Sustainable thinking holds the key to future built environment

As the UK's housing demands continue to soar, the sustainability of the built environment is becoming more important than ever and a more unified construction industry would lead to more efficient, longer-lasting buildings.

That’s according to a new whitepaper released today (10 October) by UBM Built Environment. The report sets out the vision of nine industry leaders about how buildings of the future can be more sustainable, with three distinct ideas emerging.

The contributors – ranging from the chief executive of the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) to the editor of Building Design magazine – discuss the role of clients, the plight of contracting, the upcoming election, and the trajectory of our cities within the context of a global sustainability debate. (Scroll down for full report)

Holistic approach

Marks & Spencer’s head of facilities management Munish Datta believes a joined-up market and a holistic approach from constituent parts of the supply chain would encourage a sustainable end-product.

“The building industry is not naturally set up to think about buildings in a harmonious way; it is disjointed,” he writes.

“Each stakeholder in the process is interested in and rewarded for a specific stage of the building lifecycle, thereby preventing anyone to think about it for its life duration. We need an industry in which every role, from developers to facilities management, is incentivised to design, build, operate and re-use buildings for their life.”

Consistent policy

UK Green Building Council chief executive Paul King takes this argument a step further, adding that a consistent government policy is needed to encourage investment in energy efficiency in buildings.

“Only then will companies, large and small, which bear the still fresh scars from the slashing of ECO, stop-start incentives and the underwhelming start of the Green Deal, be prepared to reconsider and reinvest,” writes King. “Let’s not forget the German experience: every euro of public money spent leveraged 15 euros of private sector investment and returned 4 euros to the Treasury.”

King also points out that, as the biggest construction client and property tenant in the country, the Government can set a template for mainstream adoption of energy efficiency measures.

Deputy CEO at the Construction Products Association Peter Caplehorn confirms King’s views, writing: “There is a desperate need for a cohesive energy policy that works at national and local levels and delivers practical benefits to manufacturers and consumers alike.

“Business owners in particular continue to be confused by the constantly changing energy landscape and exclude themselves from the debate.”

Optimised office design

Jane Henley of the World Green Building Council says that a well-designed office space can boost worker productivity as well as being more energy efficient.

“Sustainable design strategies trigger a virtuous circle that delivers on the ‘triple bottom line’ of people, planet and profit. For example, designing a building to maximise daylight reduces the need for artificial daylight, and with it energy costs and carbon emissions, while also creating a more pleasant and productive workplace for people.

The report surmises that sustainable buildings of the future will require co-operation between the public-and private sectors, and from every part of the supply chain.

However, as Peter Caplehorn puts it: “[These measures] sound simple expressed in a few sentences, but to date, for the most part they have eluded us.”

View the full whitepaper – The Future of the Built Environment – below.

Brad Allen

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