What does a best practice sustainability statement look like?

While sustainability statements are a mandatory part of the construction process for many new developments or changes of use to existing structures, they can vary dramatically in quality. We have developed our sustainability and energy reports with care over time. Here we hope to share some of the most useful ideas that have helped to shape them. This is by no means an exhaustive list, merely a conversational starting point.

What Is a Sustainability Statement?

We cover this point comprehensively here but in essence, a sustainability statement is an in-depth, analytical document. It is written to show how a planned development will address core sustainability policies set by the presiding Local Authority. 

Producing a well-written statement is a crucial part of the planning process. It also increasingly plays a vital role in securing approval for the development.

What Does Best Practice Look Like?

Gather all information upfront

Our first challenge is ensuring that we receive all the information necessary in order to start the work. We are often approached by prospective clients before they have all the necessary details to hand. They understand the need for a sustainability statement but cannot provide all the details we need in order to get started.

Before any work can begin, we need to receive the following information:

Our team has been tempted in the past to start on desk research before we receive the full list of details outlined above. We have since learned that this is an inefficient way to approach these projects and talk customers through the rationale for each requirement.

Identify key stakeholders

We are normally approached by either the site developer or the project architect but it is useful for us to have communication with both parties.

While a developer will have strategic oversight of the entire project, the architect will primarily be concerned with specific details. They will be keen to share the context behind their decision-making process. It’s important for us to understand the project from both viewpoints if we are to produce the highest quality statement.

This conversation often occurs around the choice of heating system or selected building materials, where the most sustainable solution is often not the most obvious option. Our team highlights any issue that may affect the project at a later stage, and provide suggestions on how they might be resolved.

Take a collaborative approach

The most effective best practice sustainability statement we produce has been a product of collaboration: combined efforts between the customer and our sustainability team.

A great example of this comes in our first draft for a large development that appeared fairly standard. It appeared to merely comply with local authority guidelines, rather than exceed them. Our combination of desk research, analysis of plans, and energy calculations revealed nothing outstanding, so our client was initially disappointed with the report we provided them with.

Through a series of conversations they explained how much further they had gone to ensure the future sustainability of the development, and upon provision of additional information relating to heating design and building materials chosen, we were able to update the report to more accurately outline their commitment to net zero building principles.

We encourage our customers to ask questions and seek revisions until the most sustainable outcome has been reached. This helps us improve all future reports and results in a higher success rate of planning approvals granted.

Consider different audiences

Non-technical people will use this document as well as planning specialists so it is really important to make sure the language used is comprehensible to all. Write out all acronyms and abbreviations in full the first time you use them. Consider including a glossary of terms as an appendix. Err on the side of caution and don’t assume a high level of knowledge of planning processes or building regulations. 

We found that getting a new member of staff to proofread and sense-check all our sustainability statements for a week picked up a number of points that we needed to clarify. 

What next?

We are constantly iterating our processes and making improvements to our best practice sustainability statement. If you would like to discuss anything related to energy modelling, building sustainability, or project planning, let’s talk.

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