Sustainable Development and Construction

posted 28.09.2009
This interesting article which we recently came across here at recipro discusses some helpful hints and tips for sustainable construction and green developments.  The article comes from the West Lancashire Council website.  Have a read and let us know what you think.
Our environment is precious and we strongly support design and construction that promotes environmental, social and economic gain - now and for future generations. Latest figures from the Environment Agency show that the construction and operation of buildings makes up 60% of the UK’s energy use and 50% of our greenhouse gas emissions.
Construction and demolition activities alone represent 19% of the country’s total waste. To help developers - or anyone planning construction work - to reduce these figures, we’ve put together a simple guide to some of the key areas of sustainable design and construction:

Energy Efficient Design:
The way in which a building is designed plays a huge part in how energy efficient it will be once it’s occupied. If the property is to be as energy efficient as possible, developers need to give consideration to the following during the design stage: 
Passive solar building design: Optimise the amount of energy that can be generated directly from the sun and reduce the need for heating and cooling appliances. This can be achieved by:
-large south facing windows that absorb the sun’s heat and daylight
-locating the main living areas of the development in the south facing rooms to maximise these natural benefits 
-planting deciduous trees to the south of the building - this will provide shade during summer and allow heat through in winter
Thermal mass: The thermal mass of a building is the ability of a material to absorb heat. Choosing a building fabric that is effective at heating, cooling and storing thermal energy is an efficient way of maintaining stable, comfortable temperatures. It also reduces the need for artificial systems and therefore reduces the impact on the environment. Materials with good thermal mass are those that have high specific heat capacity, high density and low thermal conductivity, enabling them to slowly store and release relatively large quantities of heat. 
Passive ventilation: Utilise natural ventilation methods to avoid the use of mechanical air conditioning.
Insulation: A high level of insulation in any new development is an essential step to an energy efficient design. Mineral wools and oil-based products should be avoided as they are non-renewable, have high embodied energy, are difficult to dispose of and release greenhouse gases during manufacture, installation, use and disposal. There are many types of natural, sustainable, insulation for example hemp natural fibres, recycled cotton, sheep’s wool or cellulose insulation, which comes from recycled newspapers.
Lighting: Install fixed energy efficient light fittings to minimise energy consumption and reduce CO2 emissions. This should include lighting in garages, outbuildings, communal areas and outside security or feature lighting.
Landscaping: Tree canopies and soft landscaping will provide natural shading and insulation. Open water in public places will also help reduce the heat island effect in urban areas.
Energy efficient appliances: These should be installed or specified, for example Combined Heat and Power systems (CHP) or gas condensing boilers.
Bicycle storage: Provision of these facilities will help encourage future occupants to use a bicycle for short journeys and leave the car at home.
Drying space: Provide residents with the option of allowing washing to dry naturally – avoiding the need for heating or drying appliances.
Home office: Office space with internet connection provides the opportunity to work from home, reducing the need to travel especially during peak travel times when roads are heavily congested.
Information packs: Developers should provide all future residents with a home information pack detailing the energy efficiency of the building and environmentally friendly tips to reduce energy use, water use, waste and travel.

Renewable Energy: Renewable energy is a high priority to help us meet the national goal of a 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. In 2000, central government set the wheels in motion by placing a target of achieving 10% of our electricity supply from renewable sources by 2010. We strongly encourage proposals for renewable energy generation. All development sites should be assessed for opportunities to install renewables and should consider if a mix of technologies would be most effective. Building designs should also allow for the future installations of renewables. Types of renewable and low carbon technologies include: 
Wind power 
Solar photovoltaics
Solar water heating
Biomass heating
Wave and tidal
Ground source heat pumps
Hydroelectric power
Geothermal power
More information about renewable energies can be found at the Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform website.  Large and high-density developments should also consider incorporating sustainable energy supplies such as Combined Heat and Power, and Borough cooling systems.

Building Materials: Below are a few things for developers to consider with regard to building materials.
Re-use and recycle: Opportunities for re-using existing materials on site should be explored.  Of course recipro can help with the reuse of materials by finding buyers for any surplus building materials. Where this is not practical, materials should be recycled. Using new materials that can be recycled at the end of their life should also be prioritised. 
Embodied energy: This is the amount of energy required to produce a product. For example UPVC windows have high embodied energy due to their long manufacturing process, which requires fuel and produces toxic bi-products. They are also very difficult to recycle after use and will not biodegrade over time. Timber has a low embodied energy, as it is a natural product that is easily utilised. It can also be easily re-used and will biodegrade. Timber can be easily repaired which is more sustainable than throwing it away and replacing with new. Timber should be from a sustainable source.
Locally sourced: Products that can be sourced locally should be used to minimise the emissions from vehicles used to transport goods.
Construction activities: Activities carried out during the construction phase can often cause significant environmental impacts if not managed correctly. Measures should be put in place to manage and control the amount of energy and water used. A site waste management plan should be followed to ensure waste is kept to a minimum and emissions to air, land and water are controlled at all times.
Waste Management: All construction sites produce waste, so it’s important to try and keep it to a minimum by reducing, re-using and recycling materials wherever possible. Government regulations make it compulsory for developments costing over £300,000 to have a Site Waste Management Plan - but this is a great idea for any development. A management plan will help increase the amount of construction waste that is recovered, recycled and re-used, improve resource efficiency and help ensure you are compliant with waste management legislation.
Storage of waste: Developers should ensure that sufficient waste storage is provided to allow future residents to store recycling containers and separate their waste. Access for collection crew and vehicles should also be considered in the early design stages.

Category: Business Help, environment, industry