Is Your Building Design Sustainable?

At Conamar, our ethos reads “Defining the Past, Building for the Future” and never has it been more important than within the discussion of building sustainability. It’s true that this ethos can reference structural integrity, aesthetic design, community build projects, and even the technology we use on construction projects; however, it is in forward-thinking and planning for the future that this ethos really shines.

Sustainability in building design and construction

Broadly speaking, sustainability in construction describes the act of designing and building without depleting resources or creating harmful impacts which could affect future generations. A new build must consider its future impact and, where possible, reduce the resources consumed. The latest records suggest that a total of 45% of UK carbon emissions come from the built environment, with 27% coming domestically and 18% from non-domestic, so a continuous shift towards sustainability and an adoption of new products and technology is essential for wider environmental impact.

One of the most important discussions early on in a build project is the necessity to build a new building as opposed to refurbishing or extending an existing building. Both can achieve the desired results but only one will use considerably less resources. This decision will arguably have more impact on sustainability than any future design decisions so must be responsibly approached and considered.

Conamar’s wide ranging experience in design and build projects, from refurbishments and fits outs to extensions and new builds, means we can offer you the best advice on developing your plans to meet your needs. We can take your ideas and requirements to design a project that will achieve your goals within time and on budget.

Support with sustainability

Some high-level decisions could be picked up by an environmental impact assessment which will then provide the local planning authority with better information about the build proposal and aid in their decision to grant or deny permission to build. It can sometimes mean that sustainability decisions are made after denial of planning permission in order to satisfy the authority, rather than presenting genuinely thought-through sustainable building proposals.

It’s possible to appoint an independent client adviser with special sustainable knowledge to aid during the early stages of project planning. This independent adviser can take on board any existing environmental policy the client has, standards imposed by funders, or standards imposed by environmental accreditations.

Conamar has excellent contacts at all levels of the construction process, so speak to us about your sustainability issues and we’ll help you find an independent client adviser.

Selecting the most appropriate materials for sustainability

There are various organisations that exist to monitor and support the use of sustainable construction materials. You can ensure that any timbre that is used is accredited by the FSC, ensuring that it comes from responsibly sourced wood from renewable forests. The FSC found that 75% of people, with the knowledge that it is the same price and quality, would prefer to buy a product bearing the FSC logo rather than one without. Steel is a sustainable building material due to its ability to be remade from scrap with very little construction waste and long, economic service life.

For construction materials to be considered sustainable, it is not only the consideration of the source of these materials that should be taken into account, but their longevity. Some materials may have a higher upfront cost but require less maintenance over the life of the building, giving them a lower lifecycle cost as well as environmental impact. BREEAM is the world’s leading sustainability assessment method for selecting building materials, allowing clients to choose certificated products with confidence. Using the BREEAM Green Guide Calculator to select building materials that can help lower the running costs as well as create a more environmentally friendly building.

Conamar and our partnered consultants have the relevant expertise to advise on best options and sustainable choices for your new project.

Compiling an environmental plan

It is advised to put together a full environmental plan to accompany the brief, or as a stand-alone document for larger build projects. In this document will be the vision, objectives, and targets in relation to sustainable actions. The environmental plan should include the vision, objectives and targets in relation to sustainable actions in regards to:

  • business planning
  • consultant selection
  • build location
  • build design
  • build tender
  • build construction
  • operation
  • resilience to climate change
  • other external environmental impacts
  • any current or future disposal needed

Once this plan is laid out, it should be managed by a specialist to ensure all areas of construction are hitting their targets. It is this person’s responsibility to police environmental matters.

Conamar will develop our environmental plans to take into account the project specifics as well as other considerations such as location and reduction of impact on neighbours.

Achieving building sustainability

Building sustainability should be on everyone’s agenda in the construction industry, so if you need guidance or a push in the right direction, get in touch with us at to discuss your project.