Principle 5: Sustainability and Health

The same principles for sustainable design and construction apply to larger footprint buildings as with every new building in Essex. This includes using locally sourced building materials, use of renewables and energy sources and the creation of comprehensive water and waste management schemes. The use of sustainable design and technology in new design is however particularly important for large footprint buildings, as they tend to use more resources, such as energy and water, than standard home or smaller blocks.

The size of commercial and industrial buildings, particularly if they are located within distinct estate or business parks allows for sufficient ‘critical mass’ for easier and most cost-effective connection into energy networks, such as district heating systems, which can help to deliver more sustainable developments from the outset.

As with all developments, developments of commercial and industrial buildings should seek to provide a biodiversity ‘net gain’. This means that through working alongside the landscape strategy for the site, that biodiversity value is higher following redevelopment than it was beforehand. Depending upon location (brownfield vs greenfield etc) this can be challenging to achieve on a site of a larger footprint building, however there are methods which, when used effectively, can be employed to enhance the ecological value of the site.

The full CIEEM document on the development principles, some of which are outlined below, can be found by following this link:

Two ways of not only improving the aesthetics of large footprint buildings but also enhancing ecological value is through the provision of substantial living walls and green roofs. When applied and maintained correctly they offer numerous benefits to densely populated urban areas such as cooling the microclimate, slowing absorbing, storing and releasing rainwater run-off and helping to clean the air of pollutants. 

Given the large surface area of roofs on commercial and industrial buildings, often built over areas of formerly permeable natural substrate, SuDS methods such as rainwater harvesting, as well as management of surface water run-off from paved surfaces is an important element of design which must be considered. This is discussed in other sections covering larger footprint buildings, and should be taken as an essential component of any new large scale development.

Rainwater harvesting, which is likely to be very substantial from large flat roofs, is another element that is recommended to be implemented into a commercial/industrial building, via a storage tank which, depending on size, could be buried or left on ground-level. This is useful for recycling water for flushing toilets, washing vehicles/machines and watering gardens or landscaped areas within the site. Rainwater harvesting is a very simple process; rather than the traditional method of transferring water runoff from the roof into a gutter, then through the drainage system, this process involves storing water in the aforementioned storage tank, which will filter this water for non-drinking uses. 

Large footprint buildings are often located in relatively unsustainable locations, away from regular public transport routes and within ease of connectivity to a range of services. To enhance the health impact which results from these developments on the communities and workforce, an HIA will be required on any development over 1,000sqm however a degree of flexibility is considered appropriate, with a view taken by the LPA. More information on the requirements of an HIA are contained within the EPOA’s guidance document.

Page updated: 11/09/2019

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