CIBSE's forthcoming Sustainability Guide calls for environmental and energy issues to be addressed right at the outset of projects, in the planning stages, delivering a major element of recent consultation papers from the DCLG:

'Building a Greener Future: Towards Zero Carbon Development' and 'Planning Policy Statement: Planning and Climate Change', released by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), acknowledge the challenge faced by the government in reducing energy use and represent an opportunity for energy issues to be at the forefront of project planning.

This push for a greater emphasis on the energy and environmental impact of buildings underlines the message contained in The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers' (CIBSE's) new Sustainability Guide. Due to be published in April, Guide L: Sustainability is one of the most important and far reaching Guides to be produced by the Institution. It offers information on sustainable engineering solutions, specific technologies and a database of engineering good practice. It explains the role that building services engineers have in minimising a building's environmental footprint and the problems that arise if sustainability measures are added once a project has already begun.

Details still need agreement: CIBSE supports the continued government commitment to addressing this important challenge. But some details still need to be agreed. In particular the proposed definitions of 'zero carbon', as mentioned in Ruth Kelly's announcement of the Carbon Challenge earlier this year, and 'dwellings' need to be clarified. Also, the need to use on-site renewable technologies should be appropriate and applied with discretion rather than as a statutory requirement. By responding to these comments, and by listening to other stakeholders too, the government has an excellent opportunity to change forever the carbon impact of new housing in England and Wales.