Over the last thirty years, there’s been increasing global realisation for the need to take responsibility for the future health of our Planet in order to help fight 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) are two major players educating and facilitating change.
It has resulted in a global ripple-effect from one country to the next, leading to new Government Legislations which have changed industry practices and held them accountable for their environmental impact and future sustainable development.
The scientific consensus being that while we are unable to reduce the current global net (human-caused) emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) which currently stand at 375ppm, we do have the power to halt their further escalation, if we are to meet a target of NetZero by 2050.
As a consequence, Building Sustainability Assessment Methods/Rating Tools have become an essential way of measuring 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.
Providing more evidence that there has been an environmentally-ethical shift in the Commercial mind-set.
And at the beginning of 2022, the UK Government introduced mandatory Performance Based Ratings for all non-domestic buildings which will be made public and annually reported.
While in Scotland, there are already requirements in place to measure embodied carbon over the lifecycle of a building.
Thus ultimately 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, 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.
NABERS UK focuses solely on the energy performance of a building stemming from it’s 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 and its occupants and the resulting impact it had on the occupants 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 on-site audits and documenting findings and if once submitted, 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 huge contribution towards meeting the necessary, respective benchmarks.
With regards to BREEAM, because a holistic approach is taken to the impact a building has on both it’s environment and it’s occupants, our HYVERT living walls installed upon an external facade, can help boost biodiversity and absorb noxious gases and they can even insulate a building or space 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 features.
Our HYVERT Living Wall plant species are currently being scientifically evaluated by a team of academics at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Our Goal is to have an even greater understanding of which plants perform best in which environments and we’re on the cusp of being able to share more valuable data to back this up.
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.