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This section of the dissertation seeks to appraise the prominent points of the literature review with a purpose of investigating the techniques of sustainable school construction from site assessment and selection through to sustainable construction materials and energy efficient service installations. A lot of standard sustainable development literature is relevant to the sustainable schools theme, and the author will integrate this information alongside specific school construction data to carry out a comprehensive literature review.
"Sustainable Development is development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"
As a result of the Kyoto protocol released in March 1998, successive UK governments have been drawing up proposals and implementing legislation to ensure the human actions likely responsible for most of the observed increase in global mean temperature are, as much as reasonably practical, eradicated.
The Strategic Forum for Construction have identified that the construction industry produces an output worth over £100bn a year. It accounts for 8% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides employment for around 3 million workers. The public sector is a major client of the industry and is responsible for directly procuring about a third of all construction.
The output of the construction industry has a major impact on any ability to maintain a sustainable economy overall and has a major impact on the environment. For the UK to meet its Kyoto commitments, it must dramatically reduce the environmental impact of new and existing building works.
The construction industry has been therefore identified as a major contributor to the environmental dilemma and has been proved directly and indirectly accountable for 50% of the total emissions of CO2, over 25% of all landfill waste and 90% of all surface mineral extraction
It is therefore the UK construction industry itself that provides the greatest potential and necessity for change and improvement.
By 2020 the UK Government would like all school buildings - old and new - to make visible use of sustainable design features and, as opportunities arise, to choose building technologies, interior furnishings and equipment with a low impact on the environment. They would also like all schools to develop their grounds in ways that help pupils learn about the natural world and sustainable living. Schools have a special role to play - as centres of education; they can enlighten pupils to our impact on the planet, and become places where sustainable living and working is demonstrated to young people and the community.
Sustainable construction has been a prevailing topic in the last decade and there has been a multitude of theoretical techniques and products available to uphold environmentally-friendly construction methods. Schools will be also looking at these developments from a financial viewpoint such as increasing profitability by using resources more efficiently, and enhancing their reputation as a socially responsible organisation.
Among the relevant models for this research which specialise in sustainable school construction include Gelfand (2010), Ford (2007), GAIA (2005), and DfES (2006). Other appropriate sustainable construction documents include Halliday (2008), Mumovic and Santamouris (2009), Tucker (2010) and Spence and Kultermann (2011).
Gelfand (2010) argues that sustainable school construction will result in a clear demonstration of environmental stewardship in schools, where children appreciate their role within society, especially regarding their moral obligations to the environment. She also states higher test scores, lower operating costs, increased student attendance, enhanced teacher performance/satisfaction, and increased building life will be additional benefits of constructing sustainable schools.
Sustainable School Site Selection Practices
One of the initial aspects of sustainable school construction will involve selection and assessment of potential sites. Sites can be categorised as greenfield or brownfield and there are possibilities to promote sustainable practices depending on the potential site type.
Brownfield sites are defined in the UK as previously developed areas of land. The land may have been previously used for commercial/industrial purposes and may now lie derelict. The ground itself may also be contaminated via previous industrial processes causing low levels of hazardous waste and pollutants within the ground, leaving it in need of remediation before any future development
The UK is committed to developing brownfield sites as a priority. It has already exceeded its 2008 target of building over 60% of new houses on brownfield sites, and aims to significantly grow this percentage over the next decade. (Sustainable Build 2006)
All brownfield sites will require assessment by an experienced environmental consultant before redevelopment can commence. An analysis of the soil, groundwater and surface water will be mandatory for identification of any hazardous compounds, and ensures that appropriate measures are taken to reduce identified risks and liabilities. Any school development plans must comply with current regulations and special licenses are required to reclaim brownfield sites. If the environmental assessment is positive and supports the redevelopment, the next step is remediation.
