The importance of green building to promote wellbeing and sustainability

Sustainable timber construction panel manufacturer, MEDITE SMARTPLY explores the importance of a green building rating system to promote wellbeing and sustainability

In the time since the first green building rating system was established – BREEAM in 1990 – we have come to recognise the potential for buildings to not only safeguard but actively promote health and wellbeing, as well as sustainability.

We spend around 90% of our lives indoors – more than enough time for each and every building we encounter over our lifetime to have a tangible impact on our quality of life.

Across the world, building regulations and rating systems have evolved to reflect this, helping us to track our progress, maintain standards and incentivise more designers and developers to build greener, healthier spaces.

Across the UK, BREEAM is still the dominant green building rating system, ingrained in regulations. In the rest of Europe and beyond, however, LEED leads the way and has also evolved to focus not only on a building’s environmental impact, but on its human impact.

Now, the newest green building certification, The WELL Standard, is the standard-bearer for wellbeing in the built environment.

But it’s not just our thinking that’s evolved when it comes to wellbeing; technology has as well. The products we can now develop have enabled us to use the power of buildings to keep our bodies healthy, our minds calm, and even make our work more efficient – and do it all sustainably.

Sustainable timber construction panels

Products such as MEDITE CLEAR – a sustainably produced MDF specially manufactured with no added formaldehyde for interior fit-outs. Developed with even the most sensitive environments in mind, MEDITE CLEAR has a formaldehyde content of less than 1.0mg per 100g; the equivalent to levels found in wood in natural environments. It even outperforms the stringent Class E1 (EN622-1) low formaldehyde standards.

Consciously limiting the level of formaldehyde able to be emitted by building products is a major factor in maintaining the best indoor air quality possible, and in turn in mitigating issues like Sick Building Syndrome, which can seriously impact work productivity as well as general quality of life.

Sick Building Syndrome is where building product VOC emissions, such as formaldehyde from wood products, combined with poor ventilation, can eventually build up to a level where people are lethargic and plagued with headaches and irritable moods. Other factors that can influence this are temperature and lack of light.

By specifying an interior MDF product that is not only sustainably produced but that has no added formaldehyde, we can consciously limit the VOCs indoors and proactively work towards maintaining healthier building interiors, and more sustainable buildings building, Sustainable timber construction panel,

Most recognised green building standard

Today, LEED is the world’s most widely used green building standard with projects in more than 167 countries and more than 205,800 gross sq m of space certifying every day.

Whichever green building standard is the aim though, specifying MEDITE CLEAR for a project could help it to lead the way when it comes to health, wellbeing and sustainability.

As part of the green building community, we ensure all our products are FSC® and PEFC® certified, are entirely sustainably produced with wellbeing in mind for both installers and building occupants.

Maple Grove to develop commercial scheme in Lancashire

Maple Grove Developments has been announced as commercial development partners for the Lancashire County Council-led commercial project

The Lancashire commercial development will create thousands of jobs on a 65-hectare site at Cuerden, near Leyland. Situated at the end of the M65 motorway, and close to both the M6 and M61, the development is planned to include office and business space, logistics and manufacturing commercial space, mixed-use areas and housing.

Based in Bamber Bridge, Maple Grove Developments are part of Eric Wright Group. They will now bring their expertise to the plans for the site before detailed plans are submitted later this year.

The City Deal

City Deal is an agreement between the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Preston City Council, South Ribble Borough Council and Lancashire County Council, along with central government and Homes England.

The City Deal will help to create more than 20,000 new private-sector jobs and see over 17,000 new homes built across the area, along with new school places, open green spaces and new health provision to cater for the growing population.

Make Lancashire Central a success

Geoff Driver CBE, leader of the County Council, said: “By working in partnership with Maple Grove on this major development, they will bring their extensive knowledge and expertise to help us to bring thousands of jobs to Lancashire through this very exciting project.

“Maple Grove have many years of experience of developing sites like this and will be integral to bringing our plans to life. They have also based a short distance from the Lancashire Central site at Cuerden, so they also really understand the area.

