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BRE wins software contract

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The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has awarded the long-delayed contract to develop software for calculating the thermal performance of buildings, after com-ing under sustained pressure from industry. But concern remains over whether it will be ready in time for a January 2006 deadline.

Members of the ODPM Industry Advisory Group, on which the Steel Construction Institute (SCI) is represented, used a December meet-ing to make the growing urgency of the situation clear to ministers. BRE now has the task of producing a beta version for testing by March.

The new software is needed to comply with the European Performance in Buildings Directive, which comes into force next January. The directive requires calculations on heating and insulation for non-domestic buildings to be carried out using a ‘whole building’ approach. Previously the U-value of each element was considered separately.

Construction Products Association Industry Affairs Director John Tebbit, who is also represented on the advisory group, said: “There was concern from us and others that ODPM didn’t recognise the urgency of getting the National Calculation Tool for the non-domestic side developed. We needed to get our hands on the software earlier than they realised.”

The question is now whether the timetable is realistic.

Mr Tebbit said: “I’m not an IT expert but based on experience of government IT projects the omens are not good.”. But he added: “Some work from previous projects covers a chunk of it so they’re not starting from scratch. “

Following release of the beta version it will be distributed to industry practitioners for six months of testing in real-world conditions.

If the testing does not raise major problems, the ODPM hopes to be able to make an announcement in the autumn on the final form of the software, while BRE would have three months to iron out bugs.

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