Learning the lessons on green education

7 April 2010

Institutions are only gradually addressing the gap in sustainable learning. Katie Puckett reports

Buildings are getting more complex, regulations are tighter, and it’s increasingly down to the contractor to deliver a client’s green ambitions.

But when February’s CM asked readers whether there were adequate “green” training opportunities available to them, 74% said no.

Last month, Paul Morrell’s Low Carbon Construction Innovation and Growth team highlighted the need to “up-skill existing practitioners” and promised to engage with ContructionSkills, the CIC and others to address the skills gaps. The team is likely to find that while there is plenty of CPD training on technical systems, there is very little for experienced construction managers who cannot take a career break to study for a Masters.

A year ago, the UK Green Building Council started a similar investigation. Its Sustainable Training and Education Programme (STEP) task group discovered that while course providers had piled into the market, the quality of what they offered was often poor. In a survey of more than 500 people in construction, two-thirds expressed dissatisfaction with the courses they had attended. “A lot of providers are just putting ‘green’ in front of the title of the course and hoodwinking punters into thinking that it is sustainability,” says Chad Harrell, operations director at the UKGBC.

According to Harrell, the industry already possesses the technical skills to deliver sustainable buildings – what’s missing is the bigger picture. “People talk about sustainability as if the skills needed are new, but really the core competencies and skills are there today in the industry. What’s missing is a common understanding of sustainability and its implications throughout the supply chain,” he says.

Sarah Royce, principal consultant of sustainability consultancy and training provider Inbuilt, points out that project managers’ roles are particularly critical on PFI, Building Schools for the Future or LIFT schemes, where contractors are responsible for assembling a consortium and fulfilling the sustainability objectives in the bid.

“Contractors are now having to deliver schemes to BREEAM standards, so they need to be much more aware of the management processes,” says Royce. But while BRE provides technical training for BREEAM assessors, there is no equivalent for project managers. “That’s where there’s a potential gap – you could have the BREEAM assessor saying ‘I need this information’ and if construction managers are not fully aware of the level of detail that is required, they’re going to struggle to deliver the building to more stringent requirements,” adds Royce.

Over time, Harrell says UKGBC hopes to accredit more courses that are providing good training, but in the meantime, it hopes to fill some gaps in training by backing two new courses: a foundation-level course to provide a common language to discuss sustainability, and a more aspirational, academic course to promote leadership skills.

The foundation-level course, developed with the College of Estate Management, is aimed at those who want to better understand what sustainability means for the built environment and how to implement it. It will be delivered online. “It’s about helping people understand the key drivers and benefits of sustainability and getting them to stop using terms like sustainable and green and carbon interchangeably,” explains Harrell.

At the other end of the scale is a leadership programme developed with Cambridge University. Groups of 30 senior executives from across the industry will attend a two-and-a-half-day residential course and then meet regularly to discuss how they’ve been implementing sustainability in their businesses.

“This will help senior people understand why and how they need to make sustainability a core value within their business, and arm them with the tools to do cascade it down the organisation,” says Harrell, who adds that there was considerable interest at its launch at Ecobuild: “So many organisations are begging for this right now.”

Universities have picked up on the demand for sustainability education, but tend to offer intensive masters courses which come with a significant cost and time commitment. However, institutions are beginning to respond to demand for more accessible courses.

Under Reading University’s modular Msc in Project Management, you can study the week-long module Sustainable Design, Construction and Operation as part of your CPD at a cost of £1,050.

Anglia Ruskin University, which already offers a CIOB-accredited MSc in Sustainable Construction, is progressing plans to offer the same material in CPD-sized chunks from September 2010. “Sustainability will be a major influence on everyone’s work, but at the moment there aren’t many places for construction professionals to go,” says Dr Michael Coffey, director of postgraduate studies.

The College of Estate Management has also just begun to offer a 20-week, 65-hour course on Sustainability for Real Estate Investment, originally developed for Legal & General staff, but now adapted for the wider industry. “The course will give a much more thorough understanding of issues such as water and waste management and carbon reduction, as well as time to reflect and digest the information,” say’s CEM’s head of marketing Anna Bishop.

More courses will no doubt be forthcoming – hopefully before the gaps in essential training start to take their toll. After all, as Sarah Royce points out: “Unless there’s an understanding of the demands of sustainability at management level, even if you have the technical skills there’s a good chance it’s going to fail.”

Back to basics: Bribery bill

The new Act, expected to take effect before the Election, will change corporate culture and raise standards
of business behaviour in international markets. The risk of prosecution will be greater as will the risk of being convicted following prosecution.

To avoid up to 10 years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine (for individuals) or an unlimited fine and a civil recovery order (for companies), corporate organisations will need to review their anti-bribery policies and procedures, create an ethics code and introduce effective training for all staff likely to be exposed to corrupt business practice. The delivery of the training will need to be monitored, and online compliance tools may become effective protection.

If processes and procedures are not “adequate” and individuals engage in corruption, the company itself will become liable to prosecution.

On conviction, the profits derived from contracts procured through corrupt payments will be treated as the proceeds of crime and confiscated, and a hefty fine levied.

The new law will introduce a specific offence of bribing a foreign public official. Although corrupt activity carried out overseas has, since 2001, been liable to prosecution in the UK, the new law will toughen the jurisdictional provisions. Turning a blind eye to corrupt public procurement activity carried out through overseas offices, subsidiaries or agents now constitutes a real risk for the company.

Many sectors are drawing up voluntary guidelines and these, along with the official guidelines (when published) and the advice of the company’s lawyers and auditors should be followed and compliance documented.

By Mark Surguy, legal director of law firm Pinsent Masons



Sheffield Hallam University is offering a MSc in Low and Zero Carbon, it is delivered as single CPD days followed up by additional support and assessment. The market is professionals who want to know more on this increasingly important area but who can not afford to take days or weeks at a time to attend delivery. For more info send email to [email protected]

Neil Hanney, 9 April 2010

I wish to know the details about low carbon M.Sc course

K.A.Munasinghe, 14 May 2010

I will like to be updated on green building and low carbon.

Adelaja Abidemi, 24 May 2010

The Green Register is a not-for-profit organisation that has been promoting sustainable building practices since 2000. It runs a annual programme of training events across the UK and has grown to 600 members from all disciplines of the industry. TGR consistently receives excellent feedback and its disappointing that this article doesn't reflect the hard work and dedication that is already in place.

Mel Woodland, 14 June 2010

As the Director of The Green Register it is worth pointing out that The Green Register's courses were in fact one of the few that were identified by the UK-GBC's Task Force as being of high quality. The Green Register has been running high quality, low cost, independant training for construction professionals for the last ten years, well before the bandwagon was created.

Lucy Pedler, 14 June 2010

I really like this programme on sustainable building practices and I would be grateful if they can be sending me any reaserch report that they have made.

Thank you

Samuel Kudjoe Donkor

Student: From CEM reading university UK

Student: 0802611/1

samuel kudjoe donkor, 10 August 2010

Leave a comment