The Necessity Of Worldwide Sustainable Development Construction Essay

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Nowadays sustainable development is high on national agendas. We know that construction is one of the activities with greater capacity for pollution, given that many carbon dioxide emissions come from this industry.

Some countries are already intervening in the affair so that the environmental impact is as less harmful as possible. The UK Government has produced a number of legislation, statutory requirements and guidance to help with this matter.

UK Government's Role

The government is determined to build a low carbon UK.

In the 2008 Climate Change Act, Britain made a commitment to cut the UK emissions aiming for 34% by 2020 and at least 80% by 2050 through investment in energy efficiency and clean energy technologies.

In July 2007 the government also announced that all new homes are to be zero carbon from 2016.

Moreover, in 2008 the ambition for all new non-domestic buildings to be zero carbon from 2019 was launched.

Sustainable Development

To understand the impact in the construction industry it is necessary to understand what sustainable construction means.

In 1987, the UN Environment Commission defined sustainable development as:

'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations'.

In 1998, the UK government published 'Opportunities for Change' a strategy for sustainable construction, this document stated that sustainable development could comprise:

Social progress that recognises the needs of everyone

Effective protection of the environment

Prudent use of natural resources

Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment.


UK has played a leading role in incorporating sustainable construction since 1990 when BREEAM was launched. BREEAM is the first environmental assessment method for buildings.

The UK government has introduced various legislation and statutory requirements, together with a series of voluntary assessment ‘tools’ which

intend to emphasise environmental design and assess the 'sustainability' o a project.

The statutory requirements can vary around the world; these variations occur due to physical difference such as climate and construction technologies as well as cultural and political difference.

These statutory and voluntary mechanisms are used at different key stages and/or activities of the design and build process and the life cycle of a building. (Please refer to Appendices 1 & 2 for the list of statutory and voluntary tools).

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a planning requirement by local Authorities, not every project is subject to an EIA and not every local Authority put it into practice, although the European Directive has in forced EIA since 1997.


There are many tools available to measure sustainability in a project, but most share the same principle:

A list of criteria to assess the design

A weighting system

A reporting system which allows building to be compared

A grading system, which ranks performance

All of them are available to the public and present a sustainability rating or a green credentials.

BRE - Building Research Establishment

BRE is the UK's leading centre for developing sustainable tools, with expertise in the built environment, construction, energy use in buildings, fire prevention and control, and risk management.

Although the initial concern of BRE was energy conservation, the criteria employed has been expanded to embrace a wide range of environmental, ecological and health issues.

The most widely used tool is BREEAM.

BRREAM - BRE Environmental Assessment Method

The first environmental weighing system, began as BREEAM for offices in 1990 and remains the most commonly used in the UK.

Nowadays as the leading and most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings, BREEAM sets the standard for best practice in sustainable design and measures a building's environmental performance.

BREEAM provides clients, developers, designers and others with:

Market recognition for low environmental impact buildings

Assurance that best environmental practice is incorporated

Inspiration to find innovative solutions to minimise the impact

A benchmark higher than regulation

A tool to reduce running costs and improve living environments.

A standard that demonstrates progress towards corporate and organisational environmental objectives

Currently BREEAM buildings can be used to assess the environmental performance of any type of building, new and existing.

Other Buildings Courts

Healthcare Industrial

Multi-residential Offices

Prisons Retail

Education Communities

Domestic Refurbishment International

BREEAM assess ten different categories of which some are a minimum standard:

BREEAM ratings range from Pass to Outstanding. To obtain a particular rating, a series of mandatory minimum standards must be achieved.

BREEAM Accreditation diagram:

BREEAM has minimum mandatory credits to be achieved in order to get a rating, these are water and energy. For example, BREEAM ' Excellent' requires an improvement of 44% energy above the current Regulation

BREEAM currently covers almost all stages in the building's life cycle:

Part of the BREEAM family it is also BES Product Scheme or BRE standard BES 6001, which enables manufacturers to ensure and prove that their products are produced with materials that are responsibly sourced.

In addition, BREEAM Energy Start was launched in Autumn 2008 with the aim to encourage the design innovation to achieve the Chancellor's policy objective of zero carbon non-domestic buildings from 2019; The rating is offered as an optional item to offices and other commercial buildings.


