Sustainable building

What is sustainable building?

Green building -  Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre

Sustainable or green building construction aims to embody the principals of sustainable development i.e. environmental protection, economic development, and social development, in the siting, design, building, maintenance and occupation of buildings.

Sustainable buildings are designed and constructed to high environmental standards and thereby; minimise energy requirements, reduce water consumption, use materials which are of low environmental impact e.g. low embodied energy and resource efficient, reduce wastage, conserve / enhance the natural environment and safeguard human health and wellbeing.

For example considerations for Sustainable Housing would include:
Environment: conservation and enhancement of the site ecology / biodiversity.
Energy: minimising energy consumption, high levels of insulation, building orientation to maximise solar gains and shelter from prevailing winds, maximising daylighting, energy efficient lighting and appliances,
Water: consumption and water efficiency, rainwater reuse, water efficient appliances, minimising and attenuating surface water run-off to prevent flooding and pollution.
Transport: Location near to public transport routes, proximity to amenities and places of work, space for home working - e.g. home office to reduce commuting.
Materials: use of long-life materials of low environmental impact during extraction, manufacture and use, avoid using toxic materials and those from non-renewable and non-sustainable sources, use of materials which can be reused / recycled, use of locally produced materials to reduce transportation requirements, use of recycled materials.
Health and wellbeing: use of non-toxic finishes and materials, natural daylighting, freedom from noise, indoor air quality, private outdoor space, green space, design for community and 'sense of place', integration with the surroundings / landscape.
Affordability: minimise the cost of ownership - if it isn't affordable - it cannot be truly sustainable, flexibility and adaptability to meet the changing needs of present and future occupiers.


Sustainable buildings assessment and standards

  • Code for Sustainable Homes - (UK Communities and Local Government)
    The Code is an environmental assessment method for new homes based upon Building Research Establishment’s Ecohomes. It contains mandatory performance levels in seven key areas (energy and CO2 emissions, water, materials, surface water run-off, waste, pollution, health and wellbeing, management, ecology) and aims to encourage continuous improvement in sustainable home building. Search results for Code for Sustainable Homes - from, lists Technical Guidance, Case Studies, etc. More information is available on the BREEAM website.
  • CarbonLite
    CarbonLite, an AECB initiative, provides tools and knowledge to create low-energy buildings. It is a practical step-by-step guide for practitioners involved in the design, construction and use of low-energy, low-CO2 emissions buildings.
    Carbonlite Programme

Planning issues and sustainable development

  • Urban Areas . co . uk
    ... provides information about urban planning and sustainable development in the UK and Europe. They list a variety of topics, provide news and events updates and offer a quarterly eco-competition. There is also a forum for planners and environmentalists to discuss current issues.

Organisations promoting sustainable building

  • Association for Environment Conscious Building
    The AECB encourages greater environmental awareness within the UK construction industry. AECB membership is very diverse and encompasses almost every sector of building construction and management.
  • British Earth Sheltering Association
    A non-profit making organisation aiming to encourage the design and construction of Earth Sheltered Buildings in the United Kingdom.
  • Centre for Alternative Technology
    Covering all aspects of sustainable lifestyles, CAT provide consultancy, information, and courses on sustainable building.
  • The Walter Segal Self Build Trust
    'helping people to build their own homes'
  • Sponge
    Sponge is a network of young property and construction professionals who share an interest in sustainable development. The aim of the site is to allow members to make the most of Sponge and of each other's enthusiasm and knowledge.
  • Kleiwerks International
    A non-profit organization, and a global network of innovative design specialists, collaborating with communities to create ecological and social resilience using natural building methods and permaculture. Construction techniques include combinations of adobe; wattle and daub; cob; strawclay/slipstraw; straw bale; timber-frame; earthen plasters, paints, floors, and relief work; tile, thatch, and living roofs; drystack stone, urbanite, and earth bag foundations; decorative and structural bamboo; and other innovations.

Resources for green building materials and services

  • GreenPro and Green Building Bible
    Data for sourcing sustainable products for eco-building projects. GreenPro is an online database; The Green Building Bible contains info to help you make your home and buildings less harmful to the environment, the community and your family. Available from the Green Building Press

Training courses and workshops

  • Wood and Mud
    Mud and Wood, specialising in cob and salvaged timber construction and consultancy, also provide courses in design, cottage renovation, cob building and D.I.Y. carpentry. They also offer private workshops for cob and timber frame self-builders, workshops for schools, colleges, summer camps and corporate team building. Mud and Wood are based in Co. Sligo, Ireland.

Information on sustainable building

  • UK Green Building Council 'Watch'
    Green Building Council 'Watch' monitors the progress of the development of a Green Building Council for the United Kingdom.
  • Sustainable Architecture, Building and Culture
    A compendium of links and content oriented to the global community of ecological and natural building proponents.


Discuss sustainable construction on these forums

  • Green Building Forum
    Ask questions, converse and network with other green building professionals and enthusiasts on sustainable construction, heating, energy, etc.
  • Association of Environment-Conscious Building
    Forum for connecting ecobuilding professionals and enthusiasts. Some areas of the forum have public access, other areas are for AECB members only.