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Review – A sustainability checklist for developments (BR 436)

by mel starrs on May 30, 2006

in Publications & Standards

A debate I often have with folk is what constitutes sustainability in construction? Carbon and M&E is only one part of it.

The framework given in the BRE publication BR 436 ‘A sustainability checklist for developments’ gives a fantastic starting point for educating clients as to what sustainability can encompass. It takes the 4 themes the government set out in 1999 in ‘UK strategy for sustainable development’ and expands on them. The 4 themes are:

  • maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment
  • social progress which recognises the needs of everyone
  • effective protection of the environment
  • prudent use of natural resources

Much broader than carbon. Since then the government have issued ‘Securing the future‘ in March 2005, but the checklist is still very relevant. It applies to larger development and regeneration sites and covers 8 headings:

  • land use, urban form and design
  • transport
  • energy
  • buildings
  • natural resources
  • ecology
  • community
  • business

The checklist addresses what is often referred to as the triple bottom line of environment, social and economic considerations. The framework gives a starting point for assessing any developments credentials, or conversely to develop a mantra or strategy for a development. For details of the checklists used in the document see after the jump:

Environmental concerns and principles

Environmental sustainability (in relation to the built environment) involves consideration of the local natural environment, and the national and global impacts. The main aspects of these are detailed below.

  • Use land wisely and protect areas of natural beauty, scientific interest etc.
  • Use less energy and find more environmentally friendly forms of energy
  • Limit the amount of water treated for human consumption and increase the use of environmentally friendly water supply and drainage systems
  • Reduce the amount of road traffic to alleviate congestion, reduce air pollution and limit the land required for roads/car parks
  • Reduce the amount of raw materials used for construction, and consider appropriate means of extraction for materials that are plentiful
  • Encourage local sourcing of materials
  • Provide safe disposal of used materials that cannot be recycled
  • Protect and enhance wildlife and biodiversity

Social concerns and principles

The built environment should be a healthy, attractive and desirable place for people to live. Agreeing on the features to achieve this is not easy, bit is likely to include the following aspects.

  • a high ‘quality’ built environment (i.e. one that the majority of people find attractive and comfortable)
  • a mix of housing (types and tenures)
  • a mix of land uses (housing, employment and leisure)
  • an appropriate density of buildings for the type of area
  • provision of facilities/local centre, school, shop, chemist etc
  • high accessibility throughout the area, with good public transport and provision for walkers and cyclists
  • a reduction in the domination of the car, particularly in residential areas
  • measures to improve air quality
  • provision of a high standard of urban design with sufficient public green space and areas of beauty
  • designs to reduce the opportunities for crime
  • designs to reduce noise nuisance and provide some quiet spaces

Economic concerns and principles

The requirements for economic sustainability vary depending on the nature of the community. Two extremes may be the densely urban and the isolated rural situations. The economic health of individual communities is linked to the economic health of the surrounding region, and it is the responsibility of the RDA’s to foster the economic growth within their regions. This checklist addresses the urban situation, and highlights some of the factors that make an area likely to be economically viable for the future. These are listed as follows:

  • providing employment sites to meet a projected need
  • providing an appropriate intensity of land use to ensure viability of local business
  • providing good infrastructure links to key trading centres by both public and private transport
  • providing the basis for a thriving local economy
  • supporting local trades and businesses during construction/regeneration activity