Sustainable Construction Checklist

Published 31st December 2005 by Constructing Excellence

This checklist has been developed to help the construction industry improve in terms of its sustainability with regard to planning, design, the construction process and the finished product.

Sustainability has been divided in the following manner:

  • Economic
    • Planning – Economic
    • Design – Economic
    • Construction Process – Economic
    • Finished Product – Economic
  • Social
    • Planning – Social
    • Design – Social
    • Construction Process – Social
    • Finished Product – Social
  • Environmental
    • Planning – Environmental
    • Design – Environmental
    • Construction Process – Environmental
    • Finished Product – Environmental

Economic sustainability

Planning – Economic

  • For large-scale housing, mixed use and civils projects, report on relevant factors in regional or local economic strategy, and how development will promote viability.

The planning system is a mechanism for linking national and local goals within a sustainable development context. Many government and regional strategies also have an impact. For example the Regional Economic Strategies prepared by the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) have a role in prioritising areas for investment. Funding for regeneration and the various assessment criteria of schemes will also direct investment to some extent. Urban Regeneration Companies increasingly play a role in setting and achieving objectives locally. The introduction to this section gives information on central government guidance, plans, development control and building control.

For large scale housing, mixed use and civil projects, report on relevant factors in regional or local economic strategy, and how development will promote viability.

Quality developments can kick-start or add value to regeneration projects. To boost an area and encourage private investment RDAs and local authorities often use leisure and cultural developments, pieces of infrastructure and community developments.

The Gateshead Millennium Bridge  is an opening bridge spanning 130 metres across the River Tyne at quay level linking commercial and leisure developments on either side of the river.

Two decks carry a footway and a mixed use path supported from a vertical arch rising to 45 metres above river level. When open, the bridge allows vessels of up to 25 metres air draught to pass. Local plans for the economic regeneration of the area drove the project. New buildings and refurbishments in the area, such as The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, would be less viable without it.

Quality in design and construction was a requirement of the project from inception. This was particularly relevant as the bridge set the standard for redevelopment proposals in the Gateshead Quays regeneration area. Economically it is often the case that the local vision must be delivered by both public and private sectors, as neither sector is able independently to plan and deliver sustainable development. Ensuring that combined public and private developments deliver on sustainable objectives is a current challenge.

Design – Economic

  • Use the DQIs, to develop appropriate levels of functionality and flexibility.
  • Appraise options using whole life costing.
  • Design for accessibility.

Clients appreciate the economic impact of project design. At the design stage the functions of the building, and operation and maintenance costs are set. Direct benefits of good design are reduced maintenance, management and running costs, while indirect benefits are gained through improved satisfaction and productivity of the building users. A high level of client satisfaction boosts image and reputation, and encourages repeat business.

Design will also impact on the economic performance of the construction process, by designing in health and safety, standard materials specifications and other measures in partnership with the supply chain.


Using the Design Quality Indicators (DQI) at inception allows clients to clearly express their requirements and sets a framework for specific consideration about the quality of the product. It helps to inform client and user choices and develops a better understanding of the value of good design, develops the brief, sets benchmarks and assists in understanding the trade-offs between different choices. The DQI can be used throughout the building process, and post occupancy, to evaluate whether the original intentions have been achieved.

The DQI operates through trained facilitators, who assist stakeholders to complete a non-technical questionnaire that addresses the ‘Functionality’, ‘Build Quality’ and ‘Impact’ of the building. The respondents give their opinion on 90 statements, and then weight the criteria as to how important they think they are. The meetings at which the questionnaires are filled in and discussed are called reviews. The results of all the respondents are aggregated to give the scores in a diagram, such as the one below.
Ladybridge Primary School was taken forward by Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, along with demonstrations such as Westmoreland School. The project learnt from the DQI during design and then applied it upon completion.
Some school children came to the review, and it was the best attended DQI review at the time. The DQI helped resolve some final snagging and landscaping issues. The head teacher felt the school was ‘like heaven’, with good daylighting and a well thought through design.


Through PFI and enlightened clients, more consideration is being given to whole life costing. The Royal Academy of Engineering found the ratio 1:5:200 demonstrates the typical relationship between:

1 the initial capital cost of an office building
5 its cost in use over 20 years
200 the value of the business done in it over 20 years

Conventional commercial development concentrates on the ‘1’, ignoring the rest. PFI development has the potential to be an improvement because it takes account of operation and maintenance costs. The next stage is designing to release more value from the business, the ‘200’, by optimising the building and its infrastructure for the occupiers’ needs, which can be considered to be the whole life value or performance.

Guidance is now available from sources such as the OGC, CIPFA, DfES and Constructing Excellence (see links to relevant resources in right hand column). These guides show that considering whole life value will help you choose the right building solution and exceed the expectations of building users and owners.
Durham County Council have considered whole life cost through partnering on school projects. Catchgate and Middlestone Moor Primary schools  have low energy, low water designs, to save money throughout the life of the school.
At Catchgate a wind turbine is providing all the power the school needs. Both schools collect rain water for toilet flushing, using the Eco Vat system. The pump for the system is powered by photovoltaic cells. N-Power, Northern Electric & Gas and Northumbrian Water sponsored the systems. Displays in the schools show pupils how much energy and water is being used and saved. This has proved a great hit with pupils and staff, and figures are being used in the curriculum.


New legislation affecting design for accessibility comes into force in 2004: the final part of the goods, facilities and services provisions of Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act. The new duties require businesses (employing over 15 people) and public service providers, to make permanent physical adjustments to premises. The Disability Rights Commission has provided guidance to help service providers.

Some clients may want to go beyond legislation to ensure all members of the community are able to access their buildings safely and securely. This covers a range of issues including signing and waymarking, the use of colour and layout. For example, many schools now use wall and door colour to identify areas used by different age groups, and local authorities are experimenting with colour in street furniture and paving to help the visually impaired.
The new headquarters building for the Greater London Authority forms part of the More London Bridge Development. The internal spiral and spiral ramp were designed to enhance accessibility to both the building and the government process.
The entrance, lifts and circulation space are all wheel-chair accessible, and the space within the offices, chamber and public space is generally highly flexible.

Watergate School  is a new building providing 80 places for primary school pupils with severe learning difficulties and includes a nursery class and hydrotherapy pool. The quality, fitness for purpose and maintenance characteristics of the design and construction have a profound impact upon the children, staff, parents and carers. These features were identified as the main drivers for the project; consequently the school staff, governors and children have been actively involved in the project from inception to completion. The school has recently moved in and all is running smoothly. The school building has been designed as an accessible environment for teaching and learning that meets the special educational needs of its pupils and the demands of the curriculum.

Construction process

  • Use the KPIs
  • Maximise opportunities for local businesses, labour and training.

The old adage ‘you have to measure to manage’ is now well supported by an array of benchmarking and performance improvement groups within companies and across the industry. Implementation during the construction process determines the economic performance of the companies involved.

The recruitment, retention and skills crisis of the industry has a serious economic impact on the construction process. Difficulties in recruiting and retaining enough trained staff uses site management time, increases costs and reduces time predictability. Some companies are overcoming these problems by using innovative construction techniques, procurement processes and training programmes to guarantee the future of their company and therefore the industry. Companies are questioning whether traditional construction processes will ensure continuing cost reduction, repeat business and profits.

