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Cundall - The "One Planet" company taking on the UK's Grand Challenges

20 May 2019
Reading Time: 3 mins



A pioneering consultancy - Going above and beyond


Paul Chatwin, Associate with international consulting engineers, Cundall, discusses their inspiring approach to combat climate change


“A recent editorial in industry publication Construction News asked what construction companies are doing to tackle climate change, given that the industry ‘accounts for almost half of the UK’s carbon footprint through existing buildings and assets under construction’ (Construction News, 30th April). It referred to an industry framework definition for net zero carbon buildings, published by the UK Green Building Council, of which my company is a Gold Leaf member, and states that action must be at every stage in the supply chain.

Cundall has been working to mitigate against the impact of climate change for well over ten years, receiving endorsement from Bioregional as the world’s first One Planet consultancy in 2012. We are currently focussing on six target impact areas that relate to the One Planet principles and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The six priority impacts are Climate Positive Action, Zero Carbon Energy, Health & Wellbeing, Ethics & Equity, Climate Change Adaption and Materials & Supply Chain, which were published in our ‘One Planet, One Chance Sustainability Roadmap’

Critically, this is action not just words because, business as usual is no longer enough. As well as ensuring we adopt the six priority impacts into our own business, we recognise that the projects we work on will result in a greater impact. We have implemented Climate Positive and Zero Carbon solutions for our clients.

As an example, my team has carried out research into climate change, to assist our clients understand the risk and design options to consider. Exploring weather data allows us to assess buildings in terms of their over-heating risk.

I am proud of the work we have done over the past four years with the Education and Skills Funding Agency to design the criteria that new school buildings should be judged against. Schools cannot afford air conditioning but must not overheat either. Our criteria assess what are the most conducive conditions for a learning environment. Resulting from this, Cundall co-developed Design Guides to address all these aspects, including health and wellbeing and energy consumption. As a result, manufacturers have followed, developing ventilation solutions to provide comfort without significantly impacting on energy consumption.

While voluntary approaches such as BREEAM, LEED and Passivhaus are increasingly gaining traction, how do we encourage clients to be carbon positive rather than simply designing for compliance? Much of this comes down to the commercial bottom line. Many businesses want to do the right thing but are they prepared to pay? Selecting the right materials will impact embodied carbon and addressing in-use energy performance is the way to go. In Australia, a model was introduced that imposed energy efficient commercial buildings. Called NABERS, this highly successful scheme has seen a 50% reduction in energy consumption in offices. A similar scheme, launched by the Better Buildings Partnership, called ‘Design for Performance’ (DfP) is now gaining momentum in the UK. We are one of the Pioneer Delivery Partners and are actively integrating DfP into our services and solutions for clients.

Cundall also provides, the Beyond Report, which we voluntarily provide to clients at the start of engagement, free of charge and irrespective of the discipline we are appointed for. The report aims to push beyond standard compliance and solutions on every project we deliver. It is based on the ten One Planet principles and offers a selection of environmental and social ideas that can help improve the sustainability of the scheme, allowing clients to see how their project can go above and beyond the original brief, through multidisciplinary and holistic initiatives.

As an organisation and as individuals, we are firm believers in leading by example. The world has woken up to the ‘why?’. Now firm encouragement is needed that will take forward the ‘how?