“It’s vital that we manage this project in the right way so that we create something which works for the needs of business and create jobs in Lancashire, while understanding the location and setting.

“We’re clear that the development of this important site will bring benefits to the whole of Lancashire, through new jobs and growing our economy.”

Karen Hirst, managing director at Maple Grove Developments, added: “As a Lancashire developer we are hugely committed to making Lancashire Central a success.

“Having worked closely with the council on this scheme previously, we feel privileged to have been selected again and look forward to making an immediate start on bringing forward this site to create employment opportunities for the local area.”


AEC experts launch Climate Emergency Design Guide

Leading architects, engineers and building professionals have joined forces to launch the ‘Climate Emergency Design Guide’, providing a blueprint on how the construction industry can tackle the climate emergency
The Climate Emergency Design Guide is published by LETI- the London Energy Transformation Initiative. Groups backing the call include the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Chartered Institution of Building Service Engineers (CIBSE).

Climate Emergency Design Guide
The Climate Emergency Design Guide outlines the requirements of new buildings to ensure that climate change targets are met.

This free to access new publication written collectively by more than 100 industry professionals and supported by thousands more, offers a blueprint on how the construction industry can react and work together to tackle the climate emergency.

Hywel Davies, technical director at CIBSE, said: “Delivering zero carbon buildings is a huge challenge. LETI has taken a major step to help the industry to work out how this is to be done for new buildings.

Gary Clark, chair of RIBA sustainable futures group, added: “2020 is the year of climate action. We urgently need clear and practical guides on how to deliver net-zero carbon future now.

“The new LETI guides fulfil this aim and are a timely addition to the growing suite of guides. This is a must-read for construction professionals.”

Carbon emissions from UK buildings
Unlike other parts of the economy, carbon emissions from UK buildings are not falling. The built environment has an essential role in meeting the government’s target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and playing a part in stopping runaway climate change.

Currently, the UK is not on a coordinated track to meet these goals. LETI has been driving to create coordinated consensus and simple road maps to achieve our climate aims.

Commenting, Clara Bagenal George (associate at Elementa Consulting) who initiated LETI the London Energy Transformations Initiative (LETI) and lead editor of the report, commented: “The building industry knows that we should be designing climate-friendly buildings now, but unfortunately only a fraction of new properties are of the standard needed to meet our climate targets.

“We know how to do it, but without the government showing similar ambition, unfortunately we will drift further from where we need to be. This collective call from all parts of the building industry is a clear and straightforward explainer of what is expected of us and how we can get there.”

Cutting carbon emissions
Achieving the UK’s net-zero emissions target will require cutting carbon emissions from all areas of the economy, before balancing the rest with negative emissions, such as planting trees or investing in technology to remove carbon from the air.

Building new homes to the highest efficient standards is the first step in cutting emissions from housing. The government’s statutory advisors on climate change, the Committee on Climate Change, have said that new homes should use much less energy than those currently being built, that in-use performance should be used instead of modelled performance, and that a plan to retrofit the existing building stock is urgently needed. Many of these points are echoed by industry in the Climate Emergency Design Guide.

Clare Murray (head of sustainability for Levitt Bernstein) design editor of the guide, said: “The Climate Emergency Design Guide has been a year in the making and forms a consensus from over 100 professionals on how we can meet net-zero carbon. It graphically explains the definition of whole life carbon, how to achieve net-zero operational carbon, the relationships between operational and embodied carbon and much more.

“With spreads providing guidance for domestic and non-domestic archetypes and key performance indicators – this guide aims to make technical guidance on zero carbon accessible to the wider industry.”

Standard design practice
The research and thought presented in the document demonstrates that the building industry knows how we should be designing buildings now, from 2020, but that clear leadership and guidance is required to promote wide-ranging positive change. Buildings that adopt these requirements now will be seen as leaders.

By 2025 for new buildings and 2050 for our existing stock these requirements must become standard design practice otherwise the building industry will not meet our collective responsibility in this Climate crisis and we will fail our next generation.