Sustainable procurement is about clients finding the appropriate vehicle by which to deliver the desired building. Many organisations are going down a partnering procurement route and reaping the economic benefits. Partnering is the most popular innovation within the demonstration programme. Contracting parties create a working culture that is based on trust and cooperation. Partnering aims to involve all members of the supply chain as early in the project as possible and promotes a positive culture to reduce conflict to a minimum.


Since 1999, central government (supported by Constructing Excellence and the Construction Industry Council) has published an annual wall chart of the headline KPIs. As explained in the introduction all the demonstrations are required to measure their KPI performance. The demonstrations in this report that have returned their data, support the excellent overall results of the programme, such as:

  • demonstrations are 2 percentage points more profitable than average;
  • demonstration construction costs are 4% lower than average;
  • accidents on demonstrations are 50% fewer than average;
  • support for Respect for People KPIs.

To achieve this, the demonstrations have utilised innovative materials, new building technologies, new forms of contract and set up more communicative integrated teams. Reductions in defects and improvement of client satisfaction have an economic impact, but also improve social and environmental performance.


The construction industry currently has a major skills shortage which will only worsen without more recruitment into the industry. Communities have traditionally grown around areas of commerce and local companies service these cities, towns and settlements. 96% of construction companies employ fewer than seven people, so construction is a business on a local scale. National companies have regional sections and whilst a network of subcontractors can travel to service various areas of the country, the majority of employees prefer to work relatively locally.

It is with this in mind that employers are recruiting local people to be trained on long-term refurbishment and regeneration projects. Consequently if a housing estate has a roll-out refurbishment programme over many years, it is in the contractor’s interest to recruit and train local employees. At the end of the programme they can move onto another project or perhaps stay on the programme in a maintenance capacity. On a national scale the industry gets much-needed recruits and on a local scale employment increases and money is ploughed back into the local economy.

 Portsmouth County Council Gas Central Heating Partnership provided United House Limited with the opportunity of a long-term refurbishment contract on which to train members of the local community.

The four year programme included the installation of gas central heating systems for Portsmouth City Council in approximately 4500 homes.

Because the strategic partnership provides continuity of work, United House has set up an alliance with a local training provider, to help draw people from the local community. They gain the skills and qualifications that provide not just temporary work but a life-long career. All parties involved contributed to a win-win situation: Portsmouth County Council made an empty property available for the training, United House supported the training and the training approach was recognised as eligible for government support. To date, United House has given employment to two trainees.

Finished product

  • See environment. Consider maintenance, operational (energy, water etc.) product and staff costs. Use feedback measure and tools (e.g. Post Occupancy Evaluation.)

Management of the finished product can have a significant economic impact – a poorly maintained building will, in the long run, cost a great deal more than one that is well-maintained. Similarly, careful management of energy and water can substantially reduce operational costs. Taking energy use alone, the typical office in the UK consumes around 200kWh/m2 over a typical year, while best practice aims to achieve consumption of 100kWh/m2. Good environmental design can in fact lead to much lower figures.

This type of economic impact is well-documented and easily demonstrated; what is generally less tangible is the impact of buildings on staff costs. Absence from work can be reduced and productivity increased by improving the environment in which people work. Research in the USA has shown that ‘green design’ of office buildings leads to a measurable reduction in absenteeism. A reduction of just 1% in absenteeism is enough to pay for the energy costs of a typical office building.

Staff motivation and well-being can also be affected by introducing feedback systems, people generally feel more valued when their opinions are asked about the buildings in which they live or work. For example, in one survey where staff were asked to list the features they would most wish for in a new office building, 80% specified the ability to open windows.


Well-designed ‘green’ buildings can demonstrate clear financial benefits associated with a more sustainable approach. Many show lower operational costs with no increased construction costs, but the majority can at least demonstrate that extra construction costs are recovered during the first five to eight years through reduced running costs.

 The Dunston Innovation Centre  in Derbyshire has a gross floor area of 3300m2 and offers a range of accommodation from a ‘rent a desk’ facility to suites of offices of 185m2.

Tenants are restricted to ICT-based companies. The building is energy-efficient and provides high comfort levels, with heating and cooling by way of heat pumps allied to the largest geothermal system in the UK.

Demonstrated benefits include a saving of some 80% in CO2 emissions, alongside reduced capital costs when compared to the provision of conventional heating/air conditioning. Feedback from tenants regarding the effectiveness of the building’s heating and cooling system has been very positive, in all seasons and weathers.

Social sustainability


  • See economic. Respond to regeneration impacts required in regional or local economic strategies.
  • Use data from public consultations and participation.
  • For high density, mixed-use developments plan for high quality public space and safe public transport accessibility.
  • Larger schemes require affordable housing, and a mix of housing types and tenures.

The planning system is fundamental in delivering sustainable development by setting a vision, then controlling how developments fit the vision. Prevailing social attitudes influence that vision. The current trend sees regional assemblies preparing social and cultural strategies, whilst local authorities are investigating social inclusion and producing community safety strategies.

It is often the element of social success that is most difficult to predict and measure when planning developments. The central government guidance explained in the introduction to this section attempts to address the social arena. For example, Planning Policy Guidance note 3 is a key guidance on affordable housing. Community strategies and other actions from Local Strategic Partnerships often have a strong social focus. The recent Sustainable Communities Plan from the ODPM lists the key requirements for a sustainable community, some of which are social:

  • effective engagement and participation by local people, groups and businesses, especially in the planning, design and long-term stewardship of their community, and an active voluntary and community sector;
  • a well-integrated mix of decent homes of different types and tenures to support a range of household sizes, ages and incomes;
  • good-quality local public services, including education and training opportunities, health care and community facilities, especially for leisure;
  • a diverse, vibrant and creative local culture, encouraging pride in the community and cohesion within it.


It is when regeneration is required, generally due to social breakdown in an area, that decision makers realise that economic and environmental measures are insufficient to improve an area. Developers are now needing to assess the social capital they are dealing with, and acting to increase it. There are still problems in agreeing a long-term vision that satisfies all levels of the development process. Local government regulation has sought to encourage authorities to enter into partnerships with other interested bodies to deliver long-term sustainable benefits to the community.

One such private/public project was the Lowry Centre Footbridge which involved the fabrication, treatment and construction of a hydraulically operated, 90m span, steel foot and cycle bridge.

The structure connects the new Lowry Centre on the north side and the Imperial War Museum on the south side, at Salford Quays. Though classified as a public sector project, the project involved significant input from elements of the private sector and the Lowry Trust Development Company. The bridge has Development Company. The bridge has formed a fundamental part of the regeneration of the area into a social asset for Greater Manchester.


Progress in covering social sustainability through the planning system has involved the use of public consultations. Local authorities, LSPs, developers and designers are using community involvement to help their decision-making. Community participation has been formalised through the development of schemes such as Enquire by Design and Planning for Real. Such schemes ensure members of the local community are treated with respect, and provide methodologies to gain useful outputs from consultation.

While the public generally does not engage with regional and local plans, there is greater concern for the potential impact of individual developments. In formal public consultation processes, the public can often be the source of design ideas, as well as current and potential uses of the project. From the developers perspective this can also help minimise trouble and maximise support, during construction and use, by fostering a good relationship with the local community.

School Works sought to explore how improvement in secondary school buildings might enhance academic achievement. Questions were asked about how the fabric of the school could be changed to create a sense of pride and pleasure amongst pupils and staff, within existing budgetary constraints. School Works was funded by DfES to investigate these issues, effect practical change within a partner secondary school, and inform government policy.

