Category Archives: BREEAM

Living lightly on the earth: #LCBPC BREEAM Outstanding and Sustainability event.

Last Wednesday evening (18th May) saw the Lancashire Construction Best Practice Programme (@lcbpc) meet at the recently opened, BREEAM Outstanding Brockholes Visitor Center (@visitBrockholes)for a programme of speakers on a sustainability in the built environment theme.

Martin Brown, (@fairsnape) as chair of the club, welcomed delegates and introduced the speakers, pointing out the evening would touch on the three key elements of sustainability -ie the triple bottom line of environmental, economical and social, or fit for planet, purpose and people. 

Martin posed a challenge to the delegates – who at a senior / director role in your organisation is really driving sustainability and your transition to a low carbon economy? (See Carbon Diet for Boards)

Ian Selby (LWT) opened the first of three short talks from LWT with an overview of the Brockholes Center development, making the interesting comment that the Lancashire Wildlife Trust is now one of the leading environmental developers in the North West. The low impact design and the pursut of BREEAM Outstanding was key, aligned to the Trusts vision of ‘living lightly on the earth’

Clare Kenny (LWT) described the work of the LWT going forward, the need for fund raising, and the LWT Mosslands carbon capture scheme for business (naturalcarboncapture).  David Atherton (LWT) talked in more detail the steps necessary to gain the BREEAM Outstanding standard, suggesting that BREEAM Outsanding has added value but in itself is not value, citing a number of tick box items only necessary to get the standard, including the lit cycle track that when it met the unlit public track in a field plunges cyclists into darkness.

Leadership, committment and buy in are essential for success in sustainability was Joe Moxham (Carefoot) of Carefoot’s message in his overview of their three year road map, focusing on the measurement and reduction targets for construction carbon, water and energy use, through the use of constructco2

David Inman (@DIEMLtd) (Diem Ltd) highlighted the need for effective management of waste, from a legal and business and cost benefit perspective, and following the theme set by Joe, on the reduction of carbon achievable through waste reduction.

Successful sustainability management needs diverse thinking, was the theme for Chrissi McCarthy (@CChrissi)(Constructing Equality) who outlined the construction sectors rather poor performance on diversity issues and the benefits of profits and growth being seen in other sectors that have a higher level of diversity.

Martin summed up, thanking the speakers and returning to the LWT vision of ‘living lightly on the earth’, remarking at the similarlity with other organisations such as Patagonia  ‘do no harm’ (which, like LWT they also apply to their construction activities), wondering how built environment organisations in the UK could embrace and live with such visions. 

The event was video recorded by Dave Severns Jones (@severnsjones) (it was hoped to stream live but connectivity was not available), The recording, along with the slides will be available very soon.

The nest Lancashire Construction Best Practice Club event is on June 23rd with a focus on meet the bidder. 

Best Practice Club visit: BREEAM Outstanding Brockholes Visitor Center

Last night the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Mansell Construction hosted an event and tour of the new, soon to be opened ‘floating’ Brockholes Visitor Center in Preston for members of the Lancashire Construction Best Practice Club and local CIOB

The visitor centre has received BREEAM Outstanding for design and expects the full accreditation for the project on completion of construction. This is the first bespoke public sector project to receive this standard. In addition to providing an excellent wildlife facility, the venue should inspire those in the built environment with an interest in sustainability and low carbon construction. (And these days who hasn’t!)
As chair of the LCBPC I kicked off, re-iterating the importance of low carbon construction and construction carbon management and why it will become a defining feature for the built environment for the coming decade.
Terry Burke, Manchester City Council spoke briefly on the need for behavioural change in the way we design, build and use buildings. Most public authorities are skint, bit will still expect improvements in the usability of facilities. he challenged the delegates as to why clients are promised A EPC rated buildings yet ends up with E or F performing ones. Improvements in technology and design can be costly but changes to behaviour is low cost in comparison and can deliver real results.
Clare Kenny, LWT, talked on the clients view of the project, on the choice of design through RIBA competition (a design that reflects the Marsh Arab buildings of Iraq) and on the BREEAM Outstanding challenges and lessons.
Mansells provided a construction overview of the project, explaining the concrete floating raft technology and the challenges and solutions the project team encountered.
Following a short induction, the delegates had the opportunity to view the nearly complete construction project. The lagoon is to be filled from Monday  with the centre opening to the public on Easter Sunday.
The theme of questions raised covered the cost and value from pursuing BREEAM Outstanding, on the lack of really local component / contractors (oak shakes from Bristol, timber frame from Derbyshire etc) and on the technical aspects of raft construction, SIPS panels, airtightness requirements and U values expected.
The Lancashire Best Practice Club will be holding a further event at the center on May 18th which will enable more time to learn more on construction carbon management from Carefoots, on important waste legislation from DIEM, from the LWT lessons learnt from pursuing BREEAM Outstanding and  more. (For more information and to register please contact the club here)
Details of the Visitor Centre can be found here
Brockholes is on twitter @visitBrockholes
My blog item, way back in 2008, zero carbon floating development for preston
An interesting Building article can be found here

