Sustainable Construction

Looking after our planet should be standard practice when it comes to architecture, not a bolt-on service.

The sustainability of buildings is central to what we do at Cityzen. It is something we’ve been committed to improving since the practice was established back in 2010. Through environmentally conscious designs, building practices and products, we can help minimise the impact of construction projects on our planet.

As champions of sustainable construction, we believe it’s our duty to help focus clients’ attention on choice of materials, energy consumption and carbon (and other) emissions.

The argument for sustainable construction

Let’s look at the context for improving sustainability within the construction industry:

  • 97% of scientists are in agreement that humans are having an impact on the planet; take a look at how this % is made up [being geeky, we like a good source for all our data].
  • Year on year, we continue to eat our way through the earth’s resources at a faster and faster rate.
  • The aim of the 2015 international Paris Climate Agreement was to limit global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures.
  • Yet pollution from global fossil fuel production plans will overshoot the Paris climate goals according to a UN report.
  • The construction industry is currently one of the most polluting, wasteful and energy inefficient on the planet. According to the UK Green Building Council, around 10% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions are associated with construction.
Improving the sustainability of building projects

Modern buildings that we live and work in can achieve a much lighter carbon footprint than their predecessors.

Although creating net zero commercial buildings will be more challenging (but is something we are constantly thinking about), there’s plenty we can be doing right now to transform the industry and deliver sustainable construction.

1. Exceeding Building Regulations

Building Regulations are a minimum standard. In this day and age, it’s not hard to beat the performance figures set by the Government. Our designs exceed the required performance figures, resulting in improved building fabric, internal comfort levels and a reduction in fuel required (which lowers running costs and keeps the utility bills down). Part L of the Building Regulations is concerned with the conservation of fuel and power, and updates are expected in 2020 that will affect everyone, from architects to developers to contractors.

2. Leaving fossil fuels out of designs

Fossil fuels need to stay in the ground along with other resources that are being extracted at an alarming rate. The UK Government’s Clean Growth Strategy will likely inform the updates to Part L, including the need to “phase out the installation of high carbon fossil fuel heating in new and existing homes currently off the gas grid during the 2020s, starting with new homes”.

3. Choosing sustainable materials

Using fewer polluting materials and increasing the amount of sustainable materials will reduce the carbon footprint of buildings. Transporting materials adds to carbon emissions, therefore sourcing materials as locally as possible, to lessen the impact of transportation, will help further.

4. Waste management

Site waste can be reduced with the use of BIM modelling using standardised components, modular and offsite construction, and good management of materials. We include (as standard) in our documentation the requirement for all waste to be sorted and recycled. Some of these things aren’t hard to do, yet still haven’t become the norm!

5. Circular thinking

Construction waste is one of the biggest issues in the industry. Whilst modular and offsite construction can reduce this dramatically, what if we had a record of every component of a building and thought of that building as a materials bank for the future? Could the new building be re-used? Or could an existing building be re-purposed, saving tonnes of carbon?

6. Design, consult, measure and monitor

The key to all of the above points is to understand what is required and why – critical thinking before pen even touches paper; questioning the requirements to ask if there’s a better way, and then designing based on facts as well as experience to end up with buildings that are considered rather than just designed and built.

We like to work with clients who are engaged with how much energy a building uses, in both its construction and use. If you’re interested in sustainable construction, and think we could help, please get in touch.

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