Remediation of a brownfield site is the removal of all known contaminants to an acceptable level considered safe for human health. Redevelopment can only take place after all environmental health risks have been assessed and removed. Remediation can be expensive and complex, and this needs to be seriously considered before purchasing brownfield land for the purpose of siting a new school building. Not all sites are deemed suitable for remediation, particularly if the costs exceed the value of the land after development.
The reclamation and reuse of brownfield sites is a core component of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy integrating a wide range of economic, social and environmental objectives. Brownfield redevelopment not only cleans up environmental health hazards and eyesores, but it is also a catalyst for community regeneration, particularly when communities are brought into the consultation process of site identification and restoration. Managed effectively as a sustainable redevelopment scheme, brownfield sites can provide economic school buildings, create opportunities for employment, promote conservation and wildlife, and offer a shared place for play and enjoyment.
Greenfield sites are areas of land, usually amenity or agricultural land, which are being considered for urban development. Selection of greenfield sites is currently contentious, and political, due to a limited amount of physical space available in addition to competing with an expanding population.
Several other problems relating to greenfield development include land which has been converted to development; it is unlikely to ever be converted back to greenfield use, it may more often than not destroy the natural habitat of some animal and plant species, it leads to loss of agricultural land and creates a negative effect upon transport and energy use.
In the spirit of sustainable school construction, development must consider all human and environmental factors, not just consume land and space for a quick solution. A sustainable vision would look at all the options for land use, human population expansion, urban sprawl, economic considerations as well as environmental needs.
The Natural Resources Defence Council advise redeveloping a brownfield site, locating your project in an existing structure or use an in-fill strategy to help limit sprawl and preserve natural land. While there may be extra cleanup and insurance costs associated with building on a contaminated brownfield, many programs now exist to help defray those costs. In addition, redeveloped brownfield sites that are centrally located and offer river views, for example, are available at rates that are significantly below market level and can surge in value once remediated. Spence & Kultermann (2011) agree with this viewpoint in that they recommend the rehabilitation of brownfield sites as a positive alternative to the development of previously untouched land (greenfield sites).
Gelfand (2010) states the sustainable school site is central to the community it serves, is linked to walking and bike friendly routes, will not impair sensitive habitat and should be co-ordinated with existing transportation, water, waste, and energy networks.
Tucker (2010) adds that a study should be carried out to establish whether a new building is needed in the first place as the most sustainable building is one that already exists due to its least impact on resources and land availability. She also concurs with Gelfand (2010) that infrastructure, transportation routes and proximity to urban areas should be considered. She also inputs the merits of brownfield development as prime agricultural/undeveloped land is preserved and existing infrastructure may already be available.
Achieving Sustainable School Site Design to Manipulate Renewable Energy Usage
Architectural planning of a school building should initiate the opportunities for energy efficiency and sustainable practice. Considerations to be taken into account when designing a sustainable school should include orientation, shape, landscaping, and type of drainage. (NRDC, 2005) The school building should be orientated in the design to manipulate solar heat gain according to the building's needs. The building's shape should be designed to optimize availability of sunlight hence reducing electrical lighting overheads. However this must be countered by sensible minimisation of the resulting increase in cooling loads.
A combination of strategies -- such as high-performance windows and planted roofs - can be used to control solar heat gain and loss throughout the school building. Landscaping the building's grounds or roof with native or adapted trees and plants absorbs heat, helping to increase occupant comfort and lower air-conditioning costs by bringing down interior temperatures and providing shade. Green roofs also provide extra insulation in colder weather.
The Natural Resources Defence Council also suggests surrounding a building with permeable pavement, plantings or soil to allow stormwater to seep into the ground instead of washing into sewers. These techniques can cost less than traditional culvert drainage strategies and at the same time reduce pollution runoff.
