Responsible sourcing starts with design

by James Goodfellow

“There’s nothing like a horsemeat scandal to get us all interested in where things come from”, said Sarah Cary, sustainable development executive at British Land, when she introduced the responsible sourcing seminar at this year’s Ecobuild.

Too true.

Responsible sourcing is not a new concept at all, although it is still relatively new in the construction industry. Understanding where the products and materials we specify come from and what their impact is on the environment is so important that we must obtain an understanding of their traceability through the supply chain. It’s time that responsible sourcing became the big topic and was an integral part of every construction project.

What is responsible sourcing?

Responsible sourcing is a holistic approach to the way in which building products and construction materials are extracted, processed, supplied and used on site. It also takes into account the way materials can be re-used, recycled or disposed of when they reach they end of their lifecycle.

It requires the examination of a product and its supplier and whether they meet certain sustainability, environmental, social and economic requirements.

Why is it important?

Construction projects are one of the biggest drains on our world’s resources. From the materials we extract from the earth to the carbon emissions released during construction to the final energy requirements of the completed building. It is vital that each project makes as little negative impact on the environment as possible; benefits the communities involved in the production or supply of materials; and meets certain health, safety and quality standards so as to improve the life of the building and those using it.

Make’s approach to responsible sourcing in design

The Gateway Building is a biosciences research facility for the University of Nottingham. 5 Broadgate is the new London corporate headquarters for financial services company UBS.  These two buildings could not be more different in size, scale, use, location and requirements; however where they converge is in how best practice was ensured throughout the design process.

The Gateway Building, University of Nottingham

The Gateway Building, University of Nottingham

The materials used in The Gateway Building’s cladding reflect the campus’s agriculture heritage by bringing together three sustainable materials: wood, straw and render. Local sourcing was key in procuring the materials with the aim of not only reducing embodied carbon through transportation but also bringing employment to the local community.

Locally sourced materials for The Gateway Building

Locally sourced materials for The Gateway Building

Being an agricultural campus the straw was locally produced by the university on their neighbouring fields. A pop-up factory was then set up in a barn less than five miles from the site where the timber, straw and render were prefabricated into 14m long cassettes.  This meant the materials were assembled in a controlled environment that was extremely close to both the source of the materials and the construction site. The windows were also sourced and fabricated down the road less than 10 miles from the site.

5 Broadgate on the other hand is a large office block in the heart of the City of London. High sustainability targets have been set for the project by both the occupier, UBS and the developers, British Land.

5 Broadgate, London, UK

5 Broadgate, London, UK

Supply chain interrogation helped us make informed design decisions early on and assisted in the sustainable procurement of materials. We looked at every component specified within the building, comparing the sustainability criteria for different options including their embodied energy and recycled content. For example, these decisions meant we were able to mitigate 360 tons in CO2 equivalents on the façade alone.

Life cycle comparison of materials for 5 Broadgate

Life cycle comparison of materials for 5 Broadgate

We further defined our sustainability requirements during the tender process by producing specific sustainability requirements for all potential contractors. They were required to confirm and demonstrate compliance at tender stage and offer improvements where possible. We’ve found that it is easier to get data from suppliers at tender stage while they are keen for the job rather than after they are appointed!

Once appointed we continue to work with the supply chain to maximise material optimisation and minimise wastage as the design develops. We also work with the contractors to find further ways to minimise transportation and carbon emissions during production and this is being monitored on a project wide basis.

Summary

Two very different projects with different briefs and different opportunities. But by placing sustainability at the heart of the decision-making process and putting a strong focus on material research and supply chain interrogation, we made informed decisions that ensured the buildings were responsibly sourced.

As Derek Hughes, responsible sourcing scheme manager at BRE Global so aptly put it: “We’re all used to seeing fair trade in our coffee, but why not fair trade in our concrete?”

Notes
James Goodfellow recently presented ‘Responsible sourcing – the design process’ at Ecobuild 2013. You can download James’s presentation from the Ecobuild website or follow him on Twitter: @jamesgoodfellow 
Sarah Cary works with British Land’s project teams to drive sustainable design, responsible construction and ethical procurement. Read Sarah’s blog or follow her on Twitter: @sarahcary 
 
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3 thoughts on “Responsible sourcing starts with design

  1. wyldewoody says:

    Great article, love to see well thought out projects in sustainable design, love it.

  2. […] we at Make are very focused on, especially for our 5 Broadgate project on behalf of British Land. (see James’ earlier blog post) It requires the holistic examination of the product and the supply chain so that one is fully […]

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