Sustainable Design And The Construction Industry In Sussex Construction Essay

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1. - Introduction

Sustainable Architecture is fast becoming a leading factor when considering the design or implementation of any new development or structure. As more and more research unfolds it is becoming more apparent that something needed to be done to help improve the environment fast growing concerns over the planets destruction. With the help of scientists & product development we are now able to integrate new technologies into designs to help reduce energy consumption within buildings thus reducing CO2 levels therefore helping the environment. My aim is to investigate how the need for sustainable design has affected designers in Mid Sussex, by interviewing local designers, builders & members of the local authority to find out their views on the way in which the need for sustainable design has affected the construction industry.

There are a range of motivations for introducing sustainable technologies into the architects design when we look at the implementation and completion of design projects within the construction industry. These include such things as reducing the footprint of buildings to minimise the amount of development land used, making use of new technologies that will recycle resources or reduce energy / water consumption.

FIG. 1 - Sustainable Design

Reducing the level of pollution and attempting to slow down the consequences of global warming are also factors in the promotion and implementation of sustainable architecture (Kim, Rigdon, & Graves, August 1998). In addition to the above there is also Government legislation relating to the use of sustainable design to reduce the impact construction projects have on the environment. Property developers, designers and construction firms must comply with all regulations outlined by the government and the EU to help protect the environment.comply with measures to protect the environment introduced by the British government and the European Union (Hough, 2004). 

FIG. 2 - Sustainable Design Project

The aim of this paper is to look at the way in which architects have changed the way they design, to find out if they have to work more closely with specialist manufacturers & to find out how they keep up with the latest technologies within the industry. Another aspect I believe is equally important is how to convince a client who has a limited budget they should be using expensive but sustainable technologies. By talking to local practices & from surveys within the community I hope to identify how people feel about the implications of sustainable design & ascertain whether or not the benefits outweigh the negatives.

1.2. - What is Sustainable Architecture

Sustainability and sustainable architecture are often thought of as the same subject however sustainable architecture is very different. The topic of sustainability is so vast it would almost be impossible to have a constructive argument about what it means within this document; therefore I shall be looking at sustainability from an architectural perspective.

Sustainable architecture looks at ways to minimise the negative environmental impact of buildings by enhancing efficiency and moderation in the use of materials, energy & development space but also according to J.F. McLennan the main purpose of sustainable design is to eliminate negative environmental impact completely through skilful design (McLennan, 2004). Sustainable architecture came about from issues largely relating to the demise of the worlds environment & the need to help reduce energy consumption, CO2 emissions, & recycle rather than waste goods to help aid both environmental & political issues around the world. On the whole sustainable architecture aims to reduce / minimise the negative environmental impact of developments by enhancing efficiency of materials & reducing energy consumption. (Doerr, 2010)

It is also believed that when we look at sustainable design in terms of architecture the use of sustainable products should be fully integrated within the design, they are not add-ons or supplements. Thus meaning that many different teams must work closely together from the client, to the product designers through to the architects at all stages of the project from site selection through to project implementation (Stellios, 2006).

The WCED states that sustainable development requires the simultaneous implementation of the following themes; Economic sustainability, Social Sustainability, and Environmental sustainability (Bansal et al, 2004). The loss of one dimension is likely to mean the loss of another. Conversely, environmental and economic gain should also lead to social gain (Henriques, 2001). Society depends upon the resources and life support systems the environment provides. The economy relies on the environment for resources to make products and services for society to purchase (Dunphy et al, 2000).

Fig. 3 - The 3 principles of sustainable development.

2.3 - Sustainable Design Principles

All new homes are awarded measured using a star rating based upon the design stage of the building. The ratings are between 1 & 6 stars and the allocation of star rating is based against the performance of the home in 9 key areas. By combining all these areas it is possible to identify the overall environmental impact of a new proposal. The more stars the building has the better the rating, one star is an entry level rating which would pass building regulations, and six stars is obviously a completely environmentally friendly home.

The sustainability criteria outlined by the government by which new homes are measured are:

Energy and CO2 Emissions - Operational Energy and resulting emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (both of which have minimum standards that must be met at each level of the code)

Water H2O & Surface Water Run-off - The change in surface water run-off patterns as a result of the development- The consumption of potable water from the public supply systems or other ground water resources (each of which have minimum standards to be met at entry level)

Materials - The environmental impact of construction materials for key construction elements(no mandatory minimum standards).

Waste - Waste generated as a result of the construction process and facilities encouraging recycling of domestic waste in the home (no mandatory minimum standards).

Pollution - Pollution resulting from the operation of the dwelling (no mandatory minimum standards).

