Are sustainable buildings hitting the mark?

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With an increasing focus on sustainable buildings, there is a growing need for building managers to demonstrate that their building’s performance meets the correct UK standards and accreditations. Yet with a proliferation of standards, certifications and ratings in the marketplace, and with research indicating there are over 600 green product certifications in the world, measuring everything from energy efficiency to indoor air quality, what accreditation does a building actually need?

 

 

Simon Green, Managing Director of Green Building Design Consultants, comments: “We first saw a significant push towards sustainable design in 1990 with the launch of BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method), which was the first green building rating system in the world. Since then we have seen a vast number of new standards and ratings introduced and it can be time-consuming and challenging for people to know which accreditation to use. In my opinion, there are 4 key accreditations that UK buildings should be aiming for – BREEAM, Design for Performance, WELL Building Standard and BS 40101.”

BREEAM certification is arguably the most well-known accreditation, which assesses the overall sustainability of a building by measuring a number of factors including low impact designs, carbon emission, design durability and resistance. Accredited buildings are awarded a BREEAM certification rating from Acceptable through to Outstanding.

Design for Performance is part of the NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) UK rating scheme administered by BRE Group. Launched in November 2020, its aim is to encourage energy efficiency to be included at the design stage of a building as opposed to only addressing it when the building is complete. Developments can now register for the framework so that energy efficiency is a key consideration at the very start of the process, resulting in quicker and more cost-effective energy-efficient buildings. As Simon explains, “Not only will this help us all on the path to net carbon zero, but it also closes the current gap that often creeps in between the design and operation of a building.”

WELL Being Standard is one of the most established accreditations for building health, ensuring buildings are developed with occupants’ health and wellbeing in mind. Buildings are measured on seven factors – air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. Simon explains “Wellbeing is front of mind for most people, especially as we start to come out of the pandemic. I recently wrote about the importance of designing buildings for wellbeing. It is important that we consider the wellbeing of individuals in the workplace and the building itself can play a large part in that.”

BS 40101 is a new Building Performance Evaluation standard due to be published later this year. It will measure indoor environment quality and it is expected that it will provide guidance on ventilation, heating, lighting and how to minimise the effects of noise and air pollution to improve wellbeing.

Simon concludes, “Creating sustainable buildings that are correctly accredited is not only important for the health of our planet, but also to ensure the health and wellbeing of occupants – whether a home, workplace or public building. It is not just a ‘nice to have’. With the current MEES (Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards) Regulations expected to be updated so that buildings must have an EPC rating of B (instead of the current E), research has shown that 82% of landlords and investors cited environmental friendliness and energy efficiency in their top three considerations when purchasing a property, so sustainability will – and should – feature more and more in building design.”