This week's APC challenge concerns an essential competence

This week’s APC article tackles the Sustainability competence (M009). This is a mandatory competence at level one, common to all pathways. The candidate may also select Sustainability as an optional competency to level two through the Quantity Surveying and Construction pathway. Some of the other pathways include the Sustainability competence as core or allow it to be selected as a level two or three optional competence.

Sustainability is a highly topical issue and there is a significant amount of legislation and guidelines, such as the Building Regulations Part L (2006), local planning authorities regulations (e.g. 20% target reduction in carbon emissions in London) and code for sustainable homes, which the surveyor needs to understand the implications of to effectively perform their role. The candidate should also be aware of how sustainability can be measured in buildings and industry standards such as BREEAM. The candidate is encouraged to read the trade press and be aware of the latest industry issues prior to the interview. For example, the Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) have launched an industry consultation this month to comment on a stronger eco-stance and guidance in building contracts (refer Building article 4 Feb by Nargess Shahmanesh-Banks.)

As noted in previous APC articles, to achieve competence levels two and three, the candidate must be able to evidence actual experience and as well at level three, give reasoned advice to clients. The questions and answers will be dependent upon the candidate’s experience and the pathway they have followed. As such, the questions below should be considered as indicative only.

Level 1

Question What do we mean by sustainable development?

Answer Sustainable development is defined within the Brundtland report as that “which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The three principles of sustainability are social, environmental and economic.

The candidate is encouraged to review the Brundtland Report (1987), ‘Our Common Future’, Oxford University Press, for further background reading.

Level 2

Scenario You are working for a client on an inner-city housing development. The client wishes to undertake a full sustainability appraisal of the development which includes a mixed housing development and community facilities. Both the developer and the local authority are eager to demonstrate full compliance with best practice sustainable development.

Question Explain how the key principles of sustainability will impact on the development and outline some the key issues that need to be considered?

Answer The candidate could approach this question by outlining the social, environmental and economic issues in the context of the development.

  • Social
  • The development should respond to the needs of the wider community. For example, does the development provide good local amenities, public transport with welfare facilities, education facilities and a reasonable spread of shopping facilities in close proximity? The developer could also consider a mix of unit types with mixed tenancies.
  • Economic
  • Is the development making efficient use of resource, including labour and ensuring the design and construction meets the current and functional needs of the users? Does the development represent overall value for money? Has a whole life cycle cost and value analysis been undertaken? Does the development funding adequately support ongoing maintenance and replacement?
  • Environmental
  • This is about preventing harmful and potentially irreversible impacts on the environment by the careful use of natural resource, minimising waste and energy, protecting and, where possible, enhancing the environment. A study should be carried out into the utilisation of energy, water, waste, materials and biodiversity impacts on the site. The developer should also consider low-carbon housing and the use of low and zero carbon technologies.

Question I see from your diary of experience that the office development you have been working on is targeting BREEAM Excellent. What issues did you consider with the design team at the early stages of the design to achieve this?

The candidate would be expected to understand the key considerations of the building design, such as passive energy design to reduce energy consumption. The candidate could explain a number of the following options:

  • Building orientation
  • Building geometry and layout
  • Solar shading
  • Low emissivity glazing
  • Thermal performance
  • Maximising daylight
  • Providing natural ventilation where possible
  • Airtight building envelope where appropriate to minimise uncontrolled air loss

The candidate would also be expected to describe some of the low and zero carbon technologies that were considered on their project and their suitability to meet Part L carbon emission reduction criteria. This may include:

  • Combined heat and power (CHP)
  • Biomass boilers
  • Ground source heat pump
  • Solar thermal water heating
  • Photovoltaic cells
  • Wind turbines (onsite)
  • Rainwater harvesting

If the candidate was involved in costing the various options, they may also be questioned on the capital and whole life costs and approach and their respective payback periods.

The candidate should have a good understanding of sustainable building solutions and demonstrate their ability to work with the design team and sustainability consultant to evaluate the options. However, the candidate needs to be aware of their own professional limitations and not step outside their area of competence. Level two competence seeks ‘awareness of the circumstances in which specialist advice is necessary’.