The Guide represents voices from across the buildings sector, including Allies and Morrison, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Levitt Bernstein, Elementa, Hawkins\Brown, DRMM, Haworth Tompkins, Woods Bagot, Etude, Cundall, AECOM, BDP, Hilson Moran, Thornton Tomasetti, ACAN, XCO2, Currie & Brown, Verco and Twinn Sustainability Innovation.


Balancing risk for town centre development

Jacqueline Hughes, senior risk analyst at Equib, discusses how project managers for town centre developments can get their risk management strategy right

Transport infrastructure projects such as HS1 and Crossrail are promising to improve access to major conurbations and support town centre regeneration. However, managing projects in densely-populated areas can bring increased risk.

A robust risk management approach

To optimise results from project delivery, a robust and professional risk management approach is vital at all times, not least when activities are being carried out within built-up areas or adjacent to buildings where large numbers of people live or work. The risks associated with such projects must be carefully assessed and mitigation strategies put in place, whilst keeping a close eye on cost and time constraints.

Factors such as high living costs and the desire for an improved quality of life are encouraging more people to live in well-connected suburbs, on the outskirts of towns and cities. With large-scale transport infrastructure projects such as and Crossrail aiming to enhance accessibility, developers and planning departments are increasingly focused on complementary urban regeneration projects to ensure local communities have the amenities they need.

Among the key challenges involved in managing urban projects is the greater range of risks and benefits that need to be taken into account. Often, these go beyond the common project management ‘triangle’ of time, cost and quality. For example, some urban megaprojects aim to raise the economic status of the local community by providing employment within the labour supply chain.

Similarly, as part of their reputational risk management, projects may need to develop a detailed community engagement strategy to keep local people and businesses updated on the potential impacts of project delivery. This may involve activities such as letter drops, webinars, community workshops and establishing specific lines of communication for any project-related queries or concerns.

Another area which should be considered from the outset of a project is the risk of delays linked to planned disruption of transport and logistics networks, and the need to gain consent from relevant local operators. For example, if road closures are required and a local council will only permit these at night, this could delay progress and increase costs. Timely project delivery may also be put at risk by the need to comply with Section 61 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, which involves local councils setting strict barriers for noise pollution. This could affect the hours when construction activity is permitted, and the types of equipment that can be used onsite.

Negotiation and collaboration

To successfully mitigate the wide-ranging risks linked to town centre development, strong negotiation skills and joined-up thinking are essential. Such projects often involve and require project managers to get buy in from a large number of different stakeholders, including local MPs and council members, transport operators and local businesses and residents. As well as conducting effective stakeholder mapping, effective communication skills are vital in order to strike a balance between their various needs, and the project’s key deliverables.

As part of this, it’s also important for project managers have a strong understanding of the regeneration project’s business case and specific objectives. While every project will inevitably involve a number of possible risks, some will be less critical to the required project outcomes, which means mitigation efforts and spend could be focused elsewhere.

Risk tolerability calculations, which determine the acceptable level of risk for a particular project, can prove a useful decision-making tool when agreeing how much money should be spent. One method of making such calculations involves scoring a range of risks in terms of their probability and impact, and multiplying the two values to get an overall score for each one. By setting the project’s upper limit, any risk scores exceeding that level will require investment in mitigation measures. Alternatively, project managers can assess the need for additional spend by comparing the cost of business-as-usual activity alongside the cost of alternative mitigation activities. These findings, overlaid with an awareness of the level of perceived risk, can help project managers to decide where to focus any additional spend.

Using BIM to support risk management

Wider application of BIM or Building Information Modelling, which involves the creation of a detailed digital description of every aspect of a building or project, could also help to support risk management on urban regeneration and development projects. Allowing project managers to integrate 3D models with time and cost data, these systems could help to improve efficiency, access to reliable data insights and de-risk the planning process, project delivery and operations. Despite Government’s focus on ensuring centrally-procured projects are at least BIM Level 2-compliant, a lack of understanding about the technology’s full capabilities is still inhibiting adoption.

With factors such as the struggling state of the UK high street emphasising the need for investment in town centre development, the demand for skilled project managers to mitigate the risks associated with such projects is bound to increase. Keeping a close eye on project objectives and considering risk tolerability at every stage, will enable project managers to deliver such projects successfully and safely.