on going local – part one

Mel Starrs over at Elemental has a great and useful article on local resources as seen from the LEED and BREEAM perspectives. Local materials, for local people (or a review of LEED credit MR5.1)  Essential reading for those using these standards and grapling with the concept of local resources.

And yet there is another local resource debate emerging that may well eclipse these standards:

The transition movement approach based on the concepts of peak oil and local resilience necessitates the use of local labour and resources. Rob Hopkins within the Transition Handbook includes building materials as one of the key products, along with food, that can be produced locally.  Re-localisation calls for the production of the means to produce locally – something lost in the cheap transport, cheap oil economies.

A recent presentation from Tom Woolley advocating the use of hempcrete and other cropped based construction products as the  material of the future, paints the picture of the hemp being grown fields local to the new housing project.

Within the UK regeneration projects there is often KPI requirements on the use of local resources and labour, as high as 70%  in an attempt to keep spend local to regenerate the regional and local construction markets.  It remains a key selection criteria on most if not all public procurement PQQ’s.  Corporate organisations often have grand CSR statements on positive approaches to using local labour and organisations. 

And yet a simple plotting of supplier / subcontractor locations on a google map can reveal to clients the visual distribution of spend away from the local area. 

Re-localisation is a debate that will continue, driven by the drive for low or zero carbon, the economy, politics and concepts such as transition and peak oil.  How the standards, LEED /BRREAM and the CSB / CSH influence or reflect this will be of great interest.

… off now to view the Hanham Hall sublitted application plans for their intentions for use of local labour and resources … part 2 to follow.

on the future of sustainability standards

Last nights Lancashire Built Environment’s Pecha Kucha evening exploring the theme of affordability or sustainability mentioned the sustainability standards and codes more than once.  Listening to the other presentations brought back two items which I feel need much more publicity.

Firstly Phil Clark‘s (Zerochampion) Will There Be One Global Green Building Standard to Rule Them All? article which was carried on Jetson Green recently discussing the possibility of one global standard.  Is it already shaping up for world dominance of LEED (possible) or BREEAM (unlikely) or something similar (possible)?

Secondly Pam Broviaks pecha kucha presentation Greening the Globe to be2camp2008 last month. The presentations can be viewed here) Fittingly, delivered over the web (from Illinois into London) Pam’s presentation gives one of the most concise overviews of the many global sustainability or environmental standards out there.  Essential viewing to understand what is happening, and how all that best practice must surely start to come together into the global standard.

out breeam’d ?

The UK Green Building Council has promised an open source sustainability code, to help address the confusion arising from the myriad of different green building standards with a new Code for Sustainable Buildings, joining in the debate / tussle between LEED and BREEAM.

Paul King, Chief Executive of the UK-GBC,: “Industry needs a clear and practical route map and milestones that are aligned with Government policy to give it the confidence and knowledge to move forward on a trajectory to 2019.

UK-GBC Chairman Peter Rogers , “The UK-GBC wants to see very wide take-up of robust and customer-friendly tools, and we believe that the standards at the heart of a new Code for Sustainable Buildings should be ‘open source’, meaning that such a Code could potentially be incorporated into a range of different tools, from a range of providers who could then compete in terms of service provision, without confusing the industry with different standards.”

The concept of open source, is to be welcomed, allowing the code to be incorporated into regional, corporate and community developments, and also allowing other standard bodies, building firms and consultancies to use elements of the code in their own green building guidelines.  And it flies in the face of the more closed and commercial approaches from BREEAM and LEED

The final code, which is scheduled to be published in March next year, is expected to mirror the government’s Code for Sustainable Homes and as such, will feature wide-ranging rules and guidelines on the metrics and best practices builders should embrace to limit the environmental impact of offices, commercial properties and other non-domestic buildings.

