Although virtual education is increasing, universities and colleges are generally synonymous with their physical location and appearance. Accordingly, more sustainable buildings are essential for financial, risk management, business performance and reputational reasons (as described in HEEPI's report on The Business Case).
Well-designed, buildings should synthesise all aspects of how a building functions, including aspects usually associated with ‘green issues' and ‘sustainability'. They are achieved by using:
- Structures and layouts that deliver highly productive and adaptable working conditions;
- Practices and materials that are designed to safeguard occupants' health and well being;
- Very low energy solutions and low carbon resource inputs;
- Low water consumption systems; and
- Effective use of scarce material resources.
The term ‘green' building can be interpreted in many ways, and can be mistakenly associated with buildings that prioritise environmental issues over aesthetics, cost and functionality. That is why we use the alternative term ‘high performance building' to:
- Highlight the importance of adopting a holistic design process that integrates and optimises the performance of all the key features of the building;
- Highlight the ways in which sustainability supports other building objectives, e.g. improving occupant productivity and attendance as a result of natural lighting and ventilation, and higher indoor air quality through use of toxin-free materials;
- Warn of the danger (all too often realised) of delivering a ‘low performance building' with the associated risk of dissatisfied staff and students, high energy and water costs, lack of attention to ‘future proofing' in terms of adaptability and flexibility, and high maintenance costs; and
- Challenge perceptions that energy and environmental issues are technical issues that can be addressed at a late stage in the design process.
Experience shows that these benefits can be achieved without, or with minimal, increases in capital costs if sustainability requirements are:
- Backed by clear internal commitment and built in from the start (which, for example, encourages more attention to be paid to right sizing of plant, so that excessive capacity is not being installed);
- Supported by whole life costing frameworks which balance ongoing operational savings against any increases in first cost;
- Embedded into the construction process through robust and unambiguously worded tenders and contracts, and other means (thereby avoiding problems such as last minute substitutions of materials or equipment on site);
- Maintained through the inevitable pressures to compromise on key aspects of the design as projects progress; and.
- Validated in practice by ronbust commissioning and post occupancy evaluation.
The HEEPI Guide to the Delivery of High Performance Buildings provides more information on this. Its points are summarised in the downloadable summary below.
Taking these actions is not easy, but HiPerBuild provides assistance to the decision-makers and specialists in universities and colleges who must make it happen - and therefore help to achieve long-life, loose fit, and low energy buildings which are truly fit for their purpose.