The aims of School Works were to revolutionise the process of designing and procuring a school building, and to draw out the connections between the school building and the social, emotional and educational development of young people. School Works helped to redesign Kingsdale School in Southwark as a test case.

The most important aspect of the project was the full participation of pupils and teachers in the plan and design. The project had the support of the then Schools Standards Minister, Estelle Morris MP, and was recognised as a national model.


Increasing the proportion of affordable housing in new developments has sometimes proven both controversial with the professional development community, yet beneficial from the perspective of the local community.

Changes in demographics and the family unit have exerted pressures for change in provision of housing throughout communities. In areas where the population is increasing, such as south east England, local authorities and developers are trying to respond to housing demand. Where population is decreasing, large-scale housing regeneration and renewal is underway. Authorities throughout the UK are also considering the need for affordable housing in relation to social regeneration and key worker housing. Partnerships between private developers and housing associations, through Section 106 agreements, are becoming a common way of delivering mixed tenure developments.

Netherne-on-the-Hill  involved the creation of a new village on the site of a former isolation hospital. 43 of the 185 acres were developed to provide housing with community, commercial and sports facilities. The new village has a mix of homes ranging from large detached properties and luxury apartments to retirement homes and affordable housing. 25% of the housing is affordable and 60% of the affordable housing is two and three-bed units.


Recent Planning Policy Guidance and outputs from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) are resulting in more dense developments. When density is increased, high quality transport and leisure facilities are vital for the cohesiveness and functionality of the community. The ODPM has highlighted the importance of green spaces and many local authorities are preparing green-space strategies. Transport infrastructure, particularly provision of amenities to encourage use of public transport are often part of planning agreements. This is in response to the Government’s ten year plan for transport.

In addition to the affordable housing aspect, Netherne also sought to address issues of public amenity, public transport access and public open spaces. The Section 106 agreement called for Gleeson Homes to sponsor a mini-bus service for residents over the first three years of the life of the development. After three years a commercial service should be viable. Existing public green spaces (a bowling green, cricket pitch and nearby football pitch) were all maintained or enhanced by the developer, and a village green will be created at the heart of the development.


  • Use the DQIs, to engage everyone in the design process.

As with the economic impact, high quality design can lead to improvements in the performance of the building in social terms. These impacts are difficult to quantify, but are generally synonymous with the economic issues, such as improved satisfaction, productivity, health and safety. Constructing Excellence is a trailblazer organisation in facilitating the uptake of the DQI.


The Design Quality Indicator (DQI) has been developed to help all stakeholders in the built environment to gain more value from the design of buildings, and to assist in improving the quality of buildings. Much value can be gained by involving end users closely in the design stage, and the DQI provides a template for doing so. Basketball hall at Jesse Boot

 The Jesse Boot Basketball and Dance Centre in Nottingham, provides an example of how engaging users in design through the DQI adds value. The design development took 12 months and flooring was a key issue.

It was agreed with users that high quality flooring would provide a better sporting experience, which in turn would create better performance. The results of this investment are two fold: the dance studio has tripled its business and the sports hall is now the recognised location for all major sporting events in the region. The DQI score shows the build quality gained maximum marks and social integration scored very highly.

There are other ways to involve users in design. Southern Housing Group’s ‘Millennium Plus at the Nightingale’ project  features a number of pre-assembled components which were integrated with a concrete based tunnelform structure to improve the built quality. Residents from the Estate Development Committee contributed to the design and layout of the homes, working closely with the developer and the design team. A group of residents, together with other representatives from the project team visited construction sites as well as completed homes that were built using these technologies before they gave their approval for the Nightingale scheme. For the variety of choices provided to tenants in areas such as internal layouts, colour schemes of finishes and type of kitchen units the project was awarded the 2001 Building Homes Award in the ‘Best Options and Choices’ category.

A £100,000 social investment development fund under resident control has been financed jointly by Southern Housing Group’s charitable arm (Southern Housing Foundation) and the builders (Countryside in Partnership). The project aimed to provide jobs too, with a target to recruit 30% of the construction workforce locally and by helping to improve residents’ work skills through traineeships and NVQ training courses.

The key quality improvements of the scheme which have a significant impact on the long-term sustainability of the scheme are in the areas of space provision and sound and thermal insulation standards. The tunnelform concrete structure meant that the roof structure could be constructed with panels rather than the traditional trusses, offering extra space (5-50% in excess of Parker Morris standards). The wall and ceiling construction exceed the new Building Regulations Part E (2003) for airborne and impact sound insulation quite significantly. Good thermal insulation levels, combined with the provision of efficient heating systems led to an average SAP level of 97, thus keeping the running cost for residents to a minimum.

Construction Process

  • Use the Respect for People toolkits
  • Register sites with the Considerate Constructors Scheme and use Construction Skills Certification Scheme.

The construction process is a vital stage at which the construction industry can prove its commitment to its workforce, and also interact well with the general public. Health and safety has the potential to be the most significant social and economic impact during construction. The Health and Safety Executive provides specialist resources for construction, and a partnership approach has been taken to form Working Well Together.

Improved communication is an important ingredient for success, both with the workforce and the surrounding community. Members of the workforce will be safer and more productive if they know what is going on, and know they can approach management with any concerns. Sometimes disturbance cannot be avoided, but informing local residents and businesses can lessen negative impact.


Recruiting and retaining talented people is the most urgent business challenge facing the construction industry. Change and improvements can only happen through people, and their efforts in the workplace. Through providing respect and the right conditions for its workforce, the construction industry will reap the benefits.

In response to the Construction Minister’s challenge for the industry to radically improve its performance on people issues, Rethinking Construction established a working group to examine the issues associated with people in the industry. Arising from this work, the Respect for People Indicators allow organisations and projects to measure and compare their performance and identify and prioritise actions. Once the priority areas have been identified, the supporting toolkits facilitate more detailed evaluation and focus on actions for improvement.

 The Woolgate Exchange in London comprised the fitting out from shell and core to provide a new office for German Bank West LB. The project demonstrated that quality of worker facilities is important. Contractor Interior has all but abandoned the use of portacabins for fit-out team offices.

At Woolgate Exchange, the construction managers, consultants and contractors shared a modern open-plan office with IT and CAD systems, meeting and reception rooms. A high quality restaurant was provided for the construction workforce.

Creating the right environment is one thing, building good relationships is another. Interior encouraged an open-door policy and adult treatment of staff. Woolgate Exchange was compared to a similar project that did not use these innovations. The other project recorded 40% more worker inductions. High turnover of staff costs money and a disaffected workforce are more likely to have accidents and produce defects.


The Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS) was set up five years ago by the industry to improve construction’s image. Through a voluntary code of practice, the Scheme is raising the standards of management beyond statutory requirements. The results on site for example are to minimise the disturbance or negative impact on neighbours, the general public and the environment. The Scheme has now registered 6,000 sites since inception and in the last year has registered £8bn of contract value, about 15% of total construction value. The Scheme expects registrations to rise to 25% of all construction value in two years.

The Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) aims to register every competent construction operative within the UK, thus driving out ‘cowboy’ builders. As well as reducing consumer confidence, substandard work costs time and money through defects, undermines health and safety standards, dissuades new recruits and drives out qualified workers. Personnel are awarded the card by proving their competence through a mandatory health and safety exam and qualifications or references from employers.The industry aims to have a fully qualified workforce in 2010. CSCS currently has over 500,000 members: more than 20% of the workforce. The industry as a whole and all clients will benefit from the Scheme.

Most people’s perception of the construction industry is determined by their experiences with the domestic market. The government’s Quality Mark scheme aims to improve the industry’s performance and the general public’s perception of it. The Quality Mark scheme complements CSCS by focusing on the domestic market, and following successful pilots, the initiative is set to roll out nationally. Just as CSCS is making its scheme available to an increasing number of trade sectors, Quality Mark’s roll-out programme will establish a benchmark to enable trades people to deliver competently and proficiently. Consumers wanting to locate a reputable tradesman can do so through the Quality Mark website.

 Lythe Hill Hotel involved the construction of a new leisure complex on the site of an existing luxury hotel. CCS was specified, and the site certainly required a considerate approach from the contractors Benson Limited.

Care had to be taken due to the hotel remaining operational throughout the construction period, difficult site access, and a lake below the construction site. Benson normally use CCS and find it a valuable scheme.

Finished product

  • See environment. Consider staff costs, e.g. maximising satisfaction and productivity through a healthy environment.
  • Encourage community use of buildings, through the DQIs or as policy.

There is growing evidence that building occupiers are seeing environmentally benign buildings as a significant improvement. Building tenants influence building design to a much greater degree than was the case during the 1980s and this has had, and continues to have, a marked effect on office building design and specification. Surveys in the early 1990s, for example, showed that 89% of office occupiers were against air-conditioned buildings.


It is increasingly unlikely that buildings will have a single use throughout their lifespan, as neighbourhood composition changes increase more rapidly, through demographic and economic transformation. A key feature of maintaining high levels of occupant satisfaction throughout changing uses and users is the continuing use of feedback mechanisms to discover how users perceive the building, and where issues lie. Feedback can be used to help target resources most effectively for existing buildings, but intrinsically can also help to improve satisfaction levels, as people feel that their opinions are valued.

 The Bennetts Associates New Offices features the use of appropriate low-tech environmental construction methods in a sensitive refurbishment of their own office accommodation.

Sustainability and embodied energy have been considered when selecting materials and components for the building: windows are mild steel, carpets are made from recycled materials, and linoleum has been used rather than vinyl flooring. Wherever possible, timber used in the new offices was salvaged from buildings on the site that had fallen into disrepair.

However, environmental issues are not the only features of sustainability important to this project. Staff consultation was, and still is, an important feature of the project. Staff were consulted throughout the design process and feedback was given via office meetings, and a post-occupancy evaluation was underway as this report was published.

The social and economic fabric of the area around the offices has deteriorated over the years, and the refurbishment of the offices will have a very positive impact here. Bennetts could have moved their offices to a different part of London, with the likelihood that these buildings would have deteriorated further, but instead have chosen to contribute to the regeneration of the area through improving the building fabric and retaining the economic and social benefits that thriving businesses bring.


Good management of buildings, as well as good design, has a significant effect on perceptions of an area. Statistics show that crime levels are higher in areas where the quality of the built environment is poor, and people generally feel less safe in such areas. Low occupancy levels tend to lead to higher levels of vandalism, and therefore poorer public perception, and so a vicious cycle is created.

The brief for the Cambridgeshire Heritage and Archive Centre called for an innovative design and construction of a low-energy building using sustainable materials. The project provides a secure facility to store archive and archaeological materials, together with office and laboratory accommodation for documenting, sorting and treating the material, and public access areas including a library and search room. More unusually, however, it specifically aims to provide broader community use of the facilities, with areas for artists workshops and exhibitions, drama performances and public demonstrations of conservation work.

Environmental sustainability

Holistic environmental assessment tools have been developed: SPeAR, BREEAM Offices, Retail and Industrial, EcoHomes, CEEQUAL (civil engineering), Bespoke BREEAM for one-off projects, and the ‘Sustainability Checklist for Developments’. If a demonstration project is using such a scheme or an equivalent, it passes this section. However assessment is sometimes inappropriate, so the following checklist could be applied. The EPIs provide a set of benchmarks for site and building performance.


  • Reuse land. Treat contaminated land on-site.
  • Reuse buildings. Plan the footprint of the building with ecological features in mind.
  • Consider how building users will travel to and access the site, and facilities and amenities nearby.

Through Planning Policy Guidance (see introduction to this section) many environmental concerns have been dealt with by central government. For example PPG11 contains guidance on energy efficient patterns of development and buildings. PPG12 states environmental concerns should be comprehensively and consistently taken into account in development plans.

A significant number of local authorities have now prepared Supplementary Planning Guidance that focus upon environmental performance criteria such as energy efficiency and materials selection. Such documents use the opportunity local authorities have to influence the performance of all planning applicants, and encourage the move towards more sustainable construction. This can help local authorities achieve their commitments to reducing climate change (for example, if they have signed the Nottingham Climate Change Declaration) and generally helps fulfil the role of community leadership.

The Building Regulations provide the enforceable aspect of building control. The revision to Part L is increasing the efficiency of new build and major refurbishments. The Regulations do not yet cover other environmental issues, but again local authorities can take the opportunity to advise designers and builders on more sustainable practice.


Progressive controls with regard to reuse of land and buildings, such as the Government’s target of 60% of housing to be on brownfield land, are at the vanguard of policy with regard to sustainable development. The University of East London is a prime example of contaminated land being dealt with on site. Reusing buildings can save significant amounts of waste material. Existing buildings can often be the basis of the character of the neighbourhood. There can be complex local sensitivities in developing historic buildings and defunct sites.

 16/17 Old Bailey is an example of the re-use of land and buildings. The works comprised the demolition of the majority of the existing buildings, and retaining the façade, which was subject to refurbishment.

The new six-storey office building entailed piled foundations, concrete substructure, structural steel framework clad with aluminium and glazed curtain walling. Internally, the building includes extensive M&E services, raised access floors, suspended ceilings and Category A finishes. There was a social and Category A finishes. There was a social and economic benefit in keeping a well-recognised façade, and environmental benefits in using fewer materials, and creating less waste.


When considering a site, whether greenfield or brownfield, there will be particular areas of the site that support a concentration of biodiversity, such as ponds and hedgerows. Many constraints need to be accounted for by the footprint and layout of buildings on the site, but lasting benefits can be gained by aiming to maintain and protect these features by placing buildings and access routes as far away as possible. For example, building users can benefit from better views, and existing trees and hedges can afford protection to the users and the buildings, even to the extent of features being used as part of the building performance. The planning authority will expect to see that site plans have considered the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) and local plans where relevant.

The new Wessex Water headquarters considered the surrounding countryside in the layout and maintained as many mature trees as possible.

Development on the reclaimed sloping site had to be as sensitive as possible, as the site is adjacent to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The building hugs the contours of the land to minimise visual impact.


Any development that may generate traffic or alter traffic patterns may be required to produce a transport assessment for the local planning authority. All developers will need to consider this issue. Beyond traffic assessments, developers need to consider points of access to the site, for vehicles and pedestrians, and how the development integrates with the surrounding area. New users of the development will need amenities and the developer must consider where the nearest facilities are, how users will reach them, and whether it is viable for facilities to be provided on site. The Urban Design Compendium provides a wealth of information about integration and access issues.

While Constructing Excellence has sought to engage with sustainability-themed demonstrations, few have come forward to address how transport is dealt with at the planning stage. Beddington Zero Energy Development in Sutton is an example of a project that has addressed this through unique site facilities to support reduced reliance on the private car. This is dealt with in greater detail in the section on ‘Design’. Car parking at Swindon’s new hospital has been deliberately limited to encourage use of public transport and car sharing.


  • Design for minimum waste of materials. Provide facilities for the minimisation and management of waste.
  • Protect and enhance biodiversity using the biodiversity EPI. Ensure natural features can be easily managed and maintained.
  • Specify local and low environmental impact materials (e.g. use A-rated specifications from the Green Guide or equivalent and timber from certified well-managed forests). Use the embodied energy EPI.
  • Optimise passive energy use (e.g. solar gain). Minimise energy use (e.g. lighting, heating/cooling, ventilation, insulation). Consider CHP and renewable energy sources. Use the operational energy EPI. Fit submetering and intelligent building monitoring systems.
  • Specify flexible information and communication services.
  • Ensure high indoor air quality through effective ventilation, and specifying materials, finishes and cleaning products with minimal harmful effects.
  • Specify zero ozone depletion and low NOxsystems and materials.
  • Ensure fittings are low water volume. Consider rainwater and grey water recycling. Consider permeable design for hard landscaping. Use the water EPI. Fit sub-metering.
  • Discourage single-occupant car use, through public transport and cycling provision, making the development safe and secure, providing showers and changing rooms.
  • Consider ease of operation and maintenance through commissioning time and documentation.
  • Consider daylighting, ventilation, humidification, personal control, and space for well-being and comfort. The DQIs consider a range of environmental criteria.
  • Design for flexibility or deconstruction with minimum waste.

The operation of buildings accounts for one of the most significant environmental impacts of the UK. Design of new build and refurbishment projects can improve building environmental performance in many ways. Thoughtful design that involves members of the supply chain can also promote efficiency on the construction site.


Lean construction provides a variety of proven methods for reducing waste at the design stage: standardisation, off-site construction, and using modular components can all help to minimise waste of materials. Provision for operational site management can also be considered in the design, such as providing space and facilities for building users to reduce, reuse and recycle waste. For example, BREEAM rewards specifications that allow for internal and external storage and services for the building users to recycle waste.

Off-site construction has featured strongly among the demonstrations. Approximately 40% of the housing demonstrations are using some element of off-site construction. These projects account for about 25% of the total value of the housing demonstrations, but have produced roughly 70% of the number of units. This indicates how much less wasteful these methods are. The Housing Forum has published a commentary on the use of off-site fabrication.

The Great Western Hospital Relocation is an excellent example of waste management being considered from the original design concept. The project was a pathfinder project for the implementation of the Natural Step, an environmental initiative to work towards sustainable development. This meant all partners were encouraged to undertake a strategic review of their actions.

 Carillion partnered with the wall panel supplier to create a bespoke product, saving approximately £285,000 in time and material waste. The panel supplier agreed to take back and recycle off-cuts.

Similarly a standard ceiling tile size was specified for the entire hospital, saving waste of materials. Off-site construction resulted in no scaffolding being required on site, saved waste and also reduced the risk of accidents. The Hospital introduced a range of innovations and measured their financial impact, which is featured in an accounting report.


The planning section of the checklist focuses on the footprint of the building and how this impacts on the biodiversity on the site. This section highlights the steps that need to be taken in considering the landscape and building design once the footprint has been decided. Building elements can be used to encourage bird and bat populations, and ‘green’ roofs provide excellent habitats for insects. Ponds, hedgerows, grassland, and heathland are all examples of landscape features that should be protected and can be enhanced through good design. Developers and designers can better understand national and local biodiversity priorities through the UK BAP and associated local plans.

The Association of Wildlife Trust Consultancies and the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management are useful contacts to go beyond legislation and make the most out of existing and potential biodiversity. Integrating the building and landscape design will minimise overlap and improve team communication, producing a better quality design. Users and maintenance must be considered in the design for it to meet requirements and whole life costs. The biodiversity EPI considers steps taken at design and construction stage.

The Christchurch Junior School Replacement made reference to the UK BAP in their external works. A diverse range of plants were used for structural planting and ornamental areas, including many native species which have increased the planting around the perimeter of the school site not only enhances the ecological diversity on the site but enhances the appearance and provides shade and shelter for pupils and staff. The landscaped areas are designed to require low levels of maintenance in the future. The playing field is self draining through natural percolation thus avoiding the need for biodiversity on the site and will attract and encourage wildlife. Native tree and shrub maintenance of a land drainage system. Bark mulch for planting areas and peat free planting composts were used from Eco Composting in Christchurch, a local recycling centre for green waste. All this and more was achieved on a tightly limited budget.


There are many reasons for choosing local and low impact materials. Local suppliers can be cheaper and provide specifications that fit the local vernacular. Less transport will reduce costs and benefit the local community and environment. Reusing and recycling materials on site, and purchasing materials with a high recycled content, will have a similar result, as well as saving on the Aggregate Levy and Landfill Tax.

The embodied impact of materials has been widely researched. The use of novel materials such as sheep’s wool and recycled paper insulation is increasing. The impacts of traditional specifications like mineral wool have been measured and compared (for example in The Green Guide to Specification). Energy use and pollution during the production of materials is important, but most natural materials are also likely to be less detrimental to the health of tradespeople and building users. Finishes and fittings are often replaced, and synthetic versions can have significant impacts compared to more natural specifications. For example painters suffer a 40% higher lung cancer rate than average.

Timber is widely acclaimed as one of the best natural building products. Due to increasing concern about forestry practices around the world, many certification systems now exist to monitor and certify the timber supply chain. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a well-recognised independent and international standard. Central government has specified FSC timber for some years and now local authorities are following suit in their procurement policies.

The New Architectural and Planning Studios at the University of West of England focussed on the embodied impact of materials. Amongst many innovations, agricultural straw bales, readily available from the local area, were used in structural steel walling elements to take advantage of their insulation properties. The bales were assembled into large panels off site and brought to site to receive final finishing.

Fairfax House in Lambeth is the first construction project in Britain to be independently certified by the FSC for its use of sustainable timber. This means that not only can the project claim to use timber from well-managed sources, but that an independently verified chain of custody exists between the timber used in the building and the forest it came from. This chain of custody proves that the construction project is using timber in a sustainable way. The project used FSC tropical hardwoods as well as European softwoods.

The FSC content, including the frame, cladding and second fix items, is estimated to be 70%. The residents are proud that their homes have contributed towards the global sustainability of forests.

The hemp houses at Haverhill  compared traditional brick and block construction with hemp and lime houses on a small housing development. The extremely low-energy material production process uses hemp stalks, which are usually a waste material.

 The hemp homes performed as well as the traditional in thermal, acoustic, durability and permeability tests. Hemp homes require less excavation and the breathing quality of the walls means less condensation and generally a warmer and drier internal environment.

The East Dorset Housing Association took materials specification seriously. Units were constructed using a Swedish system of large timber frame closed panels complete with windows and doors. The panels are highly insulated, ecologically sound, able to be erected very quickly and are of excellent quality. For example, the pre-finished, triple glazed timber windows are guaranteed not to need repainting for 30 years. The roof manufacturer and roof light manufacturer worked together to enable the roof lights to be fixed using less timber cuts and waste. Waste was halved compared to traditional sites early in the demonstration, and further reductions were achieved on later sites. The need for quarry products was reduced, no materials containing gypsum or toxic products were used, low smoke zero halogen cables were installed and soil pipes were specified that were manufactured from recycled plastic. Many steps were taken to choose low-toxicity paint and other building materials, resulting in healthier homes. More details are available.

