Buildings are responsible for almost half the UK’s carbon emissions. This is from their construction, maintenance and demolition. In addition, buildings need energy to heat them, light them and power the equipment in them. There is a carbon cost at every stage. The construction industry also uses large quantities of natural resources and creates large amounts of waste.
Careful design and construction can minimise these costs to the environment in a number of ways. In February 2012, Calderdale Council adopted a set of Building Environmental Standards applicable to all new buildings and refurbishments on the Council’s own estate. Projects with a capital cost of £500,000 or more, are required to undergo an external assessment called BREEAM (Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Methodology). This is the most recognised voluntary environmental standard in the UK. Smaller projects apply an internal checklist that covers six key areas:
- Energy: designing for low energy use, energy conservation and efficiency, renewable energy.
- Water: water conservation and recycling, minimising flood risk and surface water pollution, managing ground conditions.
- Biodiversity: site assessment, species protection and habitat enhancement.
- Materials: construction materials, fixtures and fittings, paints and finishes.
- Waste: construction and demolition waste, designing for waste minimisation in use.
- Travel: car parking, walking and cycling.
Current and recent projects
The two new swimming pools at Brighouse and Sowerby Bridge have undergone a full BREEAM assessment. Sowerby Bridge Pool achieved 'Very Good' and Brighouse Pool achieved 'Good'.
The straw bale extension to Shelf Village Hall, which houses the new Shelf library, was opened on 14th May 2009. The walls of the building are made from straw bales with a natural lime render finish. The library also has a green roof planted with sedum. Straw bales are an excellent building material, as they are lightweight, easy to use and inexpensive. They provide high levels of insulation and have a low embodied energy, which makes them a great environmental choice.