They advocate the use of grassy channels, known as bioswales, to reduce and slow the flow of stormwater from buildings. Bioswales can help prevent erosion and filter stormwater, keeping harmful pollution, fertilizer and pesticides out of storm sewers. For similar stormwater management results in urban areas, the use of rainwater cisterns, in conjunction with green roofs, can also provide a water source for cooling towers and irrigation. The construction of wetlands and retention ponds lead to improved aesthetics of the school grounds, filter polluted stormwater runoff and reduce the need for storm sewers.
Gelfand (2010) suggests siting new school buildings and grading soil in a method to disturb as little as possible the existing topography and preserving existing trees and streams. She advocates planting more and paving less as to emphasise there is more to sustainability than reducing utility costs namely that school buildings should coexist naturally with native plants and animals. She also appreciates the specifics of adapting building site and form to solar orientation to optimize daylighting, solar heating, or solar heat gain avoidance. She also states that type of climate will justify alternative sustainable building designs - e.g. well insulated multi-storey buildings to resolve extensive heat loss through the roof in cold climates or the construction of pavilion structures within milder climates.
Architecture 2030 (2010) also agrees that the most effective way to improve energy efficiency and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels is through good design. By simply placing a building to take advantage of natural ventilation, passive solar and daylighting strategies, as well as air sealing, proper ventilation, and materials selection, building energy can be reduced by 50 to 80 percent.
Tucker (2010) elaborates on the fact that the more blacktop parking areas or roofs the increase in the median temperature of the area. She lauds the introduction of light coloured surfaces with high solar reflection index (SRI), green roofs, pervious pavement, and reduced impervious hardscaping.
She also puts forward the idea of installation of rainwater harvesting tanks to facilitate irrigation and water supply for toiletry purposes.
Waste Minimisation During Construction
As with all types of sustainable construction, waste minimisation should be a prominent aspect of sustainable school building. This can be achieved two-fold, via intelligent design and on site waste management during the actual construction process.
The Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) (1997) indicates that site waste is often an unnecessary drain on natural resources, highly inefficient when you consider its needless transportation to the site and the environmental problems that arise from the need to dispose of it.
The designer can alleviate wastage for example by planning the installation of more slender sections, thinner slabs and create a lesser requirement on falsework and temporary works. On site minimisation procedures include correct storage of materials to prevent possible damage and subsequent wastage, the reuse of materials for shuttering, boarding and fencing, and the recycling of reusable building materials such as steel. Recycling building materials should be carried out by segregating the materials and storing them separately from other types of waste.
Re-usable materials can include;
Waste concrete as aggregate for new concrete or fill
Blacktop as bulk fill or as bound layer in access roads.
Excavation spoil and stored topsoil for landscaping
Timber for shuttering or chipboard
Metals can be re-cycled by smelting
Clay and Concrete pipes
Block, brick and tiles
Packaging and Plastics
Oils, paints and chemicals
Anink et al (1998) viewpoint states the industry must strive for a high grade re-use of demolition materials. Halliday (2008) shares the relevance of waste minimisation within sustainable construction. She elaborates on 'transport miles' - the distance from the location of material extraction to the site itself and the subsequent pollution generated. She also mentions the nature of packing material which is rarely either biodegradable or safely burned. BRED 447 (2001) explains poor storage and handling of building materials on site is a core reason of material damage, thus resulting in its disposal. They also see wastage occurring during cutting materials to give uneconomical shapes, plant left running when not in use, and plant not employed to its optimum use. Management related wastage results from lack of materials control, wrong decision making, indecision or also poor organisation/leadership e.g. failure to decide and work out a plan for the storage of material resulting in double handling.
Sustainable Building Materials and Construction Operations
An awareness of the impact of specifying materials in the development of school buildings is an essential part of the sustainable design.
According to Sustainable Building Materials (2010), sustainable building materials are more than recycled or reused materials and components. In order to be truly sustainable, the material must be examined from the time it is harvested as a raw material to the time it will need to be disposed of.
