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The design, structure and operation of our built environment have additional significant economic effects for example on the rate at which we utilize our resources. Buildings are being held accountable for almost half of the UK and EU carbon emissions, half of our water being consumed, approximately one quarter of all raw materials and one third of landfill waste used in the economy (1). Through its impact on the built environment, construction takes centre stage in our drive to encourage development and sustainable growth.
Joint industry and government strategy
The Strategy for Sustainable Construction will aid in carrying out the aims set out in the UK's Sustainable Development Strategy. It is a joint industry and Government proposal, proposing to encourage leadership and behavioral change, in addition to delivering considerable advantages to both the construction industry and the wider economy.
The Strategy lies in conjunction with a strong business case for the sustainable construction agenda, which is based on:
• Increasing profitability by using alternative resources
• Firms obtaining great opportunities presented by sustainable products or ways of working
• Improving company image and profile in the market place by addressing issues relating to Corporate and Social Responsibility. (2)
To accomplish the Strategy, Government and construction industry have formulated a set of overall targets, which are as follows:
Accomplishing better whole life value, by means of the marketing 'of best construction procurement practice and supply side integration' (3). This can be achieved by encouraging the implementation 'of the Construction Commitments in both the private and public sectors and throughout the supply chain' (3). (4)
The general purpose of a good design is to assurance 'that buildings, public spaces, infrastructure, and places are sustainable, buildable, functional, resource efficient, adaptable and attractive' (3). Good design is no different to sustainable construction.
The main objective is to attain better use of design quality appraisal tools related to buildings, public spaces, infrastructure, and places. (4) (5)
Improve the industry's capacity to innovate and raise the sustainability of the construction process and its ensuing assets. (4)
Climate Change Mitigation
Reduce the overall UK carbon dioxide (Co2) emissions, by 60% in 2050 and at least 26% by 2020. Government has already embarked its strategy 'that new homes will be zero carbon from 2016 respectively an objective that public sector non-domestic buildings and other non-domestic buildings will be zero carbon from 2016, 2018 and 2019' (3) (4).
Climate Change Adaptation
To develop an aggressive approach shared across Government to adapt to climate change. (4)
To contribute to the future water prospects to decrease per capital consumption of water in houses through cost effective measures. The aim will be bring down water levels to an average of 130 liters' per person per day by 2030, or optimistically even 120 litres per person per day assuming that there may be new innovation and technological developments. (4)
The continuation and development of biodiversity within construction sites is considered throughout all phases of a development. (4)
A 50% reduction of construction it is expected that by the year 2012 compared to 2008. This includes demolition and excavation waste to landfill. (4)
The constant increase in demand for greener construction materials is motivating the manufacturing segments to invest and innovate in the expectation of capturing a greater market share as procurers implement sustainable procurement policies. (4)
Studies indicate that by improving product transportation, delivery, storage and handling you can reduce up to 2.5% of a capital project cost and considerably decrease waste and transport carbon emissions. (4)
The Government has already committed to a number of actions in response to the risk of climate change including setting legally binding CO2 reduction targets. These bills include:
The Climate Change Bill- initiating a five-year carbon budgets
Planning White Paper
The Energy White Paper to be taken forward by
The Planning Reform and Energy Bills (6) (7) (8)
The Housing Green Paper Policy package
Planning Policy Statements (PPS) - The PPS Climate Change, as a supplement to PPS1:, which means Delivering Sustainable Development, of particular significance in guarantying that tackling climate change becomes a primary goal of the planning system. (4)
There are also the commitments to Building Regulations including:
The Code for Sustainable Homes: is the national standard for the sustainable plan and construction of new homes that will be energy efficient. Enforced in order to reduce our carbon emissions and generate homes that are more sustainable meeting the objective for 'all new homes to be zero carbon from 2016' (3).
A target to also make all new public division buildings to be zero carbon from 2018.
'All new non-domestic buildings will be zero carbon from 2016' (4).
All new college buildings will be zero carbon by 2016 - declared by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) sponsored Learning and Skills Council. DIUS has that will enable them to launch their Revolving Green Fund - supporting invest-to-save projects to make universities more energy efficient.
The feasibility of these aims is presently being considered and will be subject to discussion in the future. (9)
The most carbon emissions by far are accounted by the built environment and the existing buildings. The greatest prospects for savings will be in this sector. Generally Buildings built before 1985, at the time when energy efficiency was first established to the Regulations are on typically fairly energy inefficient.
Assuming that approximately two thirds 'of the buildings that will be around in 2050 have already been built' (10) so enhancing the energy efficiency of the existing buildings will be a important component in delivering the Government's long term carbon emission reduction targets.
Many of the technologies that are required to make considerable energy savings in the existing buildings are already commercial and widely available. The difficulties for the industry and Government is to establish policies, products and programs that will increase the use of these technologies that will take us on the way to our long term carbon reduction targets.
The Government has acknowledged these difficulties and provided a wide range of supporting policies and programs, which are intended to deal with emissions from the existing buildings.
The policy frameworks comprise of:
The introduction of Energy Performance Certificates
Key programs such as the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) (11)
The introduction of energy efficiency requirements for thermal elements into the Building Regulations (12)
The Energy Saving Trust's Act on CO2 advice line (13)
Whether its manufactured, raw materials or transportation all products applied in the construction industry has environmental impacts. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the BRE Green Guide to Specification deals with Embodied carbon, which supports material manufacturers to lower emissions. As it stands carbon reductions emitted from existing buildings are on course with the 2020 targets and fully recognizes the significance of a strategic approach that continues to deliver results beyond 2020. Government will also carry on looking carefully at what can be achieved to make best use of levers as Energy Performance Certificates to improve the most inefficient homes.