Page 4: Improving sustainability
The challenge to the property industry, owners and users is to produce buildings that are functional, flexible, require less energy to construct and consume less energy in their daily use. A 15% increase in initial building costs can result in a 5% per year saving in running costs. Over the life of the building these savings will far outweigh the increased initial cost.
In order to balance the economic equation of sustainability and affordability at a practical level, the quantity surveyor can follow what has been called the 'Ten Commandments' for sustainability in design and construction. They are:
- Re-use existing buildings - This reduces costs and the building is quicker to complete
- Design for minimum waste - Make designs simple with re-use in mind
- Aim for lean construction - Avoid over specification and use preassembly and repetitive components wherever possible
- Minimise energy in construction - Use minimum quantities and avoid energy intensive materials like aluminium and cement
- Minimise energy in use - Make best use of the natural environment. For example, open and close windows, rather than use air conditioning
- Don’t pollute - Dispose of waste and discharges sensibly. Make efficient use of the existing transport infrastructure
- Preserve and enhance biodiversity - Protect the natural habitat
- Conserve water resources - Recycle rain and waste water
- Respect people - Encourage community relations and public information. Look after staff with regard to Health and Safety
- Set targets - Targets should be set for the reduction of energy used, embodied energy, transport and waste. Setting targets is also a way of measuring achievements.
Utilising these 'Ten Commandments’ goes a long way towards achieving sustainability in construction, but requires commitment from everyone involved. Even small savings in each area of the ten commandments can result in huge energy savings.
In all market sectors, most businesses now have an environmental policy. A company that builds for its own occupation will consider higher expenditure at the outset for lower energy bills tomorrow. Occupiers are now beginning to influence the initial specification of buildings by setting briefs that reflect the goal of sustainable development.
Sustainability in action - Wessex Water
Wessex Water’s new operations centre is currently under construction on a brownfield site in Bath. It will set new benchmark standards in the construction industry for environmental sustainability, leading to a new generation of green buildings. Wessex Water demonstrates a long-standing commitment to sustainability. Its approach to this building considers both the design and method of construction, together with the future operation of the building itself. The green agenda permeates this site and building at every level.
The building features a low-energy, naturally ventilated design and careful selection of materials to minimise environmental impact. For example, locally produced steel, concrete, quarried stone and re-cycled aggregates from the River Severn have been used. Lifecycle costing of alternative designs and materials also influenced major design decisions on the project. Surface water is stored and pumped around the site to serve various new water features and will also be used to flush toilets. All waste from the site is separated for recycling.
Wessex Water has been keen to assess the environmental benefits against their value for money. In striking the right balance between environmental benefits and increased costs, Wessex Water has found the services of an independent quantity surveyor vitally important.