Optimise passive energy use (e.g. solar gain). Minimise energy use (e.g. lighting, heating/cooling, ventilation, insulation). Consider CHP and renewable energy sources. Use the operational energy EPI. Fit sub-metering and intelligent building monitoring systems.

Building operation accounts for 40-50% of energy consumed in the UK. The government has taken many actions to control energy use, through the Climate Change Levy, revision to Part L of the Buildings Regulations and providing grants for renewable energy. The Climate Change Levy charges all commercial energy users for fuel use. The new Part L sets more stringent energy efficiency standards for new build and refurbishment of domestic and commercial properties. The EU Directive on energy labelling of buildings was published in January 2003. The government has three years to implement it. Likely changes are: Part L revisions will apply to the whole building when refurbishment and extensions take place above the floor area threshold, energy labels will be produced for all buildings at point of sale or change of tenancy and plant inspections will become more strict.

There are many possible solutions to reduce fossil fuel use. Many sources of guidance and grants are available to help you choose, design and install the right system, such as Action Energy and Clear Skies.

General actions will include:

  • using passive gain and loss where possible, such as natural light, air movement, thermal mass, temperature gradients and other natural phenomena;
  • when passive solutions are constrained or do not fulfil requirements, minimise the energy use of the mechanical systems installed;
  • consider what renewable energy sources are available, such as solar water heating, wind turbines, biomass and photovoltaics;
  • ensure monitoring of thermal performance and energy use is in place, and the building is as responsive and easy to use as possible.

Such actions may reduce capital cost, should reduce operational costs and will lead to a more comfortable healthy internal environment. A range of demonstrations have considered all or some of these areas. One of the earliest demonstrations was a new facility building for the Environment Agency . The glazing and innovative external solar shading was a low cost solution that resulted in good energy efficiency and thermal performance, despite teething problems in the system.

 Great Notley Country Park Discovery Centre (provides a sports centre, an environmental education facility, and a social community resource.

The design incorporates a number of innovative ideas to reduce energy consumption, generate energy, recycle waste products and minimise environmental degradation. It is hoped that the site will be a net producer of energy rather than a consumer of it. The building has been insulated to a high standard and has a Termodeck heating and cooling system integrated with the building structure, which integrated with the building structure, which ensures good controlled ventilation. The centre is equipped with a 6kW wind turbine generator, coupled to a grid connection. There are solar roof panels to reduce energy consumption by heating water for showers.


Flexible information and communication services allow the users of a building to adapt their working and leisure patterns to suit themselves rather than the constraints of the building. It can allow greater remote working, reducing the need to travel, and increasing the productive use of space. New high-performance commercial and domestic developments often make a selling point of the “future proof” and flexible nature of the information and communication provision. To encourage home working and more flexible use of commercial space, such specifications need to become standard in new build and refurbishment.

At Primrose Field in Harlow Swan HA worked with Integer to convert the standard Integer housing brief into one for social housing. One of the features of the Integer system that Swan included was the provision of an intelligent cabling system. Cables were put in place for communications (phone, fax and internet), entertainment (terrestrial TV, radio, cable TV and internet) and data (computer and internet). Removable cornices allow the main cables to be easily accessed for future upgrading, and a service void behind the internal plaster board allows extra sockets and switches to be placed easily. The door entry system is linked to tenants’ phones and TVs, ensuring ease of use and improved security. These measures reduce maintenance costs for the association, and provide improved social opportunities, skills development and homeworking options for the tenants.


People in the UK typically spend about 90% of their time indoors, so the quality of the indoor environment matters. Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can have a significant adverse effect on health (from sick building syndrome to asthma and cancer), comfort and productivity. IAQ problems can have various economic consequences at personal, organisational and national level, including costs directly due to treating health problems:

  • absenteeism and reduced worker performance;
  • increased staff turnover;
  • damage to relations between landlords and tenants or between employers and employees, and the time taken to deal with complaints;
  • legal liability;
  • devaluation of a building or company;
  • deterioration of furnishings, equipment, and building fabric.

Indoor air pollutants arise from a wide range of sources, including people and their activities, equipment and building services, building and furnishing materials, the outdoor air, water and soil. From these sources come pollutants that may be:

  • biological (such as viruses, bacteria, fungal spores, mites and their metabolic products);
  • inorganic (for example radon, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides);
  • particles or fibres;
  • formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs);
  • complex mixtures such as environmental tobacco smoke.

Achieving good IAQ is not just a matter of meeting standard ventilation requirements; the first choice for reducing indoor pollution should be source control wherever possible. For example, substitution of products or processes, pre-treatment of materials, or isolation of sources will reduce pollution. Therefore, to avoid IAQ problems, it is important to understand the sources of indoor air pollution, the pollutants produced by these sources and their likely health effects. Source control requires attention both to new materials and components and to the promotion of good maintenance and cleaning. Where source control is not a viable complete solution, consider ventilation close to the source, more efficient general room ventilation, control of ventilation by the building users and air cleaning, not just a higher ventilation rate.

The new Docklands campus for the University of East London used several innovations. With the brief emphasising the requirement for a lowmaintenance, low-energy building, resistant to external noise, the design team focused upon reducing the big energy consumers of heating, cooling and ventilation. This led to the architect, Edward Cullinan Architects, specifying Termodeck, a hollow precast concrete ceiling plank through which tempered air is supplied. As Termodeck requires a sealed and insulated building, it also helps to cut out noise and outdoor pollution. The system does not recirculate air – eliminating one potential cause of sick building syndrome. As the solution demands an exposed structure, the installation and maintenance of finishes – a source of indoor pollutants – is reduced.


Buildings can contain high levels of ozone depleting substances in the air conditioning system and insulation. A passive approach to heating and cooling buildings will therefore also help you to reduce the damage done to the ozone layer. It is easy to specify materials in the roof, wall and floor components, as well as the boiler insulation, that do not contain ozone depleting chemicals.

For example the following list inherently have zero ozone depletion potential:

  • mineral fibre (e.g. Rockwool);
  • glass fibre (e.g. Owens Corning);
  • cork (e.g. Korklite);
  • cellular glass (e.g. Foamglas);
  • expanded polystyrene beads;
  • nitrile rubber (pipework insulator);
  • cellulose (e.g. Warmcell).

A significant group of ozone depleting chemicals are Hydro-Chloro Fluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are now banned for use in the manufacture of insulation. They are only allowed for Specify depletion systems on site use until January 2004. HCFCs can still be used as refrigerants, but will be phased out by approximately 2010.

Nitrogen oxides, commonly referred to as NOx, contribute towards global warming and acid rain, and react with oxygen to produce ozone, which is a pollutant at ground level. They arise from burning fossil fuels, so reducing consumption of these will reduce NOx emissions. Energy from renewable resources (except the combustion of biomass) does not produce any NOx. It is also possible to specify low NOx burners in boilers, which run more efficiently and have lower emissions.

It has not been possible to identify a demonstration for this criteria, as data has not been recorded for it, but a number of the demonstrations have achieved it through avoiding air conditioning and careful materials specification.

Ensure fitting are low water volume. Consider rainwater and grey water recycling. Consider permeable design for hard landscaping. Use the water EPI. Fit sub-metering.