Like Piccadilly Circus, but spherical: is east London ready for the MSG Sphere?

The prospect of illuminated advertising displayed on a giant globe the size of the London Eye has some Stratford residents worried –

MSG Sphere, a planned concert venue for Stratford, east London. Photograph: The Madison Square Garden Company

Between the Olympic stadium, the London Aquatics Centre, and the ArcelorMittal Orbit squiggle – not to mention Westfield shopping centre – the east London neighbourhood of Stratford has acquired more than its fair share of high-profile buildings in the last decade. But even as the Olympics recedes into the past, a new debate is now raging over what might be the most controversial proposal yet: the Madison Square Garden (MSG) Sphere.

In March this year, MSG submitted a planning application for a spherical entertainment complex, 90 metres high and 120 metres wide, containing restaurants, shops, a nightclub and the centrepiece: a 21,500-capacity auditorium. The same diameter as the London Eye and almost as tall as Big Ben, the giant sphere will be covered 190,000 sq ft of LEDs, programmable to display images on the exterior.

What MSG London executive vice-president Jayne McGivern describes as “a joyous ball of magic”, Newham councillor Harvinder Singh Virdee has called a “blob”, and another local activist “unprecedentedly monstrous”.

The project has received support from the Newham Chamber of Commerce and representatives of nearby Newham College and the University of East London. Other residents are more concerned, and have formed a campaign group called Stop MSG Sphere. Their main objections regard noise and light pollution, increased traffic and the resulting rise in air pollution, anti-social behaviour, and strain on public transport and roads. There are also worries that it will block out natural light to homes, some of which are located only 50 metres away.

Then there is the advertising. In the artists’ blueprints, the “skin” of LEDs displays wholesome scenes of the night sky or planet Earth, but the planning application allows for advertising, potentially presenting the opportunity for a kind of giant spherical version of Times Square or Piccadilly Circus.

Part of a campaign poster from Stop MSG Sphere.

“The advertising has been a whitewash,” says Lindesay Mace of Stop MSG Sphere. “They show very few examples [in the blueprints], and they’re all calming, blue background, which blends in with the sky. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that the reality won’t be like that.” MSG counter that under the plans submitted, advertising will be allowed for a maximum of 50% of the time the Sphere is illuminated, and that the facade will be turned off or placed in a low luminance “stand by” mode from midnight to 6am in the summer and 7am during winter and spring.

The Sphere would be located on triangular piece of land behind Stratford station. “It’s a densely populated residential area,” says Mace, “which is something that MSG have done their very best in their images and assessments to downplay: there are thousands of residential properties nearby.” MSG claim that impacts to the surrounding area will be minimal, pointing to the fact that the site is also surrounded by live railway lines.

There have also been objections from Newham Council, which in July backed a report critical of the Sphere, and voted that it be submitted to the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) for consideration. But activists point out that McGivern, who has been the public face of the company locally, was a board member of the LLDC from 2012-16.

In November, campaigners also released correspondence between senior staff at the LLDC and MSG London, acquired through freedom of information requests, in which the two parties discussed the US company’s “strategy” to deal with “local resistance”. The emails also pointed to 33 unminuted meetings and apparently unrecorded hospitality for LLDC staff. MSG say there is nothing irregular or unusual in this.

Backers of the proposals point to a summer poll, commissioned by MSG Sphere, that found 85% support among local residents. They say it will bring employment to the area, in construction and in the culture sector.

Campaigners counter that only 21% of those polled had heard of the proposals, and only 11% of the MSG Sphere specifically.

Although promotional images show the MSG’s ‘skin’ displaying wholesome images, campaigners are concerned that the planning application allows for potentially invasive advertising.

McGivern nevertheless cites the poll as a major indicator of support. “The poll demonstrates overwhelming local support for MSG Sphere, including for the thousands of jobs and significant economic impact this state-of-the-art entertainment and music venue would bring,” she said.