When carrying out sustainable construction of schools, price is of course one consideration, but more important is the environmental and health impact of the materials. Energy consumption, waste, emissions, and the resources' ability to renew itself are the most important aspects. The energy consumption of a material during harvesting, transporting, processing, and use are all considered to decide if a material is truly sustainable and therefore suitable in the construction of school buildings.
To carry out a literature review of this area, I will convey the previous research carried out according to each construction feature. Selected literature will state sustainable materials available for specification in relation to: foundations, ground coverings, external sewers and drainage, hard landscaping, landscaping and laying out gardens, floor construction including screeds, internal wall construction, external wall construction, roof construction, external window frames/doors, internal window frames/doors, cladding systems, stairs/balustrades, roof coverings, glazing, thresholds, sealants, plasterwork, tiling, ceilings, finishing woodwork, paintwork, interior fixtures/fittings, wall/floor coverings and gutters/drainpipes.
The BRE document entitled Sustainability in Foundations (2010) states the best practice approach to more sustainable foundations should be based on:
Optimising foundations through good site investigation and avoiding overdesign resulting from lack of knowledge of the ground conditions or soil properties
The consideration of alternative, innovative foundation types such as screw piles and tapered piles
The use of better accuracy in setting out to minimise the size of foundations
The minimisation of the impact of trees on foundations by avoidance or other mitigation such as root barriers
The optimisation of the form of the building (e.g. plan, layout, requirements for stability) to minimise foundations
The reduction or elimination of spoil removal from the site
The use of driven piles or by balancing excavation with areas of fill
Ensuring any material that has to be removed from site is recycled rather than landfilled where possible
The use of foundation testing to enable a reduction in the extent of foundations while maintaining performance
The use of low-embodied-energy, secondary or recycled materials in foundation construction such as cement replacements like pulverised fuel ash or ground granulated blast furnace slag
The reuse of existing foundations
the reduction of load on the foundations through use of lightweight materials in the superstructure, ensuring that the foundations, ground floor slab and structure are designed in an integrated manner to ensure the most sustainable overall result
The reduction of the broader environmental impact of foundation works (i.e. consideration for ecology, habitat disturbance) or reducing impacts on neighbours resulting from construction activities
Anink et al (1996) state that preservation can be avoided if timbers are of a high quality durable wood (properly seasoned, without knots) and a protective finish is applied and well maintained. An acceptable alternative could be in the form of solid borate implants placed at the vulnerable areas of the timber. Borate implants have been used frequently in construction projects on account of their minimal threat to the environment. They hold the belief that timber rarely requires overall treatment nor is it desirable from an environmental viewpoint. In scenarios where overall protection is required, e.g. fences, playground equipment, both Anik et al (1996) and Spence and Kultermann (2011) dismiss the usage of chromated copper arsenate. They conflict over alternative solutions but a notable mention of alkaline copper quat by the latter of the authors is suitable for preserving building frames, playground equipment, posts and decks.
Ground Coverings (Under Suspended Floors)
Polyvinylchloride (PVC) membranes are more often than not used as damp proof membranes. Anik et al (1996) explain that both polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride are formed from petroleum thus rendering them an unsustainable product as extraction/transport of petroleum leads to pollution, especially at sea. Alternatives according to these authors include sea shells, foamed concrete, sand, expanded clay granules. Sand is not mentioned as a first preference due to the damage it can cause to the landscape during extraction.
External Sewers and Drainage
Vitrified clay pipes according to Anik et al (1996) are to be preferred over concrete, PE, PP, and PVC piping. Vitrified clay pipes offer an eco-friendly production process and cause few problems in relation to waste disposal. Because vitrified clay pipes can't be produced in small diameters, polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) are preferred to polyvinylchloride (PVC) pipes due to the material's environmentally-related production and waste problems.
Hard/Semi Hard Landscaping
Anik et al (1996) cites recycled concrete slabs as a first preference for hard landscaping due to its secondary use of raw materials, clay tiles are preferred over asphalt which causes environmental problems due to the extraction of limestone and gravel. Clay tiles are not a primary preference due to high energy output during their manufacturing process.
