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Environmental Building Standards

Volume 455: debated on Tuesday 16 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps the Government are taking to promote higher environmental building standards in publicly funded buildings in Northern Ireland. (110291)

The Government’s vision is to see improved standards of building in Northern Ireland which will lead to a reduction in greenhouse gases by encouraging energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewable energy technologies. An amendment to the relevant part of the Northern Ireland Building Regulations came into operation on 30 November requiring all building, whether public or private, to demonstrate improved energy performance and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. These requirements, which are continually under review, will be enhanced by implementing provisions of the EU Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings, which, under new regulations to be introduced next year to promote greater awareness of energy performance, will require the production of an energy performance certificate whenever a building is constructed, sold or rented out.

The Sustainable Development Strategy for Northern Ireland, which the Secretary of State launched in May 2006, requires the Government estate to be carbon neutral by 2015. Progress towards this objective will be supported by the Achieving Excellence in Construction Initiative, which requires procurement and investment decisions to be based on whole lifecycle costing underpinned by sustainability assessments. Further, from 31 March 2007 all Departments and district councils will be under a statutory duty to act in the way best calculated to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development in Northern Ireland.

From 2007-08, part of the Government office estate will be managed by a private sector partner under the Workplace 2010 programme. The contract governing this arrangement will stipulate that the buildings involved must meet appropriate standards of energy and environmental management. This will produce a better use of space and increased energy efficiency, resulting in a significant reduction in our carbon footprint.