Sustainable Design and Construction

Sustainability has been defined by the Brundtland commission, 1987, as ‘meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. Sustainability represents a balance that accommodates human needs without diminishing the health and productivity of natural systems.

Environmental impacts of buildings and construction:

The construction and operation of buildings contributes significantly, directly and indirectly, to most of our environmental challenges. Buildings are tremendous consumers of resources and generators of waste (44% of world’s pollution is from buildings). The industrial processes used to manufacture building materials and equipment contribute to waste and pollution as well. Buildings and the infrastructure that supports them consume, open space and displace habitat. Poor indoor environments can inhibit productivity, and in some cases, can even threaten the health of building occupants.

Sustainable design recognizes the interdependence of the built and natural environment, for example in the UK, consumption associated with the built environment and construction industry in the UK can be summarized as bellow:

• 6 tonnes of material per person per year
– 1.5 tonnes for new infrastructure (roads/railways etc.)
– 1.5 tonnes for new buildings
– 3.0 tonnes for repair and maintenance
• 300 million tonnes quarried aggregates per annum, only 10-15% of this total is recycled
• 70 million tonnes of construction waste per annum (which is 17% of the total UK waste)
• 70% of energy use can be directly or indirectly attributed to the use of buildings and infrastructure
(Source DETR 1998)

It is estimated that 5.1 million new homes are needed in England, this will jeopardise the land and the environment and if it was not carried out carefully this will have a great negative impact on the economy too. Its worth noting that the housing sector is 25% of UK Construction Activity which worth around £10 billion/annum.

The government stated that “We need to build the right housing, in the right place and to the highest standards of quality and good design” I don’t see them paying any attention to the environment of the sustainability of their design!

For further readings on the subject: