Perfect Circle guest blog: Driving towards a sustainable built environment for the future
Perfect Circle, a company jointly owned by Pick Everard, Gleeds and AECOM, is a key partner on our infrastructure, built environment and consultancy frameworks.
In our latest guest blog, Perfect Circle’s sustainability expert, Dr Jose Hernandez discusses how it’s vital the construction industry works collaboratively with the public sector to ensure it is designing a world fit for the future.
A report by University College London (UCL) has outlined that new building developments are still too focused on accommodating cars. It highlighted how local authorities are still planning for the present by prioritising cars, instead of ensuring the built environment is future proofed.
But as we move towards a carbon neutral future, it’s vital that everyone involved in the built environment – whether that’s contractors, designers, planners or councillors – works collaboratively to create a sustainable infrastructure.
Our country desperately needs more homes, but these shouldn’t be delivered at the expense of good access to decarbonised public transport or local facilities. A short-sighted approach is currently leading to car dependence, congestion, pollution and unhealthy lifestyles.
What can be done to inspire people to adopt eco-friendly lifestyles instead of car dependence?
In order to encourage motorists to leave their cars at home and adopt a greener lifestyle, streets need to fulfil the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users. Although electric cars address carbon and air quality issues, they do not improve a person’s fitness levels.
Cycle highways are also extremely beneficial to the environment and prompting emission reductions. Their inclusion helps to increase the uptake of cycling because it makes the mode of transport safer. As a result, the wider community will experience less air pollution and congestion due to fewer cars being on the road.
An efficient and decarbonised public transport system is also important – not just to help people move around, but also to improve the quality of air we breathe and get more people off the roads.
Take Nottingham City Transport as an example, which has the world’s largest fleet of environmentally friendly bio-gas buses. The company is reducing CO2 emissions by up to 84% when compared to an equivalent diesel double decker bus.
Increased use and further decarbonisation of shared modes of transportation – such as carpooling, buses, trains and coaches – will also play vital roles in Britain reaching its goal of achieving net zero by 2050.
There are also city-wide ‘car share’ systems in certain places in the UK. For example, Guildford has its own car club, which allows people to borrow cars on a pay-as-you-go basis. And in London, Zipcar allows motorists to rent cars and vans by the minute, hour or day. It is envisaged that car ownership will decrease over the coming years.
Having the correct infrastructure in place – and assessing it
People may be aware of BREEAM, but not BREAAM Communities, which assesses and helps design large communities and developments. It is quite rarely used and it can be difficult to explain its benefits to clients. However, the assessment method helps local authorities, developers and planners to create sustainable communities that are good for the environment and its people.
We, as a construction industry, need to make a more conscious effort to promote the community rating. We need to encourage decision makers to better understand the impact their choices have on the longer term environmental, social and economic aspects of a development.
For example, the nation is already starting to experience more demand for electric cars. But the charging infrastructure to support this must be in place. While there are now more public places to charge electric cars than fuel stations in Britain, according to research by Nissan, installing charging points in new build housing developments should be included as a standard.
Obviously, all this needs to be driven by planning, and encouraged by the government and local authorities. While there may be some teething issues in the beginning as we work towards a more sustainable built environment, the long-term benefits for communities and our planet are far reaching and indeed needed.
What is BREEAM and why is it important?
BREEAM is the world’s leading science-based platform that provides sustainability assessments to help the construction industry work towards a sustainable built environment. A licenced BREEAM assessor will help you undertake the assessment once your project has been registered. Once the assessment is complete, there will be a quality assurance check of it and a certification will be given once all categories have been assessed for sustainable value.
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