Introduced in 2009 aims to evaluate operational aspects of the building and performance in use and compares this with the potential performance of the building against best practice.

BREEAM in use was designed to analyse existing data on energy as well as other aspects of the environmental performance (EPC) of an existing building and highlight areas of potential improvement regarding the management and the opportunity for physical upgrading.

BREDEM - BRE Domestic Energy Model

Developed by BRE in the early 1980's BREDEM is an environmental assessment system, designed to calculate the annual energy requirements of domestic buildings on different housing configurations.

BREDEN takes into account location and latitudinal factors, insulation levels, air-tightness, window area and orientation. It is based on gains, losses and boiler systems and estimates the savings resulting from energy conservation measures. BREDEN is more of an energy tool rather than an environmental tool and avoids ecological and wider environmental issues.

SAP calculations and the UK government's standards for energy rating of dwellings are a version of BREDEN, which is more comprehensive and allows to make adjustments for expected lifestyle difference, unlike SAP, which is based on standard expectation of usage levels.

CSH - Code for Sustainable Homes

Launched by the department of the Communities and Local Government (CLG) in December 2007 and released in April 2007, replaced the BREEAM EcoHomes.

The Code was developed in close working consultation with BRE and CIRIA (Construction Industry Research and Information) with the aim to change sustainable building practice for new homes, setting mandatory minimum standards that relate to key government targets and policies.

The Code aims at both pre and post construction and sets minimum standards in two key areas - Energy and Water Use - and offers guidance on the others. Credits can be traded between categories (except the two key categories) to provide flexibility for designers and developers.

The Code measure sustainability against nine criteria:

Points and requirements for each of the six level codes:

At the present Level 1 is the regulatory standard, but this is expected to rise as developers become familiar. However, the current cost of meeting level 6 is likely to add about 15% to the cost of the house

DQI - Design Quality Indicator

The DQI was launched in 2002 as a generic toolkit that can be used to evaluate the design quality of any type of building, (new and refurbished). In addition, there is a version specifically aimed for schools.

DQIs provide a framework for understand quality priorities, setting targets and monitoring performance that evaluate the design and construction of a building. Although DQIs do not set specific performance levels, they provide a self-assessment process where Build quality, Functionality and Impact are considered.

The DQI process follows a structure that is linked to the industry phases of a building project, each phase revolves around workshops where the facilitator and design team members develops a set of project-specific targets against each of the DQIs.

DQIs are most effective in achieving an outstanding design when introduced at the early phases, however, DQIs deliver a benefit regardless of what stage is introduced.

DQI was developed by Construction Industry Council (CIC) and is currently being adapted in North America by DQI USA.

CEEQUAL - Civil Engineering Quality Assessment and Award Scheme

CEEQUAL provide a generic assessment of the environmental quality of major civil engineering and public realm projects. It aims to deliver improved project specification, design and construction, it is based on the structure of the BREEAM and it was launched in 2004.

CEEQUAL complements statutory requirements and focuses on the actions undertaken to ensure that environmental quality is built during and after the design and construction phases. It uses a credit - based framework and promotes consideration of sustainability issues. Its manual consists of 12 sections, weighted as shown:

CEEQUAL is an award scheme; the Award threshold is based on the maximum possible score for that project after the Assessor and Verifier agree the scope of work:

Five types of award are available:

Whole Project Award Normally applied for jointly by or on behalf of the client, designer and principal contractor(s)

Design Award Applied for by the principal designer(s) only

Construction Award Applied for by the principal contractor(s)

Design & Build Award For Design & Build and other partnership contracts

Client & Design Award Also available in the form of an Interim Award.

CEEQUAL unlike BREEAM, does not reward or benchmark against specific measured performance levels as these vary between project types; CEEQUAL as BREEAM, builds on the current regulatory framework and provides guidance and environmental good practice.

CIBSE - The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers

CIBSE has produced their first guide to achieve sustainability - CIBSE Guide L - 'Sustainability Toolkit', which aims to help engineers to improve the environmental performance of buildings.

