We are committed to improving the built environment, whilst undertaking projects that seek to transform areas of dereliction and decay into sustainable communities. Each one of our projects poses its own environmental challenges. In tackling these challenges, we seek to:
We apply our approach to sustainable development at all stages of our work: in the way we use land and buildings; in site and building design; and in our construction methods. The following section provides more detail about our approach, with case studies drawn from our regeneration projects over the last year.
Reusing land - The recycling and returning of previously developed land to beneficial use safeguards the countryside and helps to preserve natural habitats. It helps tackle the blight of dereliction in communities by bringing poor quality sites back into use, and enables the reuse of existing infrastructure and utilities. Moreover, the decontamination and remediation of polluted land will improve the environment. As a specialist in regeneration, we already have extensive experience in the reuse of previously developed sites. In 2007 94% (2006: 91%) of our building activity was on brownfield land.
Reusing buildings - The refurbishment and reuse of a building is generally a better option than its demolition and replacement with a new building from an environmental point of view, and we seek to apply this principle whenever it is practicable to do so. The reuse of buildings reduces the environmental costs involved in the demolition and construction processes, and enables reuse of existing utility infrastructure. However, this has to be set against the practicability of reusing an old building.
Providing transport choices - Accessibility is a key consideration in all our new developments. For a variety of reasons, both social and planning, people tend not to live in close proximity to their place of work. This has led to a dramatic increase in travel demand, leading to increased CO2 emissions, congestion, and long commuting times and it also creates accessibility problems for people without access to a car. We believe that sustainable communities must seek to reconnect housing, workplace, and amenities, via provision of public and sustainable transport linkages and integrated land-use planning.
Community engagement - Sustainable communities are places where people want to live and work, now and for generations to come. They meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run and offer equality of opportunity and good service for all. In all our projects, we consider it essential to engage with local communities to establish what they want to see developed, and how it should be managed.
Enhancing the environment - We ensure in our developments that protected species and habitats are safeguarded or new habitats provided, with site design allowing for the movement of protected wildlife (for example by the provision of bat corridors without bright lights, badger tunnels under roads). We also seek to enhance the wildlife value of sites by the retention or introduction of native species appropriate to the site and prevailing conditions, the creation of new wildlife habitats and corridors, and by limiting the area of hard surfaces.
Managing flood risk - Sustainable communities are protected as far as possible from flooding, have safe access and escape should flooding nevertheless occur, and do not increase the flood risk of areas elsewhere. We seek to incorporate sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) in all of our developments, by the appropriate use of permeable surfaces, rainwater harvesting systems, ponds and seasonal
Energy efficiency - Burning fossil fuels contributes to atmospheric pollution resulting in climate change, and damage to the environment and public health. We respect the three cardinal principles of reducing energy usage: be lean - use less energy; be clean - use energy efficiently; and be green - use renewables.
Methods of reducing the energy demands of our buildings are considered at the outset of development. These include: building layout and orientation; window placement to avoid overheating; low U values to prevent unwanted heat loss/gain; high building mass to help keep buildings warm in winter and cool in summer; low air permeability to reduce draughts and hence limit uncontrolled heat losses in winter; the use of natural ventilation; and the introduction of smart controls on heating and lighting to avoid waste.
Conserving water - Water resources are becoming increasingly scarce as demand continues to increase rapidly due to growing population and changing lifestyles and the predicted effects of climate change. The key to water conservation is water efficiency rather than restriction of use. Conservation of water can be achieved in buildings through the installation of features such as dual flush toilets, water efficient taps and rainwater harvesting systems.
Sustainable materials - Our resources are not limitless. ‘Non-renewable’ resources have built up over millions of years and are being rapidly consumed by the construction industry. However, sustainable materials are becoming more readily available at reasonable costs and can be sourced locally. To ensure that the most sustainable material is chosen for our developments the following factors are considered: the mass of materials, the ‘embodied energy’ of the materials (the energy used in their production), their recycled content and the potential to recycle materials at the end of their life.
Minimising waste - Land filling is currently the principal mode of waste disposal in the UK. Landfill sites are a finite resource that may pollute water, soil and air in surrounding areas. Reliance on land filling is an unsustainable activity and a potential source of carbon dioxide and methane, both greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. In all of our developments we seek to reduce waste generation at all stages of our construction works and ensure that waste generated is disposed of in a sustainable way. For many years we have sought to avoid the use of landfill. On major sites our target is to eliminate landfill entirely from ground remediation schemes and to seek to recycle the maximum amount possible from demolition activity and in 2007 94% of all our waste materials were dealt with on site.
Preventing pollution - The construction industry is a major source of pollution, responsible for 4% of particulate emissions, more water pollution incidents than any other industry and thousands of noise complaints every year. Construction activities can also disrupt ecological communities. We monitor contractors on all of our sites to ensure that best practice measures to prevent pollution and ensure environmental protection are implemented.
We are in the process of establishing firm, deliverable targets across a range of our activities to ensure that our commitment to sustainability is both real and evidenced. This process is well advanced in our traditional areas of brownfield land, contract management and commercial development, where we now have established targets. In emerging areas, such as apartment building, we are evaluating the balance between environmental aspiration and commercial reality and expect to establish targets over the coming year.
All our new schemes now benefit from: