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CPD Unit in Sustainability

The purpose of this unit is to introduce the concepts and requirements’ relating to Sustainability and the way it applies to the construction process.

Once you have completed the unit you will be required to complete the tasks set in order to qualify for the CPD Certificate.

The tasks can be completed at the end of each section by downloading the End Test Template and completing each one as you complete the section. Alternatively you can complete the Tasks once you have finished reading through the complete unit.

Once you have completed all the Task on the End Test Template this should be sent to Gates MacBain Associates either by email or by post (details on the ‘Contact Details’ page).

Open  End of Test Template for submission


1.           Sustainability


1.1. Introduction to Sustainability



Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:

  • Define sustainability.
  • Recognise the need for inter-governmental actions.
  • Identify the relevant legislation.

To understand sustainability start by considering a simple system or process and describing the qualities by which it could be defined as sustainable. This may suggest that a sustainable system or process is one that:

  • is based on resources that will not be exhausted over time
  • does not generate unacceptable pollution

This suggestion however concentrates on qualities that emphasise environmental sustainability but over the last decades sustainability has more generally been applied to ‘maintaining life on Planet Earth’. But then Planet Earth itself sustains innumerable eco-systems on which life depends. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest global environmental organisation, offered the following definition, “Sustainability is about improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting eco-systems”.

It has to be recognised however that human life is constantly evolving. It is on a path of continuous growth and development and this brings with it social and economic challenges. Accordingly, later definitions concentrate on sustainable development and the universally accepted definition was offered in 1987 by the Brundtland Committee to the United Nations, “Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

The 2005 World Summit further clarified this statement by noting that “Sustainable Development requires the reconciliation of environmental, social and economic demands” which they termed the ‘Three Pillars of Sustainability’.


The Importance of Sustainability

The Earth’s eco-systems are being stressed by the effects of human inhabitation. The exploitation of fossil fuels was inextricably linked with the development of the industrial world, particularly in the 18th, 19th and early part of the 20th centuries. But the stark reality is that these resources are finite and they pollute.

The depletion of the ozone layer, with global warming and climate change its consequence, has been the principal focus of inter-governmental strategies. They have given commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to help developing countries make similar commitments but without damaging their economic development and future living standards. See web reference ‘Climate Change’

It is clear that action is required across a broad front. The continued rise in global population and the unsustainable consumption of the Earth’s resources present serious challenges. These include:

  • Reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases whilst preserving the Earth’s forests that absorb much of them.
  • Improving the efficiency in use of energy and natural resources whilst developing renewable sources of energy and renewable resources.
  • Maintaining bio-diversity, which considers all living things and their habitats, whilst reducing pollution to land and water.


Legislation Relating to Sustainability

The legislative framework regarding sustainability in the UK has emanated from the Government’s legally binding commitment to three tiers of sustainability policies. In other words, those commitments have been given at global, European and domestic levels.

Inter-governmental (global) Legislative Framework

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol was established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992. It was forged after taking key scientific input from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that was created by the United Nations in 1988. The Kyoto Protocol committed developed countries, including the European Union, to targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2012. It also committed them to helping the developing nations through the provision of funds.

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 and became legally binding in 2005; essentially ratified by nations responsible for 55% of the world’s CO2 emissions.


European Policy and Strategy

EU Emissions Trading Scheme created a mandatory cap on CO2 emissions by energy intensive operations. It requires large CO2 emitters to monitor and report on emissions and to return to the Government an amount of emission allowances equivalent to the CO2 emissions produced. Its requirements have been applied over two trading periods, Jan 2005 – Dec 2007 and Jan 2008 – Dec 2012. The third is planned for 2013 – 2020 and is likely to be extended to include other greenhouse gases.

Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme created a mandatory CO2 emissions cap and a carbon trading scheme on non-energy intensive organisations; generally defined as organisations with electricity bills in excess of £500 000. It required organisations to register by 2008 and to commence trading from January 2010.

Climate Change Levy (2001) introduced a tax on industrial and commercial (non-domestic, non-charity) energy bills and is intended to encourage the pursuit of renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency. It was introduced under the Finance Act 2000 and effectively replaced the Fossil Fuel Levy.

Climate Change Agreements enable significant discounts on the Climate Change Levy for energy intensive sectors that meet targets for energy efficiency or reducing carbon emissions. The agreements cover ten main energy-intensive sectors, as defined by the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations 2000, and over 30 smaller sectors.


UK Domestic Policy

To give effect to EU directives the following legislation was introduced in the UK:

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