Last edited 29 Jul 2016

Mean lean green

The “Mean Lean Green” philosophy aims to produce developments that lower the demand for resources, provide efficient structures and deploy innovative technology.

It is based on the hierarchy:

  • Mean. Reducing the demand for materials, energy, water and other resources. For example, creating guidelines for building designers to ensure demand is low from the outset, by utilising passive measures such as natural heating, lighting, ventilation and external shading.
  • Lean. Ensuring that materials and systems are used responsibly and efficiently. For example, reducing distribution losses for energy (or water) between generation and usage. This might involve supplying heat, cooling, power and water from an on-site source.
  • Green. Supplying any remaining requirements from renewable sources to minimise residual carbon emissions. For example, solar power or rainwater harvesting.

Developers can tend to jump straight to the ‘green’ aspect , that is, renewable energy generation, but the other two – using less and making sure as much as possible gets to the point of usage – are equally important.

The philosophy applies to environmental assessments and strategies at all scales, including; the design of buildings and infrastructure, new city developments and climate change adaptation projects, as well as implementing strategies to reduce carbon and take advantage of carbon finance and trading. Being Mean, Lean and Green in its broadest sense requires integration of central and local government policy, legislation, building regulations, client policy and design strategy.

The Mean Lean Green approach was adopted by the Olympic Delivery Authority in the development of the London 2012 Olympic Park (ref ODA: Mean, lean and green, Powering the Olympic Park).

Whilst the Mean Lean Green approach is popular in the ‘Global North’ it can be less useful in the ‘Global South’ where the ‘lean’ aspect may already happen through necessity, and in fact increased resource consumption may be required to improve quality of life.

NB The term 'Lean Construction' was coined by the International Group for Lean Construction in 1993. It is, in part, an adaptation of the principles of lean manufacturing concerned with maximising the value delivered to clients/customers/end-users while minimising cost and waste through the entire construction supply chain.

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