As more dwellings and commercial buildings have water meters, and the costs of treating water increase, reducing water use becomes more of a concern. Water consumption can be easily reduced by specifying fittings such as dual flush toilets, spray taps and efficient white goods. These can all be achieved at little or no extra cost, and bring immediate cost savings in use. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Environment Agency maintain a database of water saving research and initiatives. The water EPI provides a methodology and benchmark for designers interested in operational efficiency.

For new build projects, rain water collection for toilet flushing can have other benefits through awareness raising and reducing peak demand on drainage and waste water services. Currently, water use exceeds supply only in the East of England, but this may change with predicted climate change and the costs of water treatment will increase with time.

Sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) are the subject of extensive research and guidance from CIRIA, the Environment Agency and Scottish Environment Protection Agency for example. It has been demonstrated that permeable products and related systems can have significantly lower maintenance costs than traditional solutions, reduce pressure on existing drains and help to replenish aquifers.

The Hotels Water Efficiency project managed by the Mandix Consultancy in Cardiff, is an unusual demonstration. It has focussed on adding value for the client by helping them to control their operating costs, improve their service levels and raise their environmental performance through the installation of water efficiency devices. The project monitored hotels for one year, guided the installation of water efficiency measures, and then monitored usage for a further year. Monitoring was carried out by the Centre for the Built Environment at Cardiff University. The hotels have decreased their water use by 14-53% per guest per year: this is saving them £5-24 per guest per year. This project has been supported by the Environment Agency, The BOC Foundation, Corus Group plc, Wales Tourist Board, Envirowise, Mandix, HCIMA, water undertakers in Wales, Green Globe 21, Plumb Centres Ltd, installers and manufacturers.

 The Henry Box development near Witney in Oxfordshire had to provide an affordable housing solution to being in the middle of a flood plain. The site is relatively flat with minimal fall to outlet available.

It uses a narrow shallow combined kerb drainage system to allow for achievement of a sustainable drainage system. Positive drainage such as the kerb drains and storage facilities work alongside passive drainage such as soil absorption and swales, leading to an efficient and sustainable facility.

Discourage single-occupant car use through public transport and cycling provision, making the development safe and secure, and providing showers and changing rooms.

The energy used to transport people to an office building can be equal to the energy used within it. Providing facilities to encourage modes of transport such as cycling and walking will have many benefits such as reduced car parking costs (providing car parking can cost as much as £800 per space) and a healthier workforce. Partnerships with infrastructure and public transport providers will be necessary for larger developments. Many local authorities and private companies have produced Green Transport Plans, and enjoy the benefits described above. For new build, providing facilities for public transport users will help towards BREEAM and EcoHomes ratings.

Beddington Zero Energy Development is a mixed housing and commercial development of 82, one to four bedroom flats and houses, with 1600m2 of work space.

BedZED is a Peabody development in partnership with BioRegional Development Group, designed by Bill Dunster Architects.

As part of the planning permission, BedZED needed a legally binding green transport plan. The three-point transport strategy aims to: reduce the need to travel, promote public transport and offer alternatives to using private cars. BedZED’s target is a 50% reduction in fossil-fuel consumption by private car use over the next ten years compared with a conventional development.

There is the chance to live and work on site, plus a sports facility and car pool. Other planned facilities include a café, clubhouse and premises for a local children’s nursery. These additional facilities have successfully embedded a strong community spirit and also play a part in reducing the need to travel. BedZED enjoys good transport links, travel. BedZED enjoys good transport links, served by train, tram and bus routes. Design issues have included:

  • drop-off points for deliveries;
  • generous bike storage;
  • links into Sutton’s existing cycle network;
  • a pedestrian first policy, with good lighting, drop kerbs for prams and wheelchairs and a road layout that keeps vehicles to walking speed.

Consider ease of operation and maintenance through commissioning time and documentation.

BSRIA, BRE, CIBSE and HVCA carry a wealth of information on effective commissioning. A recent publication provides a protocol for handover of office building operations. A poorly commissioned building is likely to consume far more resources and have a poor internal environment compared to a properly commissioned project. Poor handover is often due to ill-defined responsibilities and time constraints towards the end of projects.

Design team professionals are in an ideal position to ensure documentation and commissioning is effective and robust. Designers also have vital role to play in making the building as straightforward to use as possible, removing the need for lengthy documentation. If a designer has gone to the trouble of installing features such as low environmental impact materials, documentation should advise future managers of what should be specified in maintenance and refurbishment.

For demonstrations, successful commissioning is a key consideration in ensuring client satisfaction and many partnered teams remain in touch with the building users after completion. Many housing demonstrations involve monitoring of tenant satisfaction and living costs for an initial period.

 Gusto Construction’s award-winning Millennium Green development at Collingham embraces environmental good practice and sustainable development objectives, combined with traditional ideals and common sense.

The properties use up to 60% less energy than a standard new house through the use of solar panels, rainwater recycling, heat recovery ventilation systems and high levels of insulation. Additional benefits including high-performance timber windows, grade A electrical appliances, central vacuuming system and ISDN compatible telephone and internet connections throughout, give homeowners the opportunity to enjoy a better quality of life. Gusto provides all homeowners with an information pack, explaining the various features of the houses, and how to use the house efficiently.

Consider daylighting, ventilation humidification, personal control and space for wee-being and comfort. The DQI considers a range of environmental criteria.

Studies of good design and daylighting in educational buildings show academic achievement improves 5-20% with improved standards. Similar findings also apply to comfort in dwellings, recovery rates in healthcare buildings and productivity in commercial buildings.

Comfort often relates to the degree of control and understanding an individual has of their environment. Many demonstrations have featured buildings with high-quality indoor environments.

 The Great Notley (now Notley Green) Primary School was designed and built by an innovative team appointed in April 1997 by Essex County Council and the Design Council.

A commitment to devising a new approach to brief development formed the starting point for a tracking process. The end product was an interactive sustainable learning environment built within standard budgets, featuring breathing walls, good daylighting, oriented to maximise solar gain but not to overheat in summer, with a responsive underfloor heating system. The building services gained the Building Services innovation award in 2000.

 Gallions Housing Association’s Ecopark development in Thamesmead uses a combination of sustainable features through a selection of 39 houses.

A detailed monitoring and evaluation strategy to review the success and practicality of the features incorporated within the scheme is being undertaken and will help to focus the Associations future development strategy. Some of the technologies incorporated in the scheme are to maximise solar gain as well as improve well-being and comfort: super-insulating windows, passive ventilation, underfloor heating and integral sun spaces (similar in style to a conservatory). An on site visitors’ centre is open to showcase the development to other registered social landlords, members of the development and construction industries, school children, the media and interested members of the public.


With most buildings expected to last at least 60 years, and considering the changing needs of society, many buildings may need to alter use during their lifetime. Once refurbishment is no longer an option, buildings need to be deconstructed, creating the minimum of waste. Ease of deconstruction allows more value to be extracted from the building.

Off-site construction is a key method that allows for flexibility in layout, location and deconstruction. Lifetime housing needs to cater for the needs of single occupants, young families and the elderly. In other building types, flexibility is of commercial importance, for example in offices and laboratories.

 The Dorman Museum  was Phase One of the museum extension. The end elevation was contracted entirely of proprietary systems to be suitable for demounting and re-erection for possible future extensions.

Since then Phase Two of the project has used this feature, successfully removing the façade, building an extension and reassembling the façade. This was the optimum solution in terms of construction cost and time.

