How Brookes research created an environmental legacy

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Environmental legacy

This week is Low Carbon Oxford Week (11-19 June), a city-wide summer festival which uses culture, creativity and community to inspire local people to take action against climate change

Organised by Oxford City Council with support from a network of over 40 organisations, including Oxford Brookes University, it is a chance to engage new audiences and celebrate what is being done to reduce Oxford’s carbon footprint.

To mark Low Carbon Oxford Week, we take a look at an environmental legacy created from research at Oxford Brookes, which has led to a positive impact on hundreds of thousands of construction projects…

The Green Guide to Specification is an environmental profiling system that enables designers and constructors to select building materials and components which have the lowest environmental impact. 

Prior to this work, no reliable method existed to evaluate and compare the environmental impacts of construction materials. Since its introduction, 20 years ago, Green Guide has become the industry and legislative standard for the selection of lower environmental impact construction materials.

David Shiers, Reader in Sustainable Property, Oxford Brookes University

Designed at Oxford Brookes and developed in association with the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the Green Guide methodology provides the construction industry with reliable environmental evaluations based on quantitative Life Cycle Assessment data. It has been used to reduce environmental impacts for over 230,000 recorded construction projects, with a further 1.07 million projects registered awaiting certification worldwide.

In its fourth edition, the Green Guide is part of the BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), an accredited environmental rating scheme for buildings, and the Code for Sustainable Homes programme.

David Shiers, Reader in Sustainable Property in the Department of Real Estate and Construction at Oxford Brookes is the originator and developer of the methodology and author and project co-ordinator of the Green Guide. He said: “Prior to this work, no reliable method existed to evaluate and compare the environmental impacts of construction materials. Since its introduction, 20 years ago, Green Guide has become the industry and legislative standard for the selection of lower environmental impact construction materials.”

As of 2007, Green Guide rated materials have had to be specified as part of the Code for Sustainable Homes standards which are required in order for any new residential development in the UK to be granted Planning Permission.

The first and second editions of Green Guide predominately utilised UK environmental data gathered from industry and UK Government sources. Over time, the international nature of many environmental concerns, including resources use and atmospheric emissions, has been increasingly accounted for in the Green Guide data collection and analysis.

Authors of Green Guide have produced a number of academic papers and reports, helping to broaden the research community’s understanding of the environmental impacts of construction products.
The Green Guide was also used as the key test in determining the selection of construction materials in the London 2012 Olympic Development Plan.

David continues: “This guide was an important step on the road to a more environmentally responsible property sector and a greener economy. The move to a greener way of doing business has, for me, always been inevitable. In the UK, legislation has been pushing organisations in that direction and in the materials sector, many manufacturers have seen it as a commercial opportunity; realising that greener products carry less legal risks and are more appealing to customers and stakeholders.”

An Impact Case Study with more information about the work is available on the University’s research webpages.