Why sustainability is more than just being ‘green’

Sustainability is something you hear about everywhere nowadays, but it’s so much more than just the latest corporate buzz word or about just being ‘green’.

The true meaning is the ability to keep going indefinitely and, by implication, the continuation of human well-being. Sustainable living means that what we do and how we live today should not leave our children unable to achieve a similar quality of life in the future. Looking ahead, we need to develop sustainably if communities are to thrive and be prosperous.

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So, what is sustainability?

Most people relate sustainability to taking action to stop damaging the environment such as rainforests, or by limiting the effects of climate change. In reality, sustainability means supporting not only the environment, but also the society and the economy, and by balancing these three elements we can achieve true sustainability.

The three elements are often referred to as the three pillars or three-legged stool of sustainability. Only if the three legs are given appropriate consideration will the seat on the stool be balanced.

Sustainability in action

If we think our own lives, you could say that if we have enough money, good people around us and a nice place to live and work, we have a good chance of being happy and well balanced people. The same thing goes for our communities. You can't focus on one element of the community to the detriment of the others.

That's why, when we build new homes and developments, we need to treat the environment, society and the economy with equal care and attention to enable the new community to live sustainably.

There are many ways to live sustainably, and to create sustainable developments. From environmentally friendly initiatives like rainwater harvesting, to providing nice places to play and to getting the local community involved in the planning and building of the development.

Here are a couple of examples of sustainable developments we've built recently...

Academy Central, Barking

Academy Central is a major urban regeneration project that played a significant role in the overall regeneration of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and was named ‘Best Urban Regeneration Project’ at the 2012 First Time Buyer Magazine Readers’ Awards.

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Sustainability in action...

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Environment

  • Major urban regeneration project - turned brownfield land into high-quality housing.
  • Majority of homes feature ‘green roofs’ which help improve air quality, provide natural insulation and promote bio-diversity.
  • Constructed using a range of environmentally sustainable and recycled materials.

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Society

  • Regenerated the land and revitalised the communit.
  • Provided much-needed affordable homes for local people.
  • Delivered a range of community facilities including a new school.

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Economy

  • Supports the local economy with a number of its construction workers, contractors, suppliers and apprentices employed from the local area.
  • Gave £50,000 to the council to help fund their local skills and training programmes.
  • Provided work experience opportunities for local school leavers and set a business project for sixth form students at the nearby Jo Richardson School. 

Rowner Renewal Project at Alver Village

The £145 million Rowner Renewal Project at Alver Village is replaces poor housing and a run-down shopping parade with new homes, a new neighbourhood centre and a supermarket.

Here's how we worked with Hampshire County Council, Gosport Borough Council, the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) and First Wessex Housing Association to build a truly sustainable development.

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Sustainability in action...

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Environment

  • Built high-quality public open spaces and play areas throughout the development to make sure that a playground is only a short walk away from every home.
  • Homes include features that increase insulation and reduce water and electricity consumption.
  • Constructed the first block of apartments in the UK that complies with the Zero Carbon Hub’s Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard, with remote monitoring equipment in each apartment that automatically collects and transmits data to the Zero Carbon Hub, allowing them to analyse the performance of the homes.

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Society

  • Worked with local residents, business owners, schools and the police during the planning phase of the development.
  • Made sure that residents who want to stay on the estate can do so, whilst those that do not will be re-housed elsewhere locally. About half of the 125 affordable homes built on phase 1 have been occupied by existing Rowner residents.
  • Gave site safety talks at local schools. At one school we assisted with a time capsule project and at a local youth club we held a photography competition.

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Economy

  • Secured Tesco as the retail tenant for the supermarket, creating the potential for approximately 150 local jobs.
  • Provided a minimum of five construction apprenticeships on site for local residents. In total, Gosport residents made up as much as 35-40% of the workforce on site.
  • Gave local businesses the opportunity to tender for material supply and works contracts on site.

Sustainable living

Sustainability is something you hear about everywhere nowadays, but what does it really mean? We're sharing some of our expertise along with some tips of how to live more sustainably yourself.

Find out more