We approach our projects with environmental impact in mind from the very start, believing as we do that sustainability must be absolutely integral to the final solution. With our experience, we are able to guide clients through the minefield of decisions that need to be made, with long term awareness of the environmental and financial implications.
Sustainability in building developments is a vast and complex subject. If elements such as energy efficiency, durability and waste reduction are not planned for from the very beginning, the initial vision of a sustainable build can slip away. Often cost factors, timescales and access to materials can appear to throw you off course, so good planning and an experienced architect is essential to make those carbon savings a reality.
When planning a build, the spectrum of sustainability options can seem so huge and diverse it’s overwhelming. You don’t need to have all of the answers straight away, but as a solid starting point we’ve pulled together a list of initial environmental considerations for you to think about when planning your own building project.
At its core, designing with sustainability in mind involves both working to meet the demands of the expanding population, as well as supporting the environment in the long-term.
We think The Upcycle by Michael Braungart and William McDonough, published in 2013, has an incredibly interesting approach to sustainable design and it’s one that we use to guide us here at Lane Architects. They outline that if we were to create a world where design is used as a tool for positive impact, industry could do better than “do no harm”: it could actually actively improve the environment we live in.
There are a number of recognised common principles of sustainable/eco design. Here’s our list of the most important considerations:
Waste minimisation: Traditional waste management focuses on processing waste after it is created, concentrating on re-use, recycling, and waste-to-energy conversion. While this is very important, we also consider a project’s waste minimisation, focussing efforts to avoid creating waste during the building process.
Durability: We work to ensure a long lifespan of our projects, reducing the consumption of further materials and the need for more building work in the longer term.
Energy efficiency: We encourage our clients to use building materials that use manufacturing processes and produce products which require less energy. We also ensure the finished build will be well insulated and therefore easier to heat with a lower energy consumption. It’s also important to consider how to best harness sustainable energy sources in the finished property, utilising sunlight, wind and geothermal heat when it’s viable to do so.
Indoor air quality: IAQ is known to affect the health, comfort and well-being of building occupants. The issue of IAQ throughout both the design and the construction stages of a building’s life is an important consideration.
Water conservation: We know that clean water is a precious and finite resource. There are now a plethora of water-saving technology options for both domestic and non-domestic buildings.
Sustainable building materials: We encourage our clients to consider non-toxic, sustainably produced or recycled materials which require little energy to process.
Renewable resources: Ideally, materials should come from nearby (local or at least bioregional), sustainably managed renewable sources that can be composted when their usefulness has been exhausted.
BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method), this is a global sustainability standard helping to improve the environmental performance of buildings.
ISO 14001 Environmental Management is a standard for a company’s Environmental Management Systems. It aims to reduce waste management costs and shows commitment to protecting the environment. It also helps resource efficiency, which is very relevant in construction when it comes to materials used. Its designation as an ISO (International Standards Organisation) standard means it is truly international and standards are updated every 5 years.
RIBA has developed the 2030 Climate Challenge to help architects design within a climate conscious trajectory. The 2030 Climate Challenge sets a series of targets for practices to adopt to reduce operational energy, embodied carbon and potable water.
The Green Guide is a great resource, assessing the environmental impacts of materials during their life cycle.
World Green Building Councils are independent, non-profit organisations made up of businesses and organisations working in the building and construction industry. Their aim is to transform the sector across three strategic areas; climate action, health and wellbeing, and resources and circularity. They are a global action network of over 70 Green Building Councils around the world. They have a number of fantastic free resources, publications and reports.