The guide set out good and best practice measures beyond what it is required to comply with the UK legislations (although it can be applied wherever in the world) and adopt the following sustainability headings:

The guide is divided into sections corresponding to the lifecycle stages of a building and relates to the RIBA stages:

Influencing clients and project A

Sustainability strategy A - B

Supporting the planning application C

New design and refurbishment C - D - E - F

Construction G - H - J - L

Building in use

End of life

CIBSE Guide L provides an early awareness of building regulations, planning policies and the client's own corporate responsibility policies and was designed to be considered from the early stages of the project.

CIBSE also provides an online engineering tool, which is a searchable database of good practice guidance, and allows users to generate a shortlist of measures related to specific sustainability issues.

LCA - Life-cycle Assessment

LCA is a tool that brings ecological principle into the development process, it is used to evaluate the environmental performance of a building, and it has two main benefits:

Facilitate the management of the lifetime of the building

Identify potential cost saving such as future environmental legislations and maintenance problems.

LCA clarify the relationship between initial cost (construction phase) and the full cost (lifetime of the building) over a period of 50 years or more and provides a basis in deciding on refurbishment strategies.

By identifying the materials, energy and waste associated with buildings, LCA can determinate the environmental impact in advance; with 4 possible choices at the end of the building's functional life:

To re-use the building for new purpose.

To re-use part of the structure.

To break down the materials and re-use in new construction.

To demolish and dispose of it in landfill.

Consequently re-use is preferable than recycling and recycling than disposal. LCA highlights the opportunities that exists at the end of a building's life and allows designers the choice of making changes at the beginning of the process.

LCA is an environmental tool but it has useful design attributes that can be employed as a costing tool.

The Green Guide to Specification

Produce by BRE, the Green Guide provides an environmental rating of construction elements based on Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). It is intended to be used in conjunction with building assessment tools, such as BREEAM, CSH, etc., rather than as a standalone tool.

The Green Guide is a live growing document, which provides an extensive catalogue of building specifications, covering most common building materials. It aims to add more categories with each subsequent edition. Its first edition was published in 1996 and the most recent is 2009.

The principal building elements covered by the green guide are:

External walls

Internal walls


Floor finishes

Ground & Upper floors




The Green Guide translates the numerical data from the LCA into an environmental rating system that enables users to make comparisons between materials.

The data has a ranking system from A+ to E; where A+ represents the best environmental performance/least environmental impact and E the worst environmental performance/most environmental impact.

The Green Guide covers the following 13 environmental categories:

The Green Guide allows the user to evaluate the performance of materials and building systems against the above environmental impacts, which are also, ranked from A+ to E.

BRE WLV - Whole Life Value

WLV is a web-based tool developed by BRE. that enables designers and their clients to evaluate the most significant aspects of sustainability and to predict the whole life value of their projects.

WLV is not to be used as a particular tool, but direct their users to tools that are appropriate to a specific user group and/or relevant stages in the procurement process and life of a project.

The WLV was developed as a framework that allows the user to carry out detailed and advanced searches and narrow them by entering different criteria that contain useful information concerning sustainable construction and whole life value.

Life cycle search


Site investigation





Resource Type




Prioritised search

Social value

Economic value

Environmental value


Envest is a software tool based in LCA, that helps to simplify the process of designing buildings with low environmental impact, assessing the materials and system specifications.

Designers are able to input their building specifications (height, number of storeys, etc) and their choice of elements (walls, roof, covering, etc), Envest identify those elements and show the effects of selecting different materials. It also can predict the environmental and cost impact of alternatives strategies for heating, cooling and operating a building.

REAP Resource and Energy Analysis Programme

REAP is a software tool with environment modelling capability developed as part of the Future Sustainability Programme with WWF-UK and CURE; with the aim to enable Ecological footprint data to be manipulated in policy and planning scenarios.

It contains a database of environmental indicators for every local authority in the UK, and generates indicators on:

Carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions.

The ecological footprint required to sustain an area.

The material flows of products and services through an area.

Sustainable Community Wheel

In 2003 the UK government Sir John Egan examined how communities could be more sustainable. In his report, Egan suggested that communities must meet 'the diverse needs of existing and future residents, their children and other users.' To be sustainable communities must:

Make effective use of natural resources

Enhance the environment

Promote social cohesion and inclusion

strengthen economic prosperity

Egan also introduced what is referred as the Sustainable Communities Wheel, which can be used as a tool for judging sustainable communities.

