UK Develops Environmental Progress
by Ross French
When the United Kingdom ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, it was taking a lead from continental Europe. This ratification demonstrated a high level of government awareness of environmental issues that is more akin to that of Britain's nearest neighbors than to that of its wartime ally, the United States.
At Kyoto in 1997, the United Kingdom made a legally binding commitment to a 12.5 percent reduction from 1990 levels in emissions of greenhouse gases, most significantly carbon dioxide (CO2). Since 1997, the UK construction sector has seen the introduction of a raft of legislative measures and incentives.
This is not surprising given that the construction and operation of buildings is responsible for more than half of all CO2 emissions. While there has been the inevitable resistance from a notoriously conservative industry, this legislation has also fostered a more integrated and creative approach to design.
Positive Approaches to Environmental Impact
Planning has always been more highly regulated in Europe than in North America. Environmental impact assessment (EIA), traditionally required for major infrastructure projects such as power stations and roads, is being increasingly demanded by planning authorities for building projects.
Where undertaken merely as a planning exercise on a fixed design, mitigating negative impacts tends to be through "add-on" solutions, which typically prove costly and have limited effect. A better, more creative and cost-effective approach is to use EIA as a design tool. If environmental problems are identified at the outset, they can become design drivers. For example, using the building form to provide shelter from a noise source is preferable to installing acoustic-rated glazing. >>>
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