The company is promoting the idea that London needs another music venue of that size. The planning application says the city “has an undersupply of dedicated large entertainment venues in comparison to other major world cities”, arguing that only SSE Arena in Wembley and the O2 in North Greenwich are capable of hosting the largest international touring acts. It points to New York, a similarly-sized city with seven such venues, though it does not mention London’s Alexandra Palace or its major park festivals – such as Hyde Park and Finsbury Park – which have capacities close to 100,000.

The proposed site is a triangular wedge of land behind Stratford station.

MSG also claims that a smaller venue also included in the planning application, with a capacity of 1,500, and a 450-capacity nightclub will have a positive trickle-down effect on smaller music venues and local acts in London.

Local scepticism, however, derives in part from the experience of hosting the Olympics, for which tens of thousands of jobs were promised by the LLDC that protesters pointed out this summer have still not materialised. “Obviously the Olympics left positives, like the park and the sports facilities,” Mace said. “But it has also left us with the LLDC, an unelected corporation without any real accountability, a planning authority for a lot of land that was previously under local authority control. Seven years on from the Olympics, what we’ve seen is lots of developments, with little visible benefit for local people.”

What would be visible, of course, is the sphere itself, for miles around, an issue that Mace emphasises has not been properly discussed. “The size and illumination of it will be unprecedented – we believe in the UK, and quite possibly in Europe.”

  • This article was amended on 12 December 2019 to correct references to the amount and duration of advertising proposed for the Sphere

West of England councils tender £40m Professional Services contract for infrastructure works

The West of England Combined Authority, in collaboration with regional Councils, has gone out to tender with a contract for professional services to support its regional infrastructure projects worth an estimated £40 million.

The four year professional services Framework Agreement will have a single multidisciplinary lot and will be limited to 3 suppliers.

The core authorities party to the Framework Agreement are:

  • West of England Combined Authority — Lead Authority
  • Bath and North East Somerset Council
  • Bristol City Council
  • North Somerset Council
  • South Gloucestershire Council

The Framework Agreement will also be open to a number of other local authorities.

Network Rail signs first Heritage Partnership Agreement

Network Rail has signed its first Heritage Partnership Agreement, improving the management of “architectural gem” London King’s Cross.

Network Rail, Camden Council and heritage public body Historic England have signed a Heritage Partnership Agreement (HPA) to ensure the efficient future management of the nationally significant site.

The arrangement will streamline the formal listed building consent process, making it easier to make minor improvements to the station.

It comes amid a major, multi-million pound investment in the infrastructure at King’s Cross that will significantly improve train travel to and from London on the East Coast Main Line.

Only then can Camden Council grant Listed Building Consent to the changes. Thanks to the HPA, we will also save time and money.

An architectural gem

Councillor Danny Beales, Camden Council Cabinet Member for investing in communities and an inclusive economy, said: “Camden is rich with architectural gems, including King’s Cross Station, one of the best-known locations within the borough.

“The station will now benefit from the clear approach set out in the Heritage Partnership Agreement and the council’s desire to protect all our historical buildings, whilst facilitating the changes that these working buildings require.”

Tom Higginson, director of Planning and Land Services for Network Rail, said: “We are always looking for ways we can run the station more efficiently and this agreement, which is a first for Network Rail, is a perfect example of that.

“We have worked incredibly closely with Historic England and Camden Council and this agreement will save all of us time, which can now be spent in other areas, and means that passengers can benefit from improvements to the station more quickly.

“This will also help to reduce our costs, which is incredibly important to us as a tax-payer funded organisation.”

The HPA signs at London King’s Cross

What’s an HPA?

Statutory HPAs were introduced in 2013 because of reform powers from the government to help manage change efficiently while maintaining a site’s special qualities.

King’s Cross joins a handful of statutory HPAs, including Stow Maries Airfield in Essex, Battersea Power Station in London and the University of Sussex.

The agreement at King’s Cross is a pioneering project that Historic England hopes will inspire similar sites to consider it as an option for sound, efficient heritage management.

