Green buildings

Source: Shutterstock/Sun God

For too long, sustainability has been somewhat of a tick-box response for many in the private sector, where minimum compliance is often the norm. This is understandable, to a degree; when developers often sell buildings on completion, there isn’t a tangible link between capital expenditure and asset value when it comes to sustainability. But the landscape is changing rapidly in terms of ownership, operations and occupier expectations.

We have a huge amount of work to do to achieve the government’s net-zero-carbon target by 2050. There is a significant disparity between this target and current Building Regulations, and we need to do all we can to close this gap.

So, how might we start thinking differently? Here are a few ways:

  • Our dependence on the use of concrete – arguably the most destructive material on Earth – must be challenged and the move to an increased use of timber in buildings encouraged
  • Biophilic design needs to continue to increase, improving the human experience of buildings as well as reducing carbon
  • Use of renewable energy should be a given, sourced on or off site
  • Our dependence on water must be considered. Based on today’s figures and anticipated growth, in 2050, London will need an extra 500 million litres of water per day.

Much more can be done in addition to the above suggestions, but they indicate the direction of positive change towards a more sustainable industry. Good work is being done to raise awareness and challenge today’s views on sustainability and buildings, but more needs to happen.

There is an intrinsic link between sustainable design and modern methods of construction. So there is further potential here to promote innovation and ensure better quality of buildings.

So far, 23 major investment and development companies have signed up to The Better Buildings Partnership, but more need to follow. We need to consider how to collaborate to increase property’s positive impact. Sharing lessons on innovations, data capture and other areas offers much opportunity for the industry to come together and reduce carbon in the built environment.

Nick Riley, board director, Whittam Cox Architects