, are you doing your job properly if you fail to address global environmental issues?
Clients are being charged anything from £200 to £20,000 for similar work, and the price they pay does not always reflect the quality of the output.
To ensure standards are acceptable one would like to see mechanisms introduced and, possibly, an organisation founded, that would work to ensure that the credibility of sustainability consultancy is protected and enhanced. Universities all across UK are churning out students with a raft of sustainability-related qualifications, but there is no consensus on the principles of sustainability and no standardisation of the way sustainability consultancy is practised.

A lot of people believe that in the long term, we must educate the industry so that Sustainability Consultants are no longer needed. Although I agree that this needs to happen, in my view, we may still need the specialization of sustainability services just like the industry needs to appreciate cost in buildings, but still need the services of a quantity surveyor [cost consultant].

1 comment:

Nick Grant said...

Hi Prashant

Very interesting and I agree re the witchdoctor label. However I'm not sure that prof' body is the answer.

I am sure there are plenty of cowboys out there but, as you probably know, I'd use the snake oil label for mainstream CSH (and probably BREEAM if I knew more about it)!

And today I met someone who had renovated some extensive buildings at great expense 'to a very high standard' using multifoil insulation! The witch doctors in this case were one of the largest M&E consultants who I am sure would be founding members of any such proposed professional body.

What we need is more rigour and peer review. Unfortunately what we have is opinion and stakeholder consultations, the antithesis of scientific method.

On a related note, there was an interesting paper at the 12th International Passivhaus conference by Engineer, Architect Gerrit Horn. He reported that 'Building owners who are only told that they need to fulfil the EnEV standard (Building Regs) can actually sue designers if they find out too late that they could have built much more efficiently'

Great subject for debate.