Do Environmental Assessment Methods Influence the Client’s Design Choices?
Environmental assessment methods such as BREEAM were launched in the UK in the early 1990’s, to encourage clients of the construction industry to consider both the internal and external environment when designing new build and refurbishment construction projects. Do these assessment methodologies actually influence clients design choices, or are there other factors that need to be considered? Different professions within the design team appear to have contrasting views on the success that BREEAM has had in improving the quality of our buildings and their surroundings. Interviewing seven design team members provided a sound base on which to assess the impact BREEAM has and is having on clients of the construction industry. Of the design team members interviewed, those employed by clients in the public sector were very familiar with BREEAM and its assessment methodology, with the exception of the local authority architects who suggested that they would only apply the methodology when forced to do so. They were unconvinced of the assessments merits and preferred to use their own assessment guidelines, despite recommendations by central government to use BREEAM. Those design team members employed in the private sector had limited or no knowledge of BREEAM or other assessment methodologies. The results indicate that public sector clients who are bound by government instruction are employing BREEAM on many of their projects. In situations where clients have a choice, cost is still the bottom line that determines whether sustainable solutions are agreed. The fragmented nature of the construction industry has hindered the knowledge transfer of sustainable issues to professionals, which appears to have arrested the adoption of BREEAM.
The aim of this research is to assess how BREEAM influences the design solutions and the workings of the design team process, on new build and refurbishment construction projects. There are two hypotheses that answer the main aim of this dissertation:
- BREEAM adds confusion and complexity to the design team process.
- Knowledge of BREEAM among construction professionals is limited as a result of its voluntary nature, and the fragmented characteristics of a construction industry with an inherent resistance to change.
In line with the above quote, more organisations are procuring green commercial buildings. The idea of having an assessment methodology encouraging clients of the construction industry to think about the impact that their new project will have on the environment, is essentially a good idea. In a world that is becoming increasingly concerned about its future it is important that clients and design team professionals can use these assessments to measure buildings’ specific environmental qualities. However, these tools are only useful if knowledge of their application is widely available and communicated to all those that require it and in a format that is straightforward and easily understood. There are a number of environmental assessment methods in use. However, in line with the above quote, this study will concentrate on BREEAM as it is considered to be the most familiar with clients and construction professionals. But, despite the sentiments of the above quote, it is unclear whether BREEAM has had a major impact on the construction industry and its clients. This dissertation aims to establish through qualitative research whether environmental assessment methods such as BREEAM are as influential as envisaged. It will address how BREEAM integrates itself into an already complex design process, within an industry that has inherent communication problems. The research will also examine other factors influencing clients’ decision-making processes, and establish how effective BREEAM is in the pursuit of sustainable practice.
I do hope enjoyed reading this post on environmental assessment methods and client decision making. There are many other titles available in the Construction Dissertation Collection that should be of interest to construction management students and building professional. There are many dissertation titles that relate to other aspects of construction such as project management techniques, environmental management, building and construction methods to name a few. It took a lot of time to write this post and I would be grateful if you could share this post via Facebook and Twitter. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you.