- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 20 Mar 2019
Environmental consultant for building design and construction
It is thought that in the UK, buildings account for around 50% of the total energy consumed (ref CIBSE). The UK construction industry is also the largest consumer of resources, requiring more than 400 million tonnes of material a year (ref Davis Langdon). 32% of landfill waste comes from the construction and demolition of buildings and 13% of products delivered to construction sites are sent directly to landfill without being used (ref Innovate UK).
The Climate Change Act was introduced in the UK in 2008, creating a long-term, legally-binding framework for tackling climate change. It set a target of reducing carbon emissions by 80% compared to 1990 levels by 2050, with a reduction of at least 34% by 2020.
Construction 2025 proposed a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment. In addition, legislation is imposing more strict controls on the source, use and disposal of materials, as well as the consumption of energy, and planning permissions are increasingly dependent on the sustainability credentials of proposed developments.
As a result of this, and increasing awareness from clients of the need to reduce impacts on the environment, construction is under greater pressure than ever to adopt sustainable practices and reduce the resources consumed in the building life-cycle.
Environmental consultants are able to bring expert advice to a project. Historically this might have been a reactionary appointment to help deal with environmental problems. More recently it was often an ‘add on’ to green and otherwise conventional project. Today environmental consultants can be an integral part of the decision making process, appointed in the early stages of a project to help plan, organise and police a development to minimise its impacts.
 Role of environmental consultants
- Review or audit of existing working practices, business systems and processes.
- Identification of risk.
- Development and implementation of a corporate sustainability strategy, environmental management systems (EMS), ISO14001 / Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS).
 Selection of consultants
- Setting out selection criteria and performance requirements for consultants in relation to the selection of materials, monitoring and reporting, track record, environmental accreditation and qualifications of staff.
- Assessing the availability of transport, the selection of a greenfield or brownfield site, the local availability of resources and services, the local infrastructure, ecology and biodiversity
- Assessment of air, land and water contamination and pollution.
- Environmental impact assessments (EIA) / Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA).
- Avoidance, mitigation, remediation or compensation measures.
- Consideration of procurement route, travel plan, working methods, standards, ecology and landscape, energy use and energy source, flexibility and durability, waste management, sustainable urban drainage systems, material selection and pollution.
- Design reviews and environmental audit.
- Assessment of energy use and energy source, embodied energy, use of harmful materials, material sources, ecology and landscape, flexibility and durability, waste management, sustainable urban drainage systems, disposal, travel plan, contamination and pollution and resilience to climate change.
- Establishing contractual requirements such as monitoring and reporting, working practices, track record and environmental accreditation.
- Defining selection criteria and key performance indicators.
- Environmental audit.
- Transport, embodied energy, use of harmful materials, material sources, working methods, site waste management plan, recycling, pollution, wheel washing, dust generation and noise nuisance, protection of ecology, traffic management, archaeology and heritage management, water management and contaminated land management.
- Supply chain engagement.
- Energy source, energy use, water management, maintenance, resource management, waste management, flexibility, durability, landscape and ecology and pollution.
- Post-occupancy evaluation and feedback.
- Dismantling and demolition, re-use, re-sale and recycling, landscape and ecology, hazardous materials and pollution.
Preparing an environmental policy (or environmental policy statement) is often the first stage in setting and managing environmental objectives for a company or project. Generally an environmental policy will be part of an environmental management system (EMS) and will sit within a hierarchical suite of documents:
- Environmental policy.
- Environmental plan / environmental management plan (EMP).
- Method statements.
- Work instructions.
The environmental policy is the over-arching high-level statement of mission and principles in relation to environmental performance and management. It creates the framework for setting environmental objectives and targets and is often a public document. It may adopt some of its principles from the client’s corporate environmental policy.
See environmental policy for more information.
The environmental plan is the key document in the environmental management system and sets out the detailed, targets, objectives and procedures that will be adopted in order to achieve the goals set out in the environmental policy.
An outline for an environmental plan might include:
- Project description.
- Environmental policy.
- Environmental management system.
- Roles and responsibilities.
- Lines of communication and reporting requirements.
- Complaints, incidents and emergency response procedures.
- Auditing, non-conformance and corrective action.
- Risk assessment.
- Objectives and targets.
- Planning, legislation, regulations and guidelines and permits required.
- Standards to be adopted.
- Method statements.
- Review and revision procedures.
See Environmental plan for more information.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Chartered environmentalist.
- Ecological impact assessment.
- Environmental engineering.
- Environmental impact assessment.
- Embodied energy.
- Environmental plan.
- Environmental policy.
- Performance gap.
- Renewable energy.
- Site waste management plan.
 External references
- Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).
- Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.
Featured articles and news
How do we measure air tightness in buildings?
The Housing Infrastructure Fund
Encouraging access to local amenities and sustainable transport.
Publish your thought leadership articles on Designing Buildings Wiki – for free.
Competence Steering Group publishes interim proposals to deliver safer buildings.
Indoor environments should provide a multi-sensory experience.
We have a great range of introductory articles written by ECA.
7 of the most common myths, busted.
Consider a career in the electrotechnical industry.
Exploring local assets of community significance. Book review.