Home Contact Us
Contact Us


Section 1 Development of Policy

Section 2 United Kingdom Sustainable Development Strategy

Section 3 Building Regulations

Section 4 Code for Sustainable Homes

Section 5 British Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)

Section 6 EU Sustainable Development Strategy 


Description:  Gates MacBain Associates

Author: This unit introduces the legislation which relates to sustainability and the way it applies to the construction process.

Section 1  Development of Policy

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • Explain the development policy for sustainable development.

Over the last 25 years the world has become more aware of the environmental problems its development is causing and resolved to rectify the areas that are likely to contribute to these problems. The main concerns related to:
  • Air pollution from energy production,
  • Transportation
  • Consumption of natural resources
  • Production of waste
  • Reduction of air quality
  • Acid rain
  • Global warming
  • Ozone depletion
Governments recognised that the level of environmental degradation and current practices of economic development were having could not be sustained without significant impacts upon future generations. This was highlighted in 1987 by the Brundtland Report, (also known as Our Common Future) which alerted the world to the urgency of making progress toward economic development that could be sustained without depleting natural resources or harming the environment. It recognised that economic development taking place could no longer compromise the development needs of future generations. This concept of sustainable development aimed to encourage people to consider the harm economic development was having on both the environment and on society. 

Building upon this, the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 represented a major step forward towards the goal of achieving sustainability, with international agreements made on climate change, forests and biodiversity. Out of this Summit was formed Agenda 21, which was a blueprint for sustainability in the 21st century. It championed the concept of sustainable development and provides a framework for tackling social and environmental problems, including air pollution, deforestation, biodiversity loss, health, overpopulation, poverty, energy consumption, waste production and transport issues.  Agenda 21 required each country to draw up a national strategy of sustainable development.  

To gain an insight into how policy for sustainable development emerged you should consult the book listed below.  


  • Halliday, S, (2008) Sustainable Construction, Butterworth-Heineman, Oxford. Chapter 2.

Self-Assessment Task

  • Outline the development of policy for sustainable development.

Section 2  United Kingdom Sustainable Development Strategy

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • Explain the objectives of the UK Government with regard to a sustainable development strategy.

In response to Agenda 21 the UK and all participating nations developed national strategies for their sustainable development. The UK Government based its vision of sustainable development on four broad objectives:
  • Social progress which recognises the needs of everyone;
  • Effective protection of the environment;
  • Prudent use of natural resources; and
  • Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment.
The policy statements relating to sustainability are responsible for the development of codes and legislation which is being introduced in the UK:  These include the following: 
  • The Carbon Reduction Commitment (the "CRC")
  • Post-Kyoto Protocol
  • The Energy Act 2008
  • The Planning Act 2008
  • The Climate Change Act 2008
  • The Marine Bill 2008-2009
  • Draft code of best practice for carbon offset providers
  • The Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) (England and Wales)
  • Regulations 2007 (the "Regulations")
  • The Sustainable Communities Act 2007
  • The Climate Change Levy (the "CCL")
  • The EU Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme
  • Climate Change Agreements ("CCA")
  • The Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006
The details of each can be viewed at the Olswang web site below.

The objective of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy is to provide a healthy, clean and safe environment. It aims to do this by reducing pollution, poverty, poor housing and unemployment. Global environmental threats, such as climate change and poor air quality must be reduced to protect human and environmental health. The use of non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels cannot be stopped overnight, but they must be used efficiently and the development of alternatives should be used to help phase them out. 

The UK Sustainable Development Strategy recognises the need for a new, more environmentally sound approach to development, especially with regard to transport, energy production and waste management and this has lead to a number of codes and legislation including legislation relating to the following:
  • Environmental Protection
  • Water Pollution
  • Dealing with Waste
  • Contaminated Land
  • Noise
  • Wildlife and the countryside
  • Land Drainage
  • Planning – Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Building Regulations
For guidance on how the construction industry effects the environment you should visit the Government website Netregs shown below.  

For what measures the Government is taking visit Sustainable Development in Government website. 



  • Halliday, S, (2008) Sustainable Construction, Butterworth-Heineman, Oxford. Chapter 2.

Self-Assessment Task

  • List the main legislation which relates to and controls factors of sustainability and the environment.

Section 3  Building Regulations

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you will be able to: 
  • State the Building Regulations approved documents which relate to sustainability.

One form of legislation which has been in force for many years is the Building Regulations. These are a set of Government approved documents giving technical guidance on all types of construction work, including aspects that relate to sustainability. If you visit the website entitled ‘Planning Portal’ below you will be able to access the Approved Documents. You should determine which apply to sustainability and view the requirements.  



  • Billington, M. J. Bright, K. Waters, J. R. (2007) The Building Regulations: Blackwell.

Self-Assessment Task

  • List the Building Regulations approved documents that apply to Sustainability and briefly describe how they contribute to a buildings performance.

Section 4  Code for Sustainable Homes


Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • State the purpose of the Code for Sustainability
  • State the categories of sustainable design

Sustainable Communities Plan 

In 2003, the UK Government launched the Sustainable Communities Plan which set out a long-term programme of action for delivering sustainable communities in both urban and rural areas.   