The wheel is based on eight components, each of them must be addressed if sustainable communities are planned, delivered and maintained. There is no hierarchy, depending on the local circumstances, components can be trade-off on the short term, but in the longer term, each component is essential.


BREEAM International

BREEAM International is an open source assessment and can be adapted to local conditions, including climate, regulations and markets, providing an accessible framework for assessment of sustainability.

This method sets a core process that establishes the requirement of the local context, including default factors of environmental weighting where it is not cost effective or possible to develop the local ones; BREEAM International encourages to share the learning process and feed back into the core standards.

LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

LEED launched in 1998, was adapted from the UK BREEAM method to meet the needs of the USA, where it has become the main environmental assessment tool. Developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC).

LEED is a flexible tool that can be applied to all types of building; currently it has six versions in operation and four in preparation:

New commercial construction and major renovations

Existing buildings: Operation and maintenance

Commercial interior

Core and shell development

School: New construction and major renovations


In preparation

Neighbourhood development



Application guide for laboratories

LEED have two accreditations, for non-domestics and domestics buildings, the following categories, applies for non-domestic buildings.

Sustainable sites (SS)

Water efficiency (WE)

Energy and atmosphere (EA)

Materials and resources (MR)

Indoor environmental quality EQ)

Innovation and design process (ID)

Regional priority

Non-domestic buildings accreditation.

LEED for homes has two more categories to measure the environmental impact of a project, with some categories being a pre-requisite.

Location and Linkages (LL)

Awareness and Education (AE)

LEED for homes accreditations:

The LEED certification program encourages and accelerate the adoption of sustainable green building using a rating system that recognize projects that implement strategies for better health and environmental performance.


Its aims is to bring the most commonly building types of the Gulf area, into a user accessible BREEAM scheme, which can be used by developers and assessor to evaluate the environmental credentials of a building.

The scheme was developed using the same categories as the UK BREEAM, but provides a means of assessing the environmental impact of the Gulf region. In addition, the BREEAM Gulf evaluates the building, taking into account the different uses that are presented.

Unlike the UK BREEAM the final score is translated into 1 - 5 star rating, with five stars as the highest level of environmental performance.

Green Star

The first version of Green Star was developed in Australia in 2003, using BREEAM as the basis. The two methods are very similar; however, Green Star has been modified to reflect difference such as the climate, the environment and standard methods of construction.

The assessment methodology has also been adapted to make the delivery mechanism more similar to the LEED approach where the design team collects the data prior to certification.

The categories that Green Star assesses are as follow:

There are currently seven building types that can be assessed:

Office Design v3 Office as Built v3

Office Design v2 Office as Built v2

Office interior v1.1 Retail centre v1

Education v1

Green Start can be use by any member of the design team, but certification can only be awarded if a project achieved a score of at least 45 points:

CASBEE - Comprehensive Assessment System for Building Environmental Efficiency

CASBEE was launched in Japan in 2004 to calculate a Building Environmental Efficiency (BEE) that distinguishes between environmental load reduction (L) and building quality performance (Q).

There are four versions on CASBEE, which tailored the building lifecycle

Pre-design New Construction

Existing Buildings Renovation

These tools can be expanded for specific purposes; 'CASBEE Family'

CASBEE is primarily a 'self-assessment check system' tool that allows users to raise the environmental performance of buildings, but can also be used as a labeling system if a third party certifies the assessment.

Other environmental assessment tools in the world


Eco-labelling is an environmental performance certificate, very useful for designers, especially for product selection, as it covers certain product types used in the building industry. Eco-label is an EU-led initiative, which shares some characteristics of LCA, although it is more product-specific


A tool developed by ARUP to assess the sustainability of projects, masterplans, manufacturing facilities or products, based in four-quadrant model, with more than 120 sub-indicators behind the four key areas.

Four Key areas:

Environmental protection

Economic viability

Social equity

Natural resources

The information generated by the SPeAR helps the decision making at each stage of the design, construction and use of a project. It provides an indicative snapshot of the areas of good practice and those that require attention, allowing a company to see the direction of the project.

Mandate M350

The European Commission has mandated the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) to develop a suite called Mandate M350, with the aim to 'provide a method for the voluntary delivery of environmental information that supports the construction of sustainable works...'

