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Environmental Impact of Design and Construction

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 26 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Design Construction Green

In order to assess the environmental impact of a new office design it is advisable to employ the services of a specialist architectural assessor.

A New Dawn in Green Design and Construction

Increasing environmental concern has heralded a new dawn in design and construction – namely green building and the impact the building industry has on global climate change.

This new phase has introduced the phenomenon of green building accreditation, whereby new and existing constructions are rated according to how green they are. This concept was first introduced in the early 90s with the certification system BREEAM.

BREEAM and The Sustainability in Design

BREEAM is an assessment tool created by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) to facilitate the design and construction of environmentally friendly and sustainable developments. It is regarded by the UK’s construction and property sectors as the benchmark system in environment design and management, and widely used across the globe.

BREEAM is largely a design stage assessment because it is said that building sustainability is achieved in the first 10% of the design process. Getting root level aspects such as the internal planning, orientation, façade and the site location right can be crucial to the cost and success in achieving a sustainable design. Further down the line, areas such as materials, insulation, biodegradable products, energy remodelling and renewable energy come into play.

BREEAM Assessment

BRE provide the tools, information and programme but the actual task of carrying out an assessment is left to a contractor team within BRE’s licensed assessor network specialising in office developments.

Depending on the stage of development, there are three main office assessment programmes:

  • Design and procurement – this assessment focuses on office developments still in their design stage, such as new build or refurbishment projects.
  • Post construction – this is a follow-up assessment to the above, which reviews how the BREEAM measures have been implemented.
  • Management and operation – this assessment is for existing and operational constructions.

The BREEAM assessor will review the performance of the construction in the areas of management, energy use, health and well being, pollution, transport, land use, ecology, materials and water, and then conclude by providing an overall assessment score that will fall within the four rating bands of ‘PASS’, ‘GOOD’, ‘VERY GOOD’ and ‘EXCELLENT’.

Carbon Trust Building Design Advice

Ever keen to promote environmentally friendly constructions, the government funded organisation the Carbon Trust offers developers its own building design advice service.

The service includes both face-to-face consultancy and a detailed guide. How much consultancy time developers are allowed will depend on the size of the project and its potential for carbon saving, but the guide itself is available to all. It is a free detailed overview about creating or adapting good, energy efficient buildings of up 2,500m2, and includes advice about choosing the right technologies and maintenance.

Software Design Help

For help with the actual design of an environmentally friendly office development, there is the software tool Envest 2. This facility is the first UK computer programme that allows designers to explore ways to reduce a building’s environmental impact and whole life cost at the design stage.

Designers can, for example, explore the environmental and cost consequences of adopting certain building materials, technologies and designs. Not only can Envest 2 analyse the original design concept, but also evaluate the final design upon completion.

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