For semi-hard paving wood chips possess the greenest solution in comparison to sand shells and gravel, although replacement will have to be carried out every four years.
Hedges are mentioned by Anik et al (1996) as a favoured selection due to their contribution to the living environment such as opportunities for nesting, etc. Untreated wood is another alternative garden partition mentioned.
Floor Construction and Screeds
Anik et al (1996) state that tiled floors made of hollow ceramic and concrete elements demand less material and use less energy than a solid concrete floor. Concrete consisting of reclaimed aggregate or limestone are recommended while solid concrete floors without replacement for gravel should be avoided.
Regarding screeds, anhydrite is a plaster mortar which is suitable for the purpose. Anhydrite is a fluid, self levelling and is therefore easily applied compared to sand cement screeds. However phosphogypsum anhydrite is not advised as a sustainable product due to its ability to emit relatively intense radioactive radiation.
Sustainable solutions for insulation according to Anik et al (1996) include mineral wool, cork, cellulous, expanded polystyrene (EPS), foamed glass, and perlite. Polyurethane (PUR) and extruded polystyrene should not be considered due to their composition of (H)CFCs which cause damage to the ozone layer. Some of these materials are renewable, their production requires minimal energy, and as a waste product they easily degrade. They also pose no health risk to occupants compared to other historic insulators. Sustainable Building Materials (2010) elaborate on the choice of cellulous - (bits of recycled paper shredded and sprayed into the walls of the structure). Some boric acid is used to repel pests and moulds but no significant health effects have resulted from this. The paper holds up surprisingly well in damp conditions, and in the unfortunate event of a fire, simply smoulders, giving off fewer toxic fumes than other insulators, and giving you more time to get out of the building. Other eco-friendly options included sheep wool, cotton, and soy based foams.
Internal Wall Construction
Anik et al (1996) lists loam and timber frame construction, sand-lime blocks, cellular concrete blocks, and natural gypsum blocks as suitable materials. Frames/Panels and loam construction are primary choices due to less material is needed for frames in comparison to solid walls, and loam construction is beneficial as it consumes no scarce raw materials, its production process is not harmful and has a very low energy output.
External Wall Construction
Again Anik et al (1996) states loam construction, in addition to sustainable durable wood as a material for external wall construction. Masonry is also mentioned despite having an environmentally unfriendly production process as it is extremely durable and requires virtually no maintenance.
Pitched roof construction is advantageous over flat roofs due to decreased demands on waterproofing. For both roof types durable sustainable wood and softwood rafters and coverings are commended by Anink et al (1996). In terms of roof coverings timber shingles, reed and clay/concrete roof tiles are all approved, especially timber shingles and reed which are renewable sources.
Anink et al (1996) lauds the merits of argon-filled low emmisitivity (LE)-glazing, and air-filled LE-glazing due to their lower u-values than double glazing.
Sustainable Building Materials (2010) explain that sustainable windows can be made from recycled or reclaimed glass. They advise making sure the windows fit securely into the frame, eliminating the possibility of lost heat or air conditioning through cracks.
Anink et al (1996) lists the use of solid natural stone as a first preference material. Ceramic tiles, manufactured stone and synthetic stone are less advantageous due to energy output in production.
Glues, sealants, and paints can all release harmful emissions over time; the solution is to use low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) products (Sustainable Building Materials, 2010). Anink et al (1996) lists coconut fibre, felt and sisal as environmentally friendly produced sealants. They also argue that synthetic rubber seals and silicone have only a limited impact on the environment and can be classed as a sustainable option therefore.
Sustainable paintwork encompasses the potential use of whitewash, mineral paint, and water-based natural stain. Importance should be placed on classifying remnants of water based wall paints as chemical waste on site.