The standard should offer a harmonised approach to the measurement of environmental impacts of materials and the lifecycle of a building. However, the standard will not set benchmarks or levels of performance.

The essential elements of M350 are already in the UK through BREEAM, CSH, LCA, The Green Guide, Envest, etc.


Planning policies regulate the location and design of a project, while Building Regulations tackle health and safety, conservation of fuel and power, management of water use, protection and enhancement of the environment, facilitation of sustainable development and accessibility of buildings.

Furthermore, in 2002 the UK government in conjunction with BRE produced a 'sustainability checklist for developments: a common framework for developers and local authorities', this was the first guide to address social and economic issues across the whole development instead of individual building types.

BRE has also developed a regional sustainability checklist in partnership with the regional bodies, led by SEEDA with government funding. This checklist provides a vehicle for delivering planning policies at national, regional and local level; eight main categories are covered in this checklist:

Climate Change and Energy


Place making


Transport and movement




However, the current statutory requirements provide a minimum standard for sustainability, nevertheless when used in conjunction with the voluntary requirements this will provide a more effective vehicle to move the industry towards sustainable development.

Voluntary mechanism can sometimes be misused as they allow designers flexibility in achieving overall targets by trading points between categories, for example a higher performance in management and a lower performance in energy consumption, which could give the project a high score without significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

Consequently, tools like BREEAM and CSH have minimum mandatory credits that need to be achieve in order to get the rating.

Although the government is putting forward new tools to achieve a better carbon footprint for new and existing buildings, some of these tools are not compulsory at the moment and together with the fact that implementing them could be expensive, this can discourage some clients.

The UK Government could make the voluntary requirements compulsory, so what is viewed, as ‘best practice’ can become a regulated requirement. If this were the case, the Building Regulations could catch up with the technologies that are available.

What is the Government doing

The UK Government has a goal for sustainable development; this goal guides government strategies at the local national and international level:


Sustainable communities


Promote a sustainable, innovative and productive economy that delivers high levels of employment.

Encourage a society that promotes social inclusion, sustainable communities and personal wellbeing.

Protect and enhance the physical and natural environment.

Efficiently use the natural resources and energy.

Promote a clear understanding of sustainable development.


Promote multilateral and sustainable solutions to today's environmental, economic and social problems.

Support other countries in their national obligation to make existing dwelling more sustainable.

Encourage other countries in the transition towards a more sustainable world.


Survey - 'Sustainability' - Top priority for the government?

As part of the topical research, a survey comprising 12 questions was organised with the aim to evaluate the knowledge and attitude toward sustainable development.

This survey was targeted to the professionals within the construction industry in the UK, such as:


BREEAM Assessor

Planning Officers

Architectural Technicians

Environmental Consultant Engineers

Mechanical & Electrical Consultants


The result was as follow:


There is a rapidly growing demand for mechanisms that can assess the best environmental performance with the least environmental impact on buildings, projects or even entire cities.

Each project presents different constraints, depending on their climate, temperature, cultural, political issues, etc. It is my view that the current building legislation, (Mentioned in tables No. 2 & 3) are not sufficient to achieve 'sustainable' construction, However, when combined with the voluntary mechanism they provide an effective working practice towards, sustainability.

The construction industry is diverse and has many commercial and political objectives that can disrupt or divert the drive to sustainable development. Despite this, the UK is well structured to tackle this agenda, although there is a need to consolidate and/or simplify the different tools and improve the understanding of consultants, clients and members of the public.

Furthermore the policies that guide planning decisions must be tailored by the guiding principles of sustainability. The tick-box exercises that are currently available provide developers and contractors with many loopholes whereby they can exploit the system.

Although the statutory and voluntary mechanisms are useful tools to promote sustainability, emphasis should also be given to define what constitutes a sustainable design and more education could be provided on the delivery and benefits.

Nevertheless, there is a Government intervention from local to international level, each of the levels tackle different environmental issues for every size project at every stage of the design, construction and life cycle of the building.

The UK construction industry will continue to find a way to deliver cost-effective and zero carbon buildings, in my opinion the best way to achieve this is by taking an overview of the sustainable build environment and utilise the existing leading tools available; in our mission to shape the future through the design choices.

'Sustainable Construction' is what Architects should do as a matter of course.