Is there something else here,? Can codes, approaches, tools and technologies which in essence will improve environmental performance, carbon emissions, sustainability generally, and ‘save the planet’ morally be closed and commercial. The emerging models of wikinomics, freeconomics etc must be applied to sustainability, where the economic model is built upon giving away free ‘lead’ products.

I would love to see much more open approaches with the built environment sustainability agenda using for example the creative common model.

LEED 2009 V3

The new edition of LEED – version 3 for 2009 is open to public comment here – promising to reset the bar for green building leadership because the urgency of the LEED mission has challenged the industry to move faster and reach further than ever before.

More comments when I get chance to view the documents …..

responsible sourcing accreditation to BS6001?

Will 6001 join the lexicon of standards for our sector, along with 9001, 14001, 18001 (with apologies to others missed!)

Understanding the ripple effect of a facility in use or in construction is increasingly important within both client and supply organisations reputation, ethical standing and overall CSR, (Corporate Social Responsibility). Industry investors are watching such organisational behaviours with increased interested as demonstrated on CSR Wire web pages and discussions.

BRE Global have recently launched a draft ‘framework’ standard BS6001 for responsible sourcing management (RSM) of construction products that intends to address the sustainability, ie social, economic and environmental aspects of materials, from raw source, through use and maintenance to recycling and disposal.

It will be a standard against which organisations or products would be certified.

Its purpose is to support the responsible sourcing management credits within BREEAM, as a stand alone standard or one would assume to assess any RSM requirements within Code for Sustainable Homes, I guess the Code for Non Domestic Buildings (when that emerges) and other sustainability codes and standards.

I would hope the final standard will get the nomenclature addressed and see this as a ‘built environment‘ standard and not just a ‘construction‘ one (even facilities management has an equal duty and obligation to source responsibly !)  I also hope that joined up thinking brings this into the new EU Facilities Management standards in development.

The draft standard contains a scoring system for assessment against the maturity of a number of sustainability themes. It could for example be used now, even in draft form, as a self assessment or supplier assessment to gauge an organisations position, as a snap shot,  on responsible sourcing. (Although some facilitated guidance or support to help understand and fully understand some of the concepts would probably be required)

A welcome addition to the standards family?  BS6001 is based as you would expect on ISO 14001, ISO 9001 and other existing standards.  I do question whether 9001 is still strong enough as the basis for such standards – given the cosmetic changes planned for this year.

On the social responsibility side – will the standard start to address the soil, soul and society elements of sustainability, and the wider ecological footprint?  Making reference to the UN Global Compact will certainly help address social justice.

The standard is open to public consultation until May 2nd.  I cannot see any dates for introduction of the standard.

An introduction and copy of the standard is available for download.

Responsible sourcing is an ethos of supply chain management and product stewardship and encompasses the social, economic and environmental impacts of construction products over their whole life. It is a holistic approach to managing the activities associated with the point at which a material is mined or harvested in its raw state, through manufacture and processing, through use, reuse and recycling, until its final disposal as waste with no further value.

is the code for sustainable homes working

Building Design asks the question is the code working and carries two viewpoints. Andy von Bradsky sees it as credible tool that will evolve and allow us to lead the field in zero carbon futures, whereas Mark Brinkley sees it as a graveyard of intentions.

The article finishes with a what do you think prompt…

I couldn’t resist replying, and include my post to that page below

Code level 6 is, as I have mentioned more than once, the wrong tool for the wrong job.


It doesn’t pick up on the wider sustainable communities issues, the triple bottom line and CSR issues that contribute to sustainable homes/developments, ie the eco-home within the context of an eco-place.

More importantly it does not address the construction process as Mark illustrates, allowing business as usual for the builders, other than integrating or assembly new bits of building kit. (I was not surprised to hear that the Hanham Hall project will not be monitoring or attempting to improve the carbon footprint of the construction process)

I also question whether we (the UK) are indeed leading the field in zero carbon futures. Are we not just waiting to be led by legislation, and then complaining when its too hard, too expensive, too different ? (as illustrated by bidders pulling out of the next eco-challenge project at Peterborough). I sense elsewhere they are just getting on and doing it – because it makes good sense, commercially, for image, and for the planet.

