Building Environmental Performance Open Dialogue
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  A strategic approach

A strategic approach to building environmental performance
Awareness on building environmental impact after the Kyoto Protocol came into effect (2005 regarding climate change) has been raised drastically with a wide spectrum of environmental considerations taken into account.

Thus we are now able to change appropriately

  • what we build
  • what we build with
  • how we build it
working towards reducing our carbon footprint whilst improving indoor environment living standards.

Design teams nowadays are expected to identify a building's potential regarding environmental impact and incorporate all necessary features to ensure client and community expectations and aspirations are satisfied.

Building environmental performance assessments ensure design teams commit to

  • measuring & monitoring the extent to which buildings affect the environment
  • assessing the viability of a variety of environmentally friendly solutions
via a systematic procedure accompanied by verifiable evidence.

The older, most thorough and well recognised building environmental performance assessment method in Europe is undoubtedly UK's BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). Current BREEAM schemes cover the domestic & commercial building sectors both for new-builts, refurbishments, buildings under operation (in-use) and have now taken a broader approach having introduced a scheme assessing sustainability performance in communities as a whole.

In an attempt to prioritise major key factors probably the most broadly acceptable place to begin from is energy efficiency. In this case as such is defined the relevant energy a building consumes in comparison to the existing and future building stock. This energy relates to the amount required to maintain occupants under satisfactory comfort levels regarding temperature, humidity, air quality and light.

A strategic approach towards building energy efficiency could consist of the following steps:

  • Focus on an integrated design via a holistic approach responsive to the external climatic conditions also ensuring a comfortable indoor environment.
  • Gather all relevant parties of the detailed design as early as possible (Developers, Project Managers, Quantity Surveyors, Building Control Officers, Architects, Structural Engineers, Services Engineers, LZC Specialists, Thermal Modellers, Lighting Specialists, Energy Assessors, Controls Specialists, Environmental Impact & Ecology Consultants).
  • Focus initially on energy demand reduction via optimum design of the building form /geometry & fabric applying passive architecture.
  • Target simple solutions thus eliminating failure in maintainability & manageability
  • Select optimum plant technology & size for maximising efficiency based on independently verified performance data.
  • Apply effective controls strategy to ensure high efficiency and maximise energy saving ensuring manual override is always an option.
  • Encourage energy efficient operation via management, policy, maintenance, monitoring and control.
  • Develop an appropriate metering system able to detect faults rapidly and thus improve understanding based on previous experience.
  • Compare design and in-use performance with appropriate benchmarks to ensure best practice is achieved.
  • Consider energy efficient technologies further upgrade processes avoiding unnecessary complications.
    (Opportunity may arise during operation, maintenance or any alterations/refurbishments.)
Further environmental parameters include:
  • Management of the design and construction procedures in a way that ensures as an outcome a functional & sustainable asset, where all construction practices are managed in an environmentally sensitive manner and all stakeholder views and needs have been considered.
  • Life cycle costing and service life planning in accordance with ISO 15686-5 regarding the thermal envelope, building services and external spaces.
  • Carbon emissions minimisation due to energy consumption for operating the building including consideration of the fuel type embodied emissions.
  • Low & Zero Carbon technology potential to be assessed project specifically (Solar Thermal/PV, Micro-Wind, Communal/Micro-CHP/CCHP, Air & Ground Source Heat Pumps, Waste incineration, Biofuels, fuel cells).
  • Water consumption minimisation, monitoring, leak detection & prevention.
  • Responsible sourcing of key building element materials (Environmental Management System and Chain of Custody Certification).
  • Mitigating ecological impact, enhancing site ecology and minimising long term impact of a development on local areas' biodiversity.
  • Minimisation of refrigerant impact via low Direct Effect Life Cycle CO2 equivalent emissions, low leakage rates & Global Warming Potential.
  • Minimisation of NOx emissions from heating /cooling systems.
  • Minimisation of surface water run-off to public sewers and watercourses.
  • Reduction of night time light pollution and nuisance to neighbouring properties.
  • Reduction of noise affecting nearby noise-sensitive buildings.
Prior to addressing and further investigating all the above fields, it is crucial that a strategic approach includes a deep understanding of the special weight each parameter carries (including its potential impact as part of the whole design) in order to ensure a cost effective short, mid and long term solution. Arguably cost effectiveness may become quite a highly complex topic to analyse and draw any safe conclusions, when there are so many factors which may affect it including market trends, national and international commitments /legislation changes, company branding and any other marketing strategies amongst other things.


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