Whilst these early examples indicate different approaches to sustainable design and construction, they nevertheless indicate a direction of thought that has long since moved beyond recreational buildings and into other sectors such as commercial, educational and industrial buildings. Convincing evidence of why this might be so is to be found in recent analysis by the Danish financial institution, Nykredit of sustainability and financial performance data for more than 5000 global, publicly traded companies. The results clearly show that equity returns from listed companies with a strong sustainability profile far exceed those of companies in general. Put simply, larger companies are now beginning to realise that it pays to invest in environmental and social sustainability. Clear demonstration of this can also be seen in the way commercial buildings are increasingly being marketed – a recent billboard outside a Canadian construction site, for example, proudly proclaims the new building will be ‘LEED Platinum’, the highest accolade of the north American ‘Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design’ green building certification programme that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. When developers are pitching to both clients and public, you can be sure real change is afoot, and anecdotal evidence from this same marketplace indicates that potential employees are beginning to question prospective employers as to whether they will be working in a ‘LEED Platinum’ environment. More than size of salary or bonus, commitment to sustainability could well be the new deal breaker when seeking top quality staff.
A recent UK example indicates just how far this new responsiveness to sustainable design and construction is impacting on our own business community. Under the banner of ‘Believe in Better Building’ (BiBB), BSkyB’s new education facility for graduates, apprentices and staff training has been designed to reflect the company’s sustainable aspirations. Based at the Campus in West London, the 3,000m2 development encompasses a four storey linear building, accommodating a restaurant and top floor roof terrace. The educational facility is the first in a series of initiatives using the power of television, creativity and sport to help young people achieve their potential by gaining the skills, experience and inspiration needed to help prepare them for the world of employment.
The structure was designed to deliver permanent quality, adaptability and long-term energy efficiency. The overall objective was to construct a low energy structure within a short time period (the project had to be completed in time for BSkyB’s 25th anniversary celebrations) – making solid timber and timber cassettes the optimum rapid and sustainable solution, as these products eliminated the requirement for wet trades onsite, thus making an accelerated programme of works eminently achievable. The solid timber frame - a glulam frame with visible grade cross laminated timber panels to provide core stability to the walls and floors - has been left largely exposed within the finished structure to deliver the natural look and feel required by BSkyB to visually represent the company’s environmental ethos, whilst the timber cassettes delivered the low thermal resistance and high airtightness required to meet the challenging design brief. So, through the application of natural wood, both internally and externally - visitors to the building are provided with an insight into BSkyB’s culture and sustainable beliefs.
As more and more larger scale examples emerge, there is no doubt that the concept of sustainability has moved well beyond mere fashion and is now delivering mainstream economic value as well as environmental benefit: without doubt, a win-win.