Time for a re-think on this one. But then thats what targets are for – to learn and improve.


Jonathan Poritt’s view point on this is well worth a read – as he says, Continue reading

BREEAM LEED – wrong tools for the wrong job?

Hardly a day passes with out some news, comment or blog-post passes across my computer that is related to BREEAM, LEED, POE’s, or even EPC (that’s environmental property code from IPD). Mel at Elemental has posted some interesting observations on a forthcoming BREEAM review, which in conjunction with the UKGBC is aimed to shore up the British scheme in face of the growing influence of LEED, I assume.

Yet each item I read reinforces my feeling these are the wrong tools for the wrong job*. Maybe we are looking down the telescope the wrong way. Are we too pre-occupied with moulding our designs to the needs of the organisation or business and its people, rather than really listening to the organisation or business, its people and the society or community in which it lives (or will live)?

If we were to throw away these schemes, and start Continue reading

Eco … build, homes, villages and towns – pah… greenwash?

James Meikle’s article in yesterdays guardian paints a picture of growing concerns and gaps in the thinking behind the current push towards ‘eco‘ villages and towns.

As a flagship for the huge number of homes to be built and eco towns to be created, Northstowe, if the Guardian report is correct has problems:

As the town takes shape, en route to at least a 20% – and hopefully higher – supply of renewable energy, combined heat and power plants could prove more efficient and cost effective than solar gadgets and micro generation on separate houses.

Sounds great, but the debate is our on micro generation – but only 20% renewable? !!!

More recently, Cooper decided that Northstowe must not be delayed by having to meet zero-carbon standards subsequently imposed for all new houses from 2016.

Ah ha – explains the 20% but if we can do it as an eco-challenge at Hanham Hall in Bristol – why not here?

James too makes the point on the level expected on the homes:

To start with, … private homes will only be at level 3 on the code for sustainable homes, producing 25% lower emissions than legally required so far, but no more revolutionary than homes already being built on some smaller developments. The requirement for affordable homes will be slightly higher at code level 4 – a 44% improvement on minimum standards, but again not as tough as might have been expected, given the experimentation already under way elsewhere.

In my opinion this is not flagship or even eco…

David Bard, a senior councillor on South Cambridgeshire council, which, with the county council, will consider the Northstowe plans in the next few months, says: ” I am not sure that anyone actually knows what is meant by an ‘ecotown’, let alone a ‘prototype ecotown’.

Time to rethink? Time to get back to basics?

Time to recall where Eco comes from – as it is a prefix used in most ‘sustainable ‘ iniatives at the present. Eco-this eco-that and eco-other is indeed the zetigeist of the moment. Eco is of course an abreviation of ecological – and as a prefix used to describe things realted to ecological issues. Except it isnt today, at least in its use for eco homes and villages etc.

Eco villages stem back to 1960’s community living, alternative technologies, living off grid with alternative lifestyles. Are todays eco villages just a clever greenwashing of of that ideal? (A greenwash that probably covers all 6 of the greenwash sins!)

Where is the community, social enterprise, regeneration, ecological diversity protection thinking in these developments?

It would be very interesting to see calculations for the ecological footprint of eco-developments such as Hanham Hall and Northstowe and how they would compare to other or non eco developments. There is much focus on carbon footprints, understandably as its tangible and easy to understand – but if we use the prefix eco – lets focus on the ecological footprint as well.

I have posted on the LEED ND (neighbourhood development) scheme here a few times – it would be fascinating to assess Hanham Hall or Northstowe against this standard. Just looking at the evidence required for submission for this standard would (hopefully) cause a rethink, or dropping of the prefix Eco ! for example:

  • Smart Location and Linkage, (smart location means ecological consideration!)
  • Neighborhood Pattern and Design,
  • Green Construction and Technology and
  • Innovative Design

Any BREEAM assessors, any LEED ND assessors out there looking for a challenge? Anyone out there willing to fund a project to ‘test’ the claims being made? These projects underway now will shape our future housing construction, living, and social well being.

Why do I hear the Pete Seger song when I think of eco-towns

Little boxes on the hill side, little boxes made of ticky-tacky.
Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one,

So time for a rethink and real innovation – as Henry Ford famously said “If I asked people what they really wanted they would have asked for faster horses” Will we still get little boxes ?

And quietly the transition-towns movement gains pace …. but thats another post !