Managing sustainability during design and construction
What do we mean by sustainable design and construction?
Sustainable design is about translating your aspirations for the building into reality. It means ensuring that consultants understand your vision for the project, including your environmental objectives and social imperatives, and turn it into a workable set of drawings for construction. Key principles for sustainable healthcare buildings are defined in Module 0, and include:
1. Integrating with the local environment & promoting regeneration
2. Using resources, like energy & water, efficiently
3. Providing a high quality internal environment to support health and well-being for staff and patients.
Delivering sustainability involves managing the construction teams and their supply chains to make sure that site work, programme deadlines and the completed building meet your needs and expectations. In particular, it is important that the supply chain delivers on the sustainability aspirations you set during the project vision and brief specification and also operates sustainable site management practices, such as:
1. Managing health and safety requirements on site
2. Avoiding nuisance and disruption for staff, users and neighbours
3. Minimising waste, pollution and environmental damage.
Why is this important?
Decisions taken during design will dictate how well the building performs for at least 30 years - probably much longer. Although the design stage represents a relatively small proportion of total project costs, it is the main opportunity for you to get involved and help to shape final outcomes. If you pass up this opportunity to feed in your ideas you could easily end up with a building that looks awful, has poor environmental performance, is difficult and expensive to run, and that your employees and patients do not like.
Similarly, it is essential to keep a tight rein on the supply chain to make sure your building is completed on budget, finished on time, and meets the right sustainability and other standards for build quality. The flow of information goes both ways: from you to the project team, and from the project team back to you. Most building projects change shape during design, and it is common for the brief to change as it becomes clear precisely what is possible, and what the Trust needs. Without your close involvement, this sort of fine-tuning is impossible.
What do I have to do about it?
The Building Regulations dictate a whole series of sustainability and other criteria that your building must meet: from energy efficiency to access for people with disabilities, from fire protection to ventilation. Your design team should understand this legislation, but they will need information from you to make sure the steps they take to meet the legislation fit with your intentions for the building.
All new NHS buildings must also achieve a BREEAM-Healthcare 'excellent' rating, while refurbished buildings must hit the 'very good' rating. It is impossible to meet these ratings without putting real effort into environmental aspects of the building during design. NHS Buildings also have to meet the NHS energy target described in Module 7.
There are currently no policy or regulatory requirements associated with supply chain management, except through specific procurement routes such as Procure 21. However, there is a swathe of policy and good practice guidance covering on-site construction practices, such as the Considerate Constructors scheme, Site Waste Management Plans and Environment Agency Pollution Prevention Plans.
How do I manage sustainability in design and construction?
Making sure that environmental and social objectives are embedded into the buildings is often challenging, but experience from other projects offers some tips about what to focus on:
1. Keep your eye on the brief - remind the project team what sustainability objectives they need to achieve, but remember too that you may need to revise the brief as work develops.
2. Put sustainability on the agenda - hold regular meetings specifically to address environmental and social aspects of your project.
3. Stay on top of the drawings - ask for specific information about how design decisions affect sustainability, and what technologies are being used, for example, to reduce water and energy consumption.
4. Be especially attentive to design changes proposed by the construction team - which may surface as part of 'value engineering'. It is common for environmental considerations to be sacrificed first when savings have to be made, so you may need to fight to stop important elements getting scrapped in the latter stages of design.
5. Consult the team about progress - try to encourage openness about how work is progressing, and if in doubt use your consultants to check everything is on track. Your consultants can also advise you on whether sustainability aspects of the building under construction match as-design requirements, or whether they are being watered-down as work proceeds.
This module will explain what to look for to ensure design proposals are truly sustainable, how to check it goes forward into construction, and what to do if the project team strays away from your sustainability objectives.