Health and Well-Being - The effects that the dwelling's design and indoor environment has on its occupants (no mandatory minimum standards).

Management - Steps that have been taken to allow good management of the environmental impacts of the construction and operation of the home (no mandatory minimum standards).

Ecology - The impact of the dwelling on the local ecosystem, bio-diversity and land use (no mandatory minimum standards).

The Pressures & incentives to sustainable design in Sussex

Many mainstream methods of sustainable construction can easily be implemented within the design process and the construction of new building projects and in some cases existing buildings. As outlined above there are different tiers of sustainable design many of which can be adhered to by the use of specific materials that can be obtained from recycled / renewable resources. By implementing these technologies to make the proposed design as sustainable as possible during construction will help achieve the objectives of those that argue for the implementation of sustainable architecture. As well as this it is also believed to be easier and more practical to install / use any sustainable technologies throughout the construction project rather than trying to implement them after the building has been finalised. Additionally all planning authorities including Mid Sussex often require conditions / sustainable design elements to be included within the design before they will grant planning permission. This ensures new buildings within Sussex meet minimum standards set by the British Government and European Union. However since the 1980's it is the EU that has taken the biggest interest in promoting environmental sustainability, believing that such actions to protect the natural environment on a regional rather than a national basis would be far more effective in doing so (Hough, 2004).

Unfortunately for designers, developers & builders within Sussex the local authorities does not make up the rules relating to sustainable planning requirements nor do they control the rules relating to building regulations which state the minimum requirements for any new development whether that be an extension of an existing property or a new multi million pound housing scheme. In September 2004 a new planning system was introduced under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. For the first time planning has been given a statutory objective - "to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development" (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 2004). This meant that all new buildings would have to comply with specific requirements before any consideration could be given to grant planning permission.

In the document 'A Better Quality of Life - A strategy for Sustainable Development for the UK' (May 1999), written by the WCED there was a strategy of 4 key points outlined which aim for sustainable development:

Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment

Social progress which recognises the needs of everyone

Effective protection of the environment

The prudent use of natural resources

Following on from this document, in February 2005 the Government released another document called PPS1 (Planning Policy Statement 1): Creating Sustainable Communities. Within this Document there is a statement that reads

"Development Plans should ensure that sustainable development is pursued in an integrated manner, in line with the principles for sustainable development set out in the UK strategy. Regional planning bodies and local planning authorities should ensure that development plans promote outcomes in which environmental, economic and social objectives are achieved together over time."

(Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 2004).

In direct relation to the above document and other subsequent PPS documents released by the government, Mid Sussex District Council is the four aims of sustainable development can be met in identifying locations for new housing development. In doing this due regard is being taken of the regional spatial strategy in the form of the policies of Regional Planning Guidance for the South East (RPG9), approved in March 2001, and the draft policies of the emerging South East Plan. Both of these documents require local planning authorities to concentrate development within the region's urban areas and seek to achieve at least 60% of all new development on previously developed land. (MSDC, 2005)

Legislation & Guidance notes

There are many different guidance notes that can affect the way in which architects design, this does not just affect architects in Sussex but as they are government guidelines affects building design right across the country. These are generally standardised guidelines / documents but can be interpreted differently by different local authorities. Some examples of these documents include Key Environmental Performance Indicators (KEPI), Pollution Prevention Guidelines (PPGs), Planning Policy Statements (PPS), Environmental Management Systems (EMS), and the MaSC by BRE.

Building Regulations

The legislation that affects the design of a sustainable building / home comes in two main forms; these include the Building Regulations, which is a set of rules introduced by the government which states a set of rules all new buildings, structures or extensions must adhere to.

Building Regulation


Part A


Part B

Fire Safety

Part C

Site preparation and resistance to moisture

Part D

Toxic Substances

Part E

Resistance to the passage of sound

Part F


Part G


Part H

Drainage and waste disposal

Part J

Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems

Part K

Protection from falling, collision and impact

Part L

Conservation of fuel and power

Part M

Access to and use of buildings

Part N

Glazing - safety in relation to impact, opening and cleaning

Part P

Electrical Installation

Table 1 - List of Building Regulations

For the purpose of sustainable design Part L is the most targeted aspect of the building regulation, this deals with conservation of fuel and power. However some other aspects of the building regulations that deal with insulation, glazing, waste and ventilation all need to comply with the building regulations (Directgov, 2009)

Part L of the Building Regulations (in England and Wales) was introduced by government on 6 April 2006, and it concerns the implementation of energy efficiency measures. These regulations raise the energy efficiency of new buildings by 40%, compared with the Part L 2002 requirements. They also improve compliance by introducing new energy performance requirements for building services within all new buildings. The time for the building industry to comply with the new regulations has been tightened, and the transitional arrangements have been cut from the expected maximum of three years to just 12 months. Therefore all new buildings without full building plans approved by 6 April 2006 by the local authority, must comply with the new Part L requirements from 6 April 2006.

