Tax incentives required to produce ‘green’ buildings in UK

Copyright: David Lawson– Property Week 1999

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Tougher laws or tax incentives could be necessary before the property industry moves significantly towards producing greener buildings. This was the message by leading professionals who effectively snubbed a challenge last week by environment Minister Michael Meacher to  take responsibility for  sustainable construction.

  'No-one will act on their own because they would be priced out of the market,' Paul Morrell of quantity surveyor Davis Langdon & Everest told a packed British Council for Offices conference on the 'greening' of commercial property. Even enthusiasts breathed an air of cynicism over the gathering, co-sponsored by Property Week, and called to help redraft the BCO Practice Guide in line with warnings about global warming.

 'Changes are likely to need legislation,' agreed  Julian Barwick, deputy managing director of Development Securities, which has just launched the Cambourne Business Park near Cambridge as a green community. Trevor Silver, development director  of Akeler Developments,  pointed out that pioneering energy-efficient schemes like the Solar Building on Teesside were only possible by European Community grants.

 Earlier, Meacher had called on the industry to 'take responsibility for sustainability' rather than pass the blame to builders. He hinted that controls might be imposed otherwise. Silver suggested carrots would be just as effective as a stick.

 'The government says it is committed to cutting CO2 emissions by 20% but provides no money,' he said.  He suggested  tax credits for  efficient buildings and penalties for those which cannot match modern standards.

  A hard-headed agent's view was injected by  Alistair Elliott of Knight Frank, who pointed out that occupiers rather than developers decided whether to choose energy-efficiency. 'You cannot dictate what space they use,' he warned.

  Change was inevitable and a survey of leading firms in the Thames Valley showed they favoured green buildings, he said. 'But there is still a long way to go to reach the right solution.'

Increasing environmental awareness among occupiers and government pressures will  have a major impact on the property industry, according to veteran forecaster Prof David Cadman, head of the consultant Environmental Governance.

 Buildings will  be the centre of attention  because they consume half the country's energy.  Potential energy taxes would hit rents while traffic controls would impact on locations. Questions needed answering on the vulnerability of investment portfolios.

 'A shift in occupier preference back to town centres or locations better served by public transport would mean significant shifts in value and the possibility that investments may fail to achieve projected returns,' he said.

 'We must find common ground between developers, investors and occupiers. The BCO could play a major role but only you can decide whether to take on the challenge or wait until we are pushed.'


'We lag far behind Europe in financial stimulus or incentives' - Tim Battle, conference chairman - Rybka Battle

'We have to break the vicious circle where the property industry blames the supplier' - Michael Meacher - environment minister

'Only 25% of people told the Building Research Establishment they looked at life-cycle costs' - Paul Morrell, Davis Langdon & Everest

'I am sorry there are so few agents, occupiers and investors here today. This gives an idea of the challenge we are facing.' - Alistair Elliott - Knight Frank