Over the last thirty years, there’s been increased global awareness for the need to take action to safeguard the future health of our planet, in order to halt continued global warming and reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.
The formation of the World Green Building Council and the UN Climate Change Paris Agreement (made in 2015 at COP21) became two major players educating and facilitating this change.
By creating a global ripple-effect from one country to the next, it has led to new Government Legislations making changes to industry practices to hold them accountable for their environmental impact and ensure more sustainable developments are created in the future.
The scientific consensus concludes that we need to rapidly reduce carbon emissions across all industrial sectors. The latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report highlighted how technologies such as urban green infrastructure can help mitigate some of the effects of climate change.
Consequently, Building Sustainability Assessment Methods/Rating Tools have become an essential way to measure how ‘green’ a building is and also its carbon footprint.
In August 2021, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) commissioned and published the World Built Environment Forum Sustainability Report to look at how the Climate Agenda would affect trends and practices within the Built Environment.
Encouragingly, the RICS report found that globally and particularly in Europe there was a ‘modest’ increased demand for buildings considered ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’, since in turn, this could lead to a higher rental yield or price premium when compared to non-green sustainable buildings.
From November 2023, as part of the Environmental Act, a new UK Government legislation will become mandatory called Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG).
Put in very simple terms, BNG means there will need to be a minimum 10% Biodiversity increase, which has to be created, maintained and measured for a minimum of thirty years on the back of any new developments.
Nature Based Solutions such as HYVERT Living Walls can help achieve this biodiversity figure, particularly within an urban development where the biodiversity increase cannot be offset and needs implementing directly in the site.
Our scientific research into various HYVERT living wall plant species has also allowed us to identify specific plant varieties which host higher numbers of wildlife than typically used plants. This can provide additional evidence of BNG to support planning applications.
This forthcoming legislation also follows the mandatory public/annual reporting of performance based ratings for all non-domestic buildings, which came into effect at the beginning of 2022 too.
Ultimately, a combination of the desire to build more ethically for the environment and new Government-lead mandatory requirements are both resulting in making Building Sustainability and Energy Efficiency accreditations and certificates coveted, standard practice.
We have selected three of the most common accreditations that we encounter when working with our Clients (Architects, Planners, Developers and Workplace Designers).
Focussing on the UK built environment and launched in 1990, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) set world-wide standards for the environmental performance of buildings through the design, specification, construction and operation phases and these can be applied to new developments or refurbishment schemes.
BRE’s assessment method/rating tool (still used today), is called BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method).
It focuses on sustainable value across a range of categories including land use, ecology, energy, pollution, health/wellbeing and more.
The assessment of each new building scheme against the strict BREEAM benchmark levels results in a scale ranging from (Unclassified), Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent and Outstanding.
A ‘Pass’ is described as performance equivalent to the top 75% of UK new non-domestic buildings (standard good practice) whereas ‘Outstanding’ is less than top 1% of UK new non-domestic buildings (innovator)!
BREEAM certifications will reap benefits for the developer/investor/occupant as well as the environment and any initial costs incurred in achieving a high rating should be viewed as an investment into sustainable development.
NB. BREEAM is not a compulsory accreditation however, the UK Government’s Construction Strategy makes it clear that ‘an environmental assessment’ should be carried out on all public projects with the aim of achieving an Excellent rating in BREEAM (or equivalent if an alternative system is used)’.
BRE acts as the scheme administrator for NABERS UK, which was launched in 2020.
Whereas BREEAM takes into account a wide range of environmental impact factors when accruing the final building rating, NABERS UK focus is less complex and uses a scoring system of one (min) to six (max) Stars.
NABERS UK focuses solely on the energy performance of a building stemming from its operational energy and the resulting carbon emissions over a 12 month period and can compliment the findings achieved by a BREEAM assessment.
Originating from the US, WELL is administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).
The assessment subject here, as the title suggests, is the physicality of feeling ‘well’.
Based on many years of research by Scientists, Doctors and Architects, it has explored the connection between a building, its occupants and the resulting impact it had on the occupant’s health and wellbeing.
There are a number of areas which can be assessed for WELL Certification and these include amongst others air, light, comfort and the mind.
The assessment method includes conducting and documenting on-site audits and once submitted, if these are scored successfully, it can result in the building achieving a ‘Well Certified’ award of a Silver, Gold or Platinum standard.
Plants were the subject of a scientific research called the NASA Clean Air Study back in 1989 and the findings concluded that besides the absorption of CO2 and release of Oxygen, certain plants may also provide a natural way of removing volatile organic pollutants – a property which has never been more requisite.
In reference to the three Building Sustainability accreditations mentioned above, Green Infrastructure and Biophilic Design themes can make a significant contribution towards meeting the necessary, respective benchmarks.
With regards to BREEAM, because a holistic approach is taken when assessing the impact a building has on both its environment and its occupants, it means our HYVERT living walls can be installed for a wide array of features such as; increasing functional biodiversity, filtering airborne pollutants and insulating a building facade to make it more energy efficient. The latter attribute would also be most appealing should a NABERS UK accreditation be sought.
HYVERT living walls and Biophilic Interior Design schemes internally, can both improve a building’s air quality and plants are scientifically proven to improve mental well-being via visual and olfactory senses. HYVERT living walls can also help hugely with a building’s acoustics.
Both BREEAM and Well-Certified would recognise and note these key benefits.
Our HYVERT Living Wall system is unique. It is an I Want Plants invention (Patent Pending). The plant species we utilise remain under the scientific scrutiny of a team of academics at Manchester Metropolitan University, which is now in its third year!
This scientific research and evaluation means we have an in depth understanding of which plants perform best in which environments and importantly, have the laboratory evidential data to support it.
Data which we can then share at the initial project consultation phase with our Clients, should they be wanting to achieve one of the various accreditations mentioned above.
Through this predictive modelling and multi disciplinary research, I Want Plants are the only business that can deliver an individually tailored, biophilic solution for a project.