Construction is the great enabler for the Welsh economy, but whatever is built, must be delivered sustainably. That means the construction industry, its clients and supply chain, must change if it is to deliver a built environment fit for future generations. Failure to adapt is not an option. It’s why construction must adhere to the targets and goals set out by the Well-being Future Generations Act (Wales). Constructing Excellence in Wales, together with the industry, is leading the campaign to bring about real change alongside the office of the Future Generations Commissioner to make sure we create a built environment fit for future generations.
Everyone involved in construction needs to understand how everything they do is connected to the WFG Act and achievement of the seven well-being goals outlined in the legislation: Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 (WFG Act) [embed link to WFG web site]. Through the building of homes, schools, hospitals and infrastructure, the industry has a huge impact on every aspect of people’s lives. That means construction has no choice but to align itself with the objectives of the Act. If we are to play our part in making Wales a world-class economy with a sustainable built environment, it’s our legal, moral and ethical duty to do it.
We have published Constructing for Future Generations [embed link to the PDF document] as a statement of intent. Published in association with the office of the Future Generations Commissioner (OFG), it’s a first step. A line in the sand. CE Wales is the only organisation able to pull all elements of Welsh construction together to embrace and deliver the government’s goals as defined by the Act. Following a series of workshops and a conference in January 2019, we have begun our journey towards Construction for Future Generations. We’ll update you via our website and a series of specific CE Wales Future Generations publications and conferences.
What can you do? Read the PDF [embed link to the PDF document]. Share it. Commit to nurturing our planet and ensuring that our people and communities can flourish. Then, if you want to help shape the vision for our industry and create a Wales fit for future generations [embed link to the WFG web site], join us. Think about it.
What have we done – get involved
Towards the end of January 2019, CE Wales held a major event in partnership with the Future Generations Wales team. We asked: what does the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) mean for the construction sector?
The conference, along with events involving stakeholders and professionals across Wales, allowed CE Wales to engage with almost 300 stakeholders and reach out to a further 130 organisations. Delegates assessed the implications of the legislation for our industry and how we can deliver “well-connected environments for everyone in Wales that improves our lives and health and enhances our well-being”, in the words of Lesley Griffiths AM, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs.
One clear message emerged: the industry already has the tools to align procurement and delivery with the principles of the WFG Act. What is needed now is action.
During the workshops, participants developed ideas for construction well-being objectives that support the seven well-being goals. There were proposals to improve sustainability by capping the CO2 footprint of materials and processes, make greater use of local resources, and incorporate sustainable transport in schemes to reduce car use. Local government planning policy should incentivise sustainable development, encouraging green connectivity and infrastructure.
Designs should be more people-centric, promoting physical and psychological well-being, and serving the broader social needs of the community where possible. Procurement teams should be encouraged to focus on value and whole-life societal cost rather than short-term cost.
Delegates felt the industry could do more to provide employment, training and upskilling opportunities, equipping Welsh people with the skills they need to thrive in a changing world. Employers could improve inclusivity and fairness in their workforces by, for example, acting to close the gender gap.
Many of these proposals chime with existing targets for CE Wales. Best practice is promoted in procurement processes to improve project delivery and shift the focus to value; there is a strong push for sustainable practice, such as better waste management; and commitment to social value and community benefits is becoming the norm.
The future blog
In the first comment piece covering this major issue for Welsh construction, Paul C Maliphant of Mott MacDonald sets the scene we must deal with.
“The enormity of the problem [climate change] has only just dawned on quite a lot of people ... Unless we sort ourselves out in the next decade or, so we are dooming our children and our grandchildren to an appalling future.” Sir David Attenborough, World Economic Forum (WEF), Davos, Switzerland January 2019.
“More than one in five people in Wales (23% of the population) currently live in poverty, which is the highest level of all UK nations. This means that 710,000 people in Wales live below the poverty line, including 185,000 children, 405,000 working-age adults and 120,000 pensioners.” Poverty in Wales: are we getting the full picture? Senedd Research, March 2018
These two quotes put the results of current human activity into sharp perspective. How we live, how we behave has created a new geological era. Yet the worst effects of climate change can be averted. We have created a society of significant inequality not just between nations but even within the borders of those relatively rich nations such as Wales. But we can change.
It is within our capabilities to make the world a better place for everyone – the ambition at the heart of the WFG Act. What’s the role of the various elements of the built environment sector? Can the construction sector in Wales solve these problems?
We can make a significant contribution both by responding to the issues and by showing leadership for others to follow. The built environment is only created to support communities to thrive. It can be created and maintained for the benefit of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This requires a shift in attitudes, behaviours.
We have two driving forces that should inform all our activities:
- To positively respond to the impact that humanity is having on earth, ocean and atmospheric processes and the planets ability to sustain resources and species for future generations; and
- To maximise societal, community and individual economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being.
These two imperatives positively inform a purpose driven definition of ‘construction’ that states not just ‘that we build’, but why we build and how we must build, operate, maintain, reuse, repurpose and ultimately recycle the built environment. The construction and built environment sector in Wales must fully adopt the principles of the circular economy. It must change the way it plans, procures, delivers and maintains built environment schemes to deliver enhanced value by contributing to achievement of the Well-being Goals presented within the WFG Act. Collectively we must also ensure that people are fully empowered to drive the changes that are required.
Our moral compass points us in the direction of beneficial change. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals support our understanding of what those changes can and should achieve. The Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015 provides a legal imperative to change not just to those public bodies named within the Act but now indirectly to all those that require planning consent. Planning Policy Wales edition 10 published in December 2018 “embeds the spirit of the Well-being of Future Generations Act, through moving us towards a low carbon, resilient society, of providing secure and well-paid jobs, and of building well-connected environments for everyone in Wales that improves our lives and health and enhances our well-being” (Extract for the Foreword to Planning Policy Wales Edition 10 December 2018 by Lesley Griffiths AM: Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs).
To maximise the Welsh construction and built environment sectors contribution to adding value for both current and future generations we must act as if we were a named body under the Act and carry out sustainable development by:
- setting and publishing objectives (“construction and built environment well-being objectives”) that are designed to maximise the sector’s contribution to achieving each of the well-being goals; and
- take all reasonable steps to meet those objectives.
Constructing Excellence in Wales in conjunction with the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales will lead the campaign to champion the industry’s role in creating a built environment in Wales that is fit for the future. Every part of the construction supply chain is invited to be involved, to collaborate in an integrated manner, to always think about the long term to prevent problems occurring or getting worse. The journey has started and cannot be delayed. Help us define essential and beneficial changes to how the sector works, embrace those changes and empower your people to make it happen. Be part of the driving force behind Construction for Future Generations.
What’s happening now
It is within the industry’s capabilities to make the world a better place for everyone, just as the WFG Act intends. CE Wales will:
- Embark on a communications campaign to educate and inform everyone involved in construction and the property sector in Wales. This will include the supply chain, public sector clients and representative groups, as well as private sector organisations.
- Establish a construction industry benchmark by mapping the seven WFG Act well-being goals against each of the nine stages in the RIBA plan of work.
- Test the seven WFG Act well-being objectives against the UKGBC’s advice on circular economy principles.
- Reinvigorate the best practice principles championed by CE Wales and defined by the Egan and Latham reports, and align them with the principles of a circular economy and the aims of the WFG Act.
- Embed a dedicated built environment strategy within the work of the office of the Future Generations Commissioner, as if construction were a named body under the Act.
We strongly recommend that all parts of the industry commit to the principles of the WFG Act. We are currently seeking new and existing CE Wales members to volunteer to assist with research, our communication campaigns, events, seminars and conferences to drive the necessary change.