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Energy used in homes and buildings contribute to around 45% of greenhouse gases, with 18% from non-domestic buildings like offices, shops, schools and hospitals. Effects on the environment are not just limited to greenhouse gas emissions, they are also responsible for 12% of water usage, 65% of waste production, and 71% of electricity usage.
Most countries understand the importance of reducing the impact of climate change and the urgent need for governments, organisations and individuals to take responsibility for their carbon footprint. The Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, sets binding targets for 37 industrialised countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This amounts to an average of 5% against 1990 levels between 2008-2012. We wait to hear what new climate change rulings will be introduced when the Kyoto Protocol draws to a close in December 2012.
The planned design of energy efficient buildings will make an important contribution to the de-carbonisation of our built environment and the return to 1990 levels.
Building legislation, together with updated building regulations and local planning requirements are a key driver for the development of green facilities. Another is the desire to achieve recognised environmental building ratings through schemes such as BREEAM and CEEQUAL, (the civil engineering equivalent which originated in the UK), the American LEED, and Australia’s Green Star. These rating schemes are being adopted internationally and adapted to suit local requirements, or used as a basis for countries to create their own green credentials.
BREEAM and CEEQUAL credentials feature highly in the transformation of one of the UK’s major northern cities. The landmark development in an area north of Manchester, will feature a number of environmental and social innovations, and sustainable power generated through a smart grid. The detailed design focuses on sustainability and environmental excellence, using locally sourced materials and native plant species. Rain water will be collected and used for irrigation, with excess water stored in an underground tank to reduce the surface water discharge rate. LED lighting will reduce maintenance and energy costs.
The Co-operative Group (a major UK retailer), is building its Head Office in the area. The building design has already received an ‘Outstanding’ BREEAM rating, and Royal H askoning and architects Mecanoo, are targeted to achieve a matching ‘Excellent’ CEEQUAL rating for the public realm.
In Dubai, all new buildings require a green building review based on LEED, the internationally recognised green building certification system developed in the US . Here Royal Haskoning is registered as a Green Building Consultant, working with world leading cosmetic and beauty group, L’Oreal, which is investing $50 million to build the world’s largest LEED accredited factory in Indonesia.
With climate change at the top of the world’s economic, social and political agenda, self sufficient, sustainable eco friendly buildings are no longer just the preserve of environmentally conscious ‘green developers’, but have become mainstream green facilities that bring real reputational and environmental benefits. Award certifications from internationally recognised schemes, and the ability to claim a carbon neutral building, have real currency in today’s world.