The housing demonstrations have featured various innovations. At White Rock Court in Liverpool a panel system was used to allow flexibility in internal layout as no internal walls are load-bearing.

 The Central Oakridge Regeneration in Basingstoke  has proved a regeneration scheme with a difference. In consultation with the local community, the project has involved a large element of off-site construction and pre-assembly.

Some of the units feature the flexibility to expand into the loft space or via sideways extensions. This helps to fulfil the commitment to lifetime homes.

Construction Process

  • Manage for minimum waste, using the waste EPI. Reuse waste on-site. process Protect and enhance existing ecological features (trees, hedges, ponds etc.) using the biodiversity EPI.
  • Minimise air pollution (dust and fumes) and noise pollution.
  • Minimise water use during construction, and guard against pollution.
  • Consider transport to and from site using the transport EPI.
  • Consider energy use through plant and site services.

Many construction organisations have departments dedicated to environmental performance. Most site managers deal with environmental issues on a daily basis: for example ensuring waste is transported to a certified disposal site, protecting waterways and arranging for equipment to minimise air pollution. Lean construction techniques increase efficiencies in using all resources, such as time, energy and materials, and so have an impact across the criteria. Many of the criteria below are part of standard practice, ensuring compliance with regulation, with the Environment Agency playing a key role. For this section each of the criteria are explained separately, and two demonstrations are used to show fulfilment of the criteria overall.


The Quarry and Landfill Tax have resulted in alterations to site practice, as contractors and the supply chain find methods that save money. Pressure is added by planning and client requirements to retain all demolition waste and top soil, and increase the proportion of reused and recycled materials used. The waste EPI is a simple measure of performance. Other tools include SMARTStart and SMARTWaste.


The local authority and Environment Agency have a role to play in this criteria: for example, ensuring plans for native planting are adhered to, Tree Protection Orders observed and water resources are protected. The biodiversity EPI provides a simple measure to assess performance, at design stage, during construction process, and when considering the finished product.


Air and dust pollution have a significant impact on site managers who control pollution, deal with regulatory officers and respond to complaints from the public. Recent guidance on air pollution provides best practice in control, and demonstrates the benefits of doing so. The Considerate Constructors Scheme rewards improved performance in noise and dust control.


The construction industry accounts for the highest number of water pollution incidents. The Environment Agency provides a comprehensive source of guidance on the NetRegs website. CIRIA have published a ‘Pollution Prevention in Construction’ training pack and code of practice and Control of water pollution from construction sites: guidance for consultants and contractors.


Transport of staff, materials and waste contributes significantly to carbon dioxide emissions, and deliveries and workforce car parking can seriously disturb the local community. The Considerate Constructors Scheme rewards site managers who plan car parking, ensure routes to site are well identified and keep deliveries out of rush hours or other sensitive times. Planning permissions are increasingly setting limits on how much road transport a construction site can produce. Congestion Charging is another pressure upon construction to manage its transport more effectively. Recent research on the transport EPI has refined the indicators and collected data on the costs of transport.

The Richard Doll Building is a new cancer research centre for the University of Oxford. Nicholas Hare Architects, working in conjunction with the main contractor HBG Construction, are using this project as a vehicle to understand and better manage building waste to ensure that it is kept to a minimum.

At the pre-construction stage the architects placed emphasis on the following goals within their design process:

  • construction materials were chosen with regard for their sustainable origins and their proximity to the site to reduce transportation;
  • suppliers with a more enlightened approach to waste management and recycling were identified, specifying (where possible) those who encouraged this process;
  • waste was designed out by methods such as modular design with regard to suppliers unit/sheet size, thereby reducing unusable off-cuts.

These very simple waste minimisation techniques, complement the more visible design features of the project such as naturally ventilated offices with exposed concrete soffits, solar shading to reduce heat-gain and highly insulated construction fabrics.

Building on experience from previous projects the contractor will be measuring and sorting waste in order to quantify and understand which portions of the works generate most waste. Sorting out waste helps to maximise the potential for these waste products to be recycled either by return to the supplier or for reuse by charities and other bodies.

 Weston and Cronkinson Farm Primary Schools were specified to use all six EPIs by Cheshire County Council. Operational energy and water and embodied energy were considered at design stage.

On site application of the waste, transport and biodiversity EPIs entailed some changes to site management. Waste contractor notes were used to estimate the volume of waste leaving the site. All vehicle movements to site were used to estimate the volume of waste leaving the recorded by the manager, allowing Willmott Dixon to assess how much transport is costing them and what actions they can undertake to improve performance on future sites. Weston School was sited in a maize field and scored 6/10 and 5/10 for impact during design and construction in the biodiversity EPI. Cronkinson Farm was delayed due to the late discovery of newts on the site. Since participating in the capture programme, the contractors have maintained and replanted a hedgerow and wild edge to the site, for wildlife and educational uses, as agreed with the head.

Finished product

  • Manage building systems, ecological features and waste for maximum product efficiency considering the design.
  • Use post occupancy evaluation and feedback.
  • Follow the design criteria for maintenance, repairs and refurbishment.

The management of buildings has not been a focus of demonstration projects. Therefore in this section each of the criteria are explained separately, and one demonstration is used as an illustration.


Water and energy consumption can be reduced by up to 80% through careful management. Good waste management practice, following the ‘waste hierarchy’ – reducing, re-using, recycling and as a last resort disposing of waste – can reduce operational waste disposal costs by anything up to 90%. It is well-documented that the majority of businesses can save between 1 and 4% of their turnover through undertaking a waste minimisation exercise.


As has already been outlined in the economic and social sections, post occupancy evaluation is vital to efficient building management. Occupants needs information on how to use a new or refurbished building. In the Housing Forum demonstrations report (February 2002) 66% of demonstrations were reported to engage users by providing high-quality information about the building. The Environmental Office building at BRE provided a user-friendly source of information by producing mouse mats with an explanation of the environmental control printed on them. Information must be close at hand for building users to access easily. Once occupants are well informed, more value can be gained from evaluation and feedback. The BRE Environmental Office held a building users feedback group for several years, at which users could discuss their concerns with the facilities manager.

Follow the design criteria for maintenance, repairs and refurbishment.

The environmental impact of a building will continue throughout its life cycle. Its operation and management, repair and maintenance, and its demolition all have different impacts. The ongoing maintenance, repair and refurbishment of buildings can have a greater impact over the lifespan of the building than its original construction. Good operational management of buildings is therefore crucial to reducing their environmental impact. Maintaining buildings appropriately, taking into account both materials and methods used, can reduce their impact on ecological systems and help to improve the biodiversity of an area.

 The Wessex Water New Operations Centre has received great acclaim. Much focus has been upon the innovations used during construction. The design and construction considered the building users and function in mind.

Careful attention was paid to thinking through the structure, M&E services and office equipment so they mesh together. When the building won the British Construction Industry Awards, the judges visited it one year after completion. They found none of the DIY adjustments and additions to the lighting, ventilation, electrical supply and filing systems that people usually carry out to make up for the deficiencies in the original design. Clean and calm is the first impression, apart from the smokers shelter, a genuine bike shed like structure positioned discreetly away from the main building.

Focussing on predominantly natural ventilation, the building utilises solar water heating panels, condensing boilers, grey/ rainwater collection and recycling, and a Building Management System with zone control stations to monitor and control the building’s environmental systems and artificial lighting control systems.