Sustainability in Construction: Top 10 Highlights

Marietta Chatzinota
With sustainability and green initiatives an increasingly important part of the government's and business agenda we have prepared the top 10 sustainability highlights to summarise a few of the current issues and up and coming events.

1. Green Sky Thinking Week

With Ecobuild already underway this week, the next sustainability event to look out for is Green Sky Thinking Week (GSTW) - 25-29 April 2016. Hattie Hartman, Architect’s Journal describes the event as: "a crash course in where sustainable design is headed."

More than 40 events are scheduled to take place in London, shaped around health and wellbeing, urban resilience and green technology.

2. BBP sustainable fit-out toolkit launch

Better Buildings Partnership (BBP), along with Faithful+Gould's sustainability team, are launching their newest toolkit on sustainable fit-out for office and retail on 28 April 2016, during GSTW.

GSTW’s programme will be formally announced on the 8th of March 2016. Visit Open-City for more information and to book your place.

3. BREEAM Awards 2016 - spotlight on The Bright Building

The Bright Building at the University of Bradford seeks to be: "the focal point in embedding sustainable living and learning within all University activities in unison with the Ecoversity vision."

The building has achieved a BREEAM final certificate of 95.2%, was awarded an 'Outstanding' rating, and has now been shortlisted in the BREEAM 2016 awards under the Mixed Use and Other category.

Faithful+Gould and Atkins were key stakeholders in the project delivery through providing cost consultancy, project management and sustainability services.

4. Suffolk energy-from-waste (EfW) facility

Suffolk’s energy-from-waste (EfW) facility at Great Blakenham is the first industrial building in East Anglia to be awarded the top BREEAM rating of 'Outstanding'.

The EfW facility is a joint initiative between Suffolk County Council and SUEZ and uses household and business waste, which would otherwise go to landfill, as a fuel to generate enough electricity for 30,000 homes. The initiative will save 75,000 tonnes CO2/year and over £350 million over the 25-year life of the contract.

The BREEAM assessment was carried out by Faithful+Gould assessors David Robinson and Emma Gains.

5. Six graphics that explain climate change

The BBC have put together six simple interactive graphics which explain the problem, the reason why climate change is happening, its impacts, a snapshot of the future climate and how damage can be mitigated before and after the agreement in Paris.

6. Liking something on Facebook can damage the planet

Data centres currently consume 3% of the global electricity supply and are responsible for 2% of the world’s CO2 emissions; the same as the airline industry. Last year alone, electricity consumed by data centres was almost 40% greater than the total electricity consumed by the UK.

"The current growth of data centres is not sustainable beyond the next 10 to 15 years," stresses Professor Ian Bitterlin. For example, a recent study estimates that by 2030, Japan would need to consume all its electricity to power data centres.

Governments are already encouraging the roll-out of data centres to colder climates (e.g. Sweden) where there is far less need for cooling down the facilities and there is availability of electricity from renewable sources. However, a shift to 100% renewable energy might still not be sufficient…could we be looking into a future where internet use, particularly online streaming of coloured photos and films, is rationed?

7. £29bn investment planned in UK wind generation

Its large wind resource and relatively low sea levels (when compared to the Mediterranean) have made the UK an attraction for wind farm projects.

Based on data from Barbour ABI, the current projected investment of £29bn in the sector "dwarfs the £12.3bn of contracts awarded on wind farm developments over the past five years."

Amongst the investments is Dong Energy’s £15bn Hornsea One, off the coast of Yorkshire, and with a capacity of 1.2 GW, sufficient to power around one million homes.

8. Climate change could impact your diet

A modelling study, funded by the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and led by Dr. Marco Springmann, has assessed the impact of climate change on diet composition and bodyweight across the globe.

The study reveals that unless current CO2 emissions are reduced, intake of fresh fruit and vegetable could decrease by 4% (i.e. 14.9 gr/ day per person), and the average food availability by 99 kcals/day per person. This could lead to an extra 500,000 climate-related deaths, the great majority of which occurring in China and India.

9. New action framework on sustainable real estate

After the COP21 agreement in Paris at the end of 2015, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other partners, such as Royal Institution of Chartered Syrveyors (RICS), have put together a simple and practical framework (PDF,6.6MB)to help real estate stakeholders (investors, owners, portfolio managers) integrate Environmental Social Governance (ESG) and climate change into investment strategies.

10. Non-domestic buildings consume more energy than expected

A report from Innovate UK (PDF,2.1MB), highlights the inconsistency between the performance of a building 'As Designed' and 'As Built', also known as the 'performance gap'.

A Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) Journal article summarises: "Of the 49 ‘leading-edge, modern buildings’ evaluated, only one portrayed energy use which matched what was estimated at design stage." Complicated controls and Building Energy Management (BEM) systems are being highlighted as one of the contributing factors into excessive energy use.

The report draws on the fact that Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) rarely reflect the actual use and operation of the building, questioning the use of current design tools to accurately predict energy consumption.