(Hipview, 2009)

Code for Sustainable Homes

"The Code for Sustainable Homes has been introduced to drive a step-change in sustainable home building practice. It is a standard for key elements of design and construction which affect the sustainability of a new home. It will become the single national standard for sustainable homes, used by home designers and builders as a guide to development, and by home-buyers to assist in their choice of home."

(Communities & local Government, 2006)

Another key element to the design of sustainable buildings within the UK is Code for Sustainable Homes, this was only implemented in May 2008 and replaced the EcoHomes scheme. The code for sustainable homes affects all new property development within England, whereby all new homes must comply with a certain standard of energy efficiency otherwise planning permission & building regulations may not be granted. The Code for Sustainable Homes became operational in England in April 2007 and a Code rating for new build homes became mandatory from 1st May 2008 (Planning Portal, 2010).

Fig. ? - Timeline for code for Sustainable Homes

The Code is a national standard for the design of all new sustainable building projects, the code is used to help the environment by reducing carbon emissions & making buildings more energy efficient. The code measures the sustainability of a new home against categories of sustainable design, which looks at the home as a complete package. According to the planning portal the Code uses a 1 to 6 star rating system to communicate the overall sustainability performance of a new home.  The Code sets minimum standards for energy and water use at each level and, within England, replaces the EcoHomes scheme, developed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE). The code for sustainable homes was originally developed to enable a 'step change' in sustainable building practice for new homes. The Code has been developed by the Government who worked closely with the BRE & CIRIA (Construction Industry Research and Information Association). This national standard has been developed to help guide the industry in the design of sustainable homes, the Code is used as a tool to drive the industry forward with new technologies & achievements.

(Planning Portal, 2010)

The Influence of Sustainable design on Architects in Sussex

According to Morris in his article 'What does Green Really Cost?' Engaging with the users and operators during the design process can lead to better designs and a better understanding by the users of the function of the sustainable features" (Morris, 2007). The construction and operation of buildings is responsible for 40% of the world's materials and energy use (Roodman and Lenssen, 1995). With these figures in mind it is obvious to see why the government and other sectors feel sustainable design is imperative to the survival to of the planet, with this in mind I have looked at the differences between a traditional design process and an integrated sustainable design process:

Conventional Design Process

Integrated Design Process

Architect would receive brief &produce feasibility sketches.

Client specifies exactly what they require within the design of the project i.e. materials, and energy efficiency required

Client would agree on designs presented

Client becomes integral to the design of the building.

Architect is solely responsible for design process

Architect is now part of a dedicated design team / becomes project leader.

Engineers implement the design

Engineers / sustainability experts are involved from the early stages of the project.

Little / Limited enthusiasm to sustainable design as their role is limited.

Environmental experts are introduced into the team to offer solutions to problems &help aid the environment.

Table 2 - How people's roles have changed with the design process (Pearl, 2004; Hasegawa, 2003)

From the above table it is clear Pearl & Hasegawa have only outlined one of many conventional design processes, however this may vary depending on the size of the organisation. Pearl also suggests it can often be expensive and difficult to incorporate sustainable elements into a project at a later stage of the design process and therefore it is important to implement / incorporate these design issues from the start of the design process (Pearl, 2004). Pearl also argues that many clients feel the integration of sustainable technologies is more important than good looks, changing the priorities of the ADP (Pearl, 2004). This is thought to be quite a sweeping statement by architects in Sussex as some believe this to be completely unfounded and "off the cuff". One argument against this by LM Associates was the planning department have a duty of care to ensure buildings are within keeping of the existing area and therefore it is believed an ugly but fully sustainable project would be rejected planning permission.

From the research undertaken from interviewing people in several different areas of the construction industry it appears many technologies can easily be incorporated / hidden within a traditional design of a building. The use of specialist glass, insulations, heat pumps, solar panels, recycled materials etc. can all easily be incorporated into the design without compromising the look or feel of the building. These technologies can help reduce / recycle energy use. The architects I have spoken to also believe the role of the architect has grown drastically as they are now part of an overall design team who must work together along with the client to find a suitable solution to the requirements of buildings in today's society. In addition to the above the architects I have spoken to believe all aspects of the design must now be thought of from a very early stage, it is important to look at ventilation, lighting, heating, insulation etc from the offset rather than just coming up with an idea and asking a technician to make to design work. This is also backed up by Morris who suggests that if different aspects of the building are now designed separately then there is a good chance of a conflict between technologies (Morris, 2007).