Building Sustainability in our Economy

As I trudge on in my crusade of sharing environmental enlightenment; I feel that the next step is the consideration of sustainability. This is fundamentally the keystone of a business’ environmental system, as it identifies the future prospective of the company’s development and ideology for continual ecological improvement.

The sustainability plan is inextricably linked to the resources that the entity uses; primarily their building, energy and overall carbon consumption. Needless to say, without making commitments to improve and develop these facilities, their environmental improvement plans will have no longevity to them, and will subsequently struggle to develop.

It can be difficult to recognise where to start with improving your building’s resources, so I have chosen three shining examples of modern construction within the UK which not only reduce carbon consumption within the building phase; but also indicate a sustainable future for the structure.

Marks & Spencers, Cheshire Oaks

A prime example of how a new build structure can significantly reduce energy consumption levels in comparison with similar traditional units. In their first year of opening since August 2012, the M&S store has used 42% less energy than equivalent outlets; and the carbon levels are subsequently 40% lower. The building really goes above and beyond regulatory requirements and actually exceeds energy efficiency by a massive 29%, partly due to the air tight construction of the building. They have far exceeded expectations of building efficiency; and this can be merited to the envelope design and materials used – with more than 1,400m of 100% FSC timber used instead of steel on the roof and first floor. The Building is a bio diverse haven; with heating provided by a bio fuel boiler and heat reclamation, and a green wall providing natural insulation.

This example represents the merits and success of a sustainable environmental strategy in construction. Marks & Spencers have fully endorsed energy efficient techniques with this project and will reap the rewards for years to come. Projects like this will indubitably have a knock on effect for future construction within the region as businesses realise the potential of renewable and sustainable energy resources.

Adnams Distribution Centre, Southwold

Adnams Brewery recognised an opportunity when they began plans for the construction of a new distribution centre. The unit has a large green roof with photovoltaic cells incorporated, which gives the building several key energy saving advantages. The green roof enables the building to regulate a consistent cool temperature throughout the year whilst absorbing the drainage water which can be used for washing, cleaning and for toilet facilities in an economic method. –

The photovoltaic cells are integrated into the heating system, which provides up to 80% of the annual hot water allowance.  These measures enable significant day to day savings, whilst dramatically reducing the building’s carbon consumption at the same time. This demonstrates the company’s sustainability plans in coercion with the use of FSC approved Glulam timber beams for the structure rather than purely using steel; which in turn shows a consideration of the manufacturing process, as well as the construction.

The environmentally friendly measures are justified through the results, with 40% annual savings on electricity and 10% on gas. Therefore; not only does this illustrate great savings on the use of carbon, but creates significant financial savings for the company too.

Fort Dunlop, Birmingham

This project, which was completed in 2006, shows how considerable results can be obtained in C02 reduction and monetary savings by establishing a range of different energy saving techniques.

Fort Dunlop was an industrial age building which had become disused and dilapidated over time, until plans were devised to recycle the building. The idea to maintain the building’s infrastructure and remodel it demonstrates an initial saving of resources and planning. Greater time and effort could therefore be put into the energy efficiency and sustainability of the building.

One of the most ingenious aspects of the building’s design was to implement a water based heating/cooling system which could be easily regulated and encompass the entire 377,000 sq foot of office space and 100 room Travelodge.

This Japanese design was the first of its kind in the UK and has proven to be successful to date, enabling annual savings of up to £200,000 for the building. There are other fairly straight-forward measures which were put into practice; such as a motion detecting infrared lighting system whereby lights deactivate after a set length of time, resulting in significant savings over the course of the year. There is also one of the UK’s largest green roofs on the building, which attracts local wildlife and reduces drainage. The building also offers a shuttle bus service for office workers, enabling a practical solution to over parking within the facility.

What Fort Dunlop does well is to offer a sensible and creative solution to reducing energy consumption whilst still remaining realistic for how to achieve targets. The project fundamentally shows how recycling, effective design and pragmatic thinking can align positive sustainability with economic requirements. If measures like this were to be implemented across the city of Birmingham, then environmental targets could become much more of a genuine possibility.


As indicated, these three examples identify methods of sustainability depending upon their requirements and resources available. They each show an innovative approach to tackling the reduction of energy consumption and have recognized measures to maintain this over a consistent period of time. I feel that most importantly, these examples illustrate that a business doesn’t have to sacrifice productivity or quality to achieve a more environmentally considerate method of working. On the contrary, with sustainable measures in place, the above mentioned entities are able to make significant savings on energy bills and can therefore focus their efforts on other areas of the business.