Sustainable solutions include flue-gas gypsum, lime mortar and natural gypsum. Gypsum gained from electricity power plants is preferable to natural gypsum and lime mortar because this gypsum is a by-product. In fact its very recycling prevents the dumping of the material as waste. Lime mortar however also requires little processing, which results in a relatively pollution-free production process. (Anink et al 1996).
Window Frames and Doors
Frames can be made of sustainable materials such as recycled or reclaimed wood, making them as eco-friendly as the window itself. (Sustainable Building Materials, 2010)
Anink et al (1996) concur and give additional options such as aluminium and recycled PVC.
Sustainable durable wood and sustainable plywood are two favoured options according to Anink et al (1996). They are renewable and degrade easily which is favourable in comparison to fibre cement and synthetic resin board. Preservation and paintwork can be avoided if durable timber is selected for use. The use of non-sustainable wood is not recommended on account of the harm it will cause to the ecosystem.
Stairs, Balustrades, Interior Fixtures/Fittings, and Finishing Woodwork
A European softwood staircase is preferable but may disadvantages lay in the chemical content of the bonding material. An alternative to this would be the construction of concrete staircases providing reclaimed aggregate is used. (Anink et al, 1996)
Kitchen cabinets and counters are one of the biggest contributors to poor indoor air quality. (Sustainable Building Materials, 2010) The glues and spray coatings that go into and onto these cabinets and counters often contain known carcinogens. Steel or other metals make good alternatives to the wood cabinets, especially when the metal is recycled. Using low VOC glues and sealants will also help make any school kitchens healthier. Durability is unimportant for internal joinery as the risk of fungal/insect attack is minimal. European softwood is also inexpensive and aesthetically pleasing without the need for additional paintwork.
Gutters and Drainpipes
Anink et al (1996) argues that timber, polyester coated and galvanised steel gutters will not corrode as opposed to zinc and copper. Corrosion of these two metals would in turn contaminate waste water or soil. Polyester is selected as a favoured option due to its decreased cost in comparison to lined timber gutter.
For water contamination reasons again copper is not advised for drainpipe material. Instead polyethylene and polypropylene are cited as having the least pollutant production process.
Sustainable Building Service Installations for School Buildings
Modern buildings rely on heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) to keep the occupants in a state of comfort. A lot of historic HVAC systems left a lot to be desired in terms of their efficiency and proposed school designers in the UK should look towards advancing, environmentally friendlier, HVAC technologies.
Running water within buildings is a service that is often taken for granted by its occupants and sustainable innovations should be incorporated into the design to educate school children that water too, is a finite resource.
Rainwater harvesting tanks are such an example. Rain water is collected and used within the building and its grounds for non-potable purposes like irrigation or toiletry purposes.
Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning
Gelfand (2010) lists advantages of a centralised HVAC system, a relevant point she makes in terms of sustainability is that moving heating or cooling energy through pipe work takes less energy than required by ducts.
Mumovic and Santamouris (2009) state that a sustainable cooling strategy should reduce heat gains, use direct/indirect ventilation cooling, use cooling energy from renewable sources, analyse free cooling options, and implement sustainable distribution systems. Both Mumovic and Santamouris (2009) and Gelfand (2010) see an appropriate solution in the form of chilled beam installation, not to mention intelligent design to manipulate natural ventilation.
GAIA (2005) states that the first choice for ventilation should always be to adopt a passive approach. Passive ventilation according to GAIA has a number of sustainable advantages;
It reduces the scale of the mechanical and electrical installation required and associated capital cost.
At 5 - 15% of overall running costs, fan power is a major contributory factor in the overall energy consumption of a building. The avoidance of mechanical ventilation systems will therefore have a significant impact on these costs, as well as on the CO2 emissions associated with energy consumption.
Passive ventilation reduces maintenance requirements.
Passive systems are generally simpler, easier to understand and therefore controllable by occupants, who have been shown to experience greater satisfaction if they can control their environment themselves.
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