The Plan included major reforms of housing and planning and a new approach to building, in order to bring about development that meets the economic, social and environmental needs currently and for future generations.  

Sustainable Procurement National Action Plan 

On the 12th June 2006, the Government published the National Action Plan: Procuring the Future.    This aims to deliver sustainable procurement to stimulate innovation through public procurement and deliver sustainable procurement by complementing and building on existing activity.  

The Code for Sustainable Homes 

From 1 May 2008 the Government introduced a mandatory code to measure the sustainability of new homes. The Code for Sustainable Homes provides a comprehensive measure of the sustainability ensuring that new homes deliver real improvements in key areas. These are measured against categories in order to give the home a ‘whole home’ rating. The code uses a 1 to 6 star rating which gives an overall sustainability performance to the new home.   

The nine categories of sustainable design are: 
  • Energy efficiency/CO2
  • Water efficiency
  • Use of materials – major elements of construction need to achieve a BRE Green Guide 2006 [8] rating of at least D.
  • Surface water management – maintain site run-off rates to pre-construction values.
  • Site waste management – site waste management plan and adequate waste storage space.
  • Pollution – a selection of measures that provide credits.
  • Health and well-being – a selection of measures that provide credits.
  • Management – a selection of measures that provide credits.
  • Ecology – a selection of measures that provide credits.
The Code sets minimum standards for energy and water use and provides information to home buyers. It also offers builders a tool which enables them to improve sustainability.

You should be aware of the fact that the code is continually developing and the date of registration of a home will depend on the version it must conform to. The requirements can be found in ‘Code for Sustainable Homes: Technical guide’ accessible from the link below. 

A number of publications are available from the Communities and Local Government website shown below which explain the code and provide guidance on how to comply with it.  These documents can be accessed from the website and can be down loaded.

You should also visit the site below to watch the ‘Web based videos’ to gain another perspective on sustainability. You will also find an excellent article on at the web link ’Towards Sustainable Homes’.  

The Passive House (Passiv Haus) Standard

The Passive House (Passiv Haus) standard is a voluntary standard which relates to an ultra-low energy building design system. This uses an energy efficient building envelope which reduces the energy consumption in a structure. 

In order for a building to be classified as a Passive House a set of requirements have to be met. Although the standard specifies housing it also relates to a variety of other types of buildings such as offices, schools and supermarkets.In order to find out more about this you should visit the website Passive House Standards below.    

The Merton Rule 

The 'Merton Rule' is a planning policy, developed and adopted by Merton Council in 2003.  It requires the use of renewable energy onsite to reduce annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the built environment in that new commercial buildings over 1,000 square meters must generate at least 10% of their energy needs using on site renewable energy equipment. 

It has subsequently been implemented by a number of other Councils and has become part of national planning guidance.   To find out more about the Merton Rule you should visit the website listed below. 


Self-Assessment Task

  • List the main environmental categories covered by the Code for Sustainable Homes and the issues they relate.

Section 5  British Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to explain:
  • The purpose of  BREEAM
  • How BREEAM functions

BREEAM is used to assess the environmental performance of new and existing buildings. Its aim is to set standards for sustainable developments and to measure environmental performance.  It is predominantly used at present at the design stage although construction stage assessments are an optional extra.  

A BREEAM assessment currently involves inspections by a licensed BREEAM assessor who measures the performance of the building in several areas and ensures that the mandatory minimum requirements for energy and water consumption are adhered to. The areas of assessment relate to:
  • the overall management of the building
  • energy use
  • health and well being
  • pollution
  • transport
  • land use
  • ecology
  • materials
  • water. 
The assessment looks at each of these areas and awards credits according to the performance of the building against specific criteria.  The credits in each of these areas are then added together to produce an overall rating based on a weighting system.  Currently the available ratings are Pass, Good, Very Good and Excellent.  

A good introduction to BREEAM can be found at the website below while greater detail is available from the BREEAM Website. 



  • Halliday, S, (2008) Sustainable Construction, Butterworth-Heineman, Oxford. Chapter 4.

Self-Assessment Task

  • In simple terms explain the purpose of BREEAM and how it functions.

Section 6  EU Sustainable Development Strategy

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • Explain the EU sustainable Development strategy.

The EU has been responsible for a great deal of legislation relating to the environment and which the UK government has been required to incorporate into having a significant effect on the construction industry.

The EU Sustainable Development Strategy was adopted by the European Council in June 2006. It is an encompassing strategy for all EU policies which sets out how it can meet the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The Sustainable Development Strategy deals with economic, environmental and social issues and lists the following seven key challenges:
  • Climate change and clean energy
  • Sustainable transport
  • Sustainable consumption and production
  • Conservation and management of natural resources
  • Public health
  • Social inclusion, demography and migration
  • Global poverty
The Europa site below provides information about the EU Sustainable Development Strategy and its key challenges, implementation of the strategy, background and the actions that are being taken. It is also a source of information on major events and news about the strategy.


Self-Assessment Task

  • Outline the main factors relating to the EU sustainable Development strategy.

Site Map