LED lighting to save Wigan Council £1m a year

A recently completed street light replacement scheme is going to save Wigan Council £1m a year. The borough’s illuminating programme, which was completed last year, has helped to significantly reduce the council’s energy consumption and lowered its carbon footprint with more than 36,500 LED lights fitted across the network of roads.

As well as saving £1m a year through reduced energy and operating costs, the lights also have a number of other benefits in comparison to traditional sodium street lamps.

In 2018 Wigan Council was awarded the Most Improved Performer at the APSE Awards, which recognises excellence in public services.

Much of this success has been based on the local authority’s project to replace its conventional street lights for more environmentally-friendly light-emitting diode bulbs. They have a longer lifespan, require less maintenance and use nearly 60 per cent less energy.

The lights give off virtually no heat and contain no hazardous substances, do not need replacement lamps and can be controlled by a central computer system, all while providing bright, high-quality lighting on to the street. Coun Carl Sweeney, cabinet member for environment at Wigan Council, said:

“Implementing our award-winning street lighting project across the borough was key in making changes that will ultimately have a positive impact on our environment for the next generation.

“Some authorities are switching lights off to save money but we knew it isn’t what our residents wanted as they are an important part of helping people feel safe and secure both in their communities and while on the roads.

“This innovative scheme helps us to save money through The Deal, which in turn means we have been able to freeze the general element of council tax for the sixth year in a row. “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank every single person who has been involved in making this scheme a success.”

Residents can report a fault with a street light direct to the street lighting team, visit and search for street lighting for more information.

Between April and December 2018, Wigan Council spent £1.8m on street lights, according to financial data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Across England, spending on street lighting has fallen by 11 per cent in the last five years and many local authorities have slashed their budgets by 50 per cent or more. Money saved by switching off street lights can come at the cost of personal safety, the Royal Society said. It added that the risk of driving or walking in darkness “may ultimately lead to lives being lost” if councils are not careful. Head of road safety Nick Lloyd said: “Councils should only reduce lighting if they are sure that it will not lead to an increase in accidents, or put personal safety at risk, and accident rates should be monitored.

“It is also important that councils do all they can to warn drivers, riders and walkers that lights are being switched off or dimmed, and give advice about what they should do to protect themselves.”

For more articles like this, please visit Highways Industry News website.

New LED street lighting project will reduce carbon footprint and Kent County Council’s energy bills

First year of drone programme delivers £750k efficiency savings for Severn Trent

In the first year of use since Severn Trent made the strategic decision to invest in the use of drone technology, the water company’s fleet of drones are generating huge savings in time and through improved efficiencies, as well as significant health and safety benefits.

The drone industry expanding at an exponential rate as sectors start to unlock the potential that UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) offer. The utilities industry in particular has embraced the drone revolution – partnering with Commercial Drone Experts COPTRZ has seen Severn Trent make savings of over £750,000 in the first year alone.

In their second year, they are expecting to double this figure, with more savings beyond that. Other utility companies have found similar savings, and this is expected to grow as the technology develops.

By using their UAV drone fleet to carry out the unmanned inspection work, Seven Trent has removed the need for scaffolding, enabling them to save time and increase safety for their staff who no longer need undertake physical inspections.

Duncan Turner, Severn Trent’s Drone Team Lead said:

“It’s been an incredibly exciting time to be involved with UAV’s at Severn Trent. It feels like we are at the forefront of innovation which is unlocking new ways of working within the business using this cutting edge robotics technology. With our customers at the heart of what we do we can pass on the saving making sure our customers’ bills remain low and are helping to keep our water Wonderful on Tap.”

COPTRZ was formed in 2016 and provides specialist services to the commercial UAV market to help businesses to access the benefits of drone technology. COPTRZ are working with some of the largest utilities companies in the UK, including Severn Trent and Thames Water.

Steve Coulson, Founder and Managing Director at COPTRZ, commented:

“It’s great to see more companies seeing the benefit that drone technology can have for them and their business. Not only do they save money, but they also save time and improve safety. This example is only one of many, and I’m sure in the future there will be a huge number of companies that decide to make the small immediate investment, to unlock the huge savings potential moving forward.”£750k-efficiency-savings-for-severn-trent