Sustainable materials

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Climate change, traffic congestion, damage to our landscapes: environmental issues have become increasingly well defined and high profile.  But whilst there is increasing demand for green buildings, few professionals are able to research the production processes and environmental impacts of each one of the multitude of materials which might be used in them.

The production, use and disposal of building materials accounts for significant quantities of energy and resources. In 1995 for example, 10 per cent of UK CO2 emissions were related to manufacture and transport of building materials.  The quantity of materials consumed is equivalent to six tonnes for every person in the country.  As awareness of the environmental impact of these processes increases, construction professionals and property owners are starting to take account of the environmental impacts arising from selection of building materials and components.  They are also optimising the energy requirements of their buildings.

Battle McCarthy's role will be to undertake the following activities:

  • To review the current materials selection, outline specifications and the materials sources of origin and supply. To ensure that the specifications for the building design can be regarded as 'sustainable' [or 'environmentally sensitive']. 

  • Advise on substitute materials if current specifications and selection are inadequate. 

  • Advise on toxicity and allergic aspect of materials. 

  • To work with the Design Team and the Quantity Surveyors to carry out subsequent embodied energy [and embodied CO2 emissions] assessments for the building. To advise on any subsequent design and specifications amendments required to bring the design into the acceptable level of embodied energy and CO2 emissions standards.

  • To work with the Design Team and the Quantity Surveyors to finalise a set of 'green' architectural specifications up to a suitable level to issue a 'Design-and Contract' Main Contractor.

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Environmental impact of building materials:

The following environmental issues need to be considered during the materials selection process:

  • Embodied energy [climate change, Fossil fuel depletion]

  • Ozone depletion

  • Freight transport

  • Human toxicity

  • Waste disposal

  • Water extraction

  • Acid deposition

  • Ecotoxicity

  • Eutrophication

  • Summer smog

  • Minerals extraction

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Assessment process

Environmental impact study: Environmental impact of the current materials specification will be analysed at three different scales i.e.:

Whole building level: to understand how the design performs when compared to existing benchmarks [typical & good practice] buildings.

Element level: the proportional impact of various elements in a building i.e., external wall, finishes, etc. is influenced by its shape and size. This study will help the design team understand key elements of the building that embody a large proportion of the impacts and find sustainable alternative for them.

Materials level: At this level we will quantitatively analyse the environmental impact of various materials. The impact of various finishes, resins and pains on the indoor environmental quality will all be investigated.

 Once the key environmentally damaging elements and materials have been identified, sustainable alternatives will be explored and suggested for each element in conjunction with the Design Team and the Quantity Surveyors.

Guide for materials procurement: A qualitative guide to materials selection will also be prepared. This will explain the issues that need to be considered prior to material specification including:

  • Reuse & recycling

  • Human toxicity

  • Adaptability

  • Packaging

  • Product life

  • Maintenance

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For more information contact:

Prashant Kapoor: pkapoor@battlemccarthy.com

Battle McCarthy 2001

Buildings are responsible for significant impacts on the environment.  They account for around half the UK's emissions of carbon dioxide, the main 'greenhouse' gas. 

Battle McCarthy will provide leading edge advice on embodied energy of materials to be used in the proposed scheme and assist in the specification of low environmental impact materials.

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