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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 January 2008, 09:33 GMT
Whitehall not green enough - MPs
Thermal image of a government building (Image: IRT Surveys)
MPs say Whitehall buildings should be more green-friendly.
Government departments are "taking a cavalier approach" to the environmental impact of building projects, an influential group of MPs has claimed.

Assessments are carried out in only a third of new constructions and 18% of major refurbishments. Fewer than one in 10 meet environmental standards.

The public accounts committee said this undermined efforts to get voters to accept the threat of climate change.

MP Edward Leigh said: "The government should practice what it preaches."

The committee blamed pressure to achieve short-term cuts for the failure to look at the longer-term savings of making buildings more environmentally friendly.


However, the MPs' report found some successes, such as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which had a 100% "excellent" rating.

It also praised the increased use of recycled materials in the upgrading of accommodation for the armed forces.

The message must be driven home that sustainability can and should deliver better value for money over the whole lifetime of a building
Edward Leigh
PAC chairman

But Mr Leigh, the committee's Tory chairman, said the government was "a long way off" meeting its own targets and standards for new buildings and refurbishments, which cost 3bn a year.

"The picture is not all bad - with a fifth of new builds examined by the National Audit Office achieving an excellent environmental rating," he said.

"But departments in general are clearly taking a cavalier approach to the sustainability of their new buildings.

"It goes without saying that the systems for monitoring compliance with environmental standards are poor and that there is no overall responsibility for making sure that fine words about greener government buildings are translated into action.

"The government must practice what it preaches and set an example for others to follow.

"The message must be driven home that sustainability can and should deliver better value for money over the whole lifetime of a building.

"I welcome action by the Treasury to simplify the mechanisms for estimating the cost of a building over the whole of its life. It now needs to make sure that departments use them."

Ministers 'should lead way'

A government spokesman noted the committee's report and welcomed its findings.

"The government is fully committed to delivering on its sustainability agenda and demonstrating best practice," he said.

"Performance monitoring is key in building on the existing good work in this area and there has already been active engagement by departments in the Office of Government Commerce's Property Benchmarking Service, which will be compulsory from April this year."

But Steve Webb, the Lib Dems environment spokesman said the government "cannot pretend it is serious about climate change when even its own new buildings do not meet basic sustainability standards".

"Ministers must put their own house in order," he said.

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