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CIBSE updates Guide L: Sustainability

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

Sustainable building mock-up
Designing for sustainability is the future

In July 2020, the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) published Guide L: Sustainability.

The timing is significant as the EU has set a target for ‘nearly zero energy buildings’ by January 2021 (for new buildings). The objective of ‘nearly zero’ is to be achieved through a combination of on-site, nearby and off-site low carbon energy generation. CIBSE points out that as the world moves towards zero carbon, “offsets become less relevant and carbon reductions need to be achieved at the local and national level as much as possible.”

The Guide, an update from 2007, explores how building services engineers can help to deliver sustainable projects in the areas where they have the most control and influence. The publication outlines the principles of ‘sustainability’ for engineers – whatever type of project they are working on.

The Guide states: “Engineers have a huge influence over the energy use, carbon dioxide emissions, health and wellbeing, water use and other sustainability outcomes of buildings.” Headline issues covered include energy use and CO2 emissions; water use; health and wellbeing; pollution; and flood risk.

In the past 13 years, the subject of sustainable buildings has progressed considerably. But the challenges of climate change and human use of resources are growing. Engineers must now find ways to develop buildings that use fewer resources while providing functional, healthy and comfortable conditions for occupants.

In the past, construction clients have expected to pay a premium for sustainability. However, as the Guide’s executive summary states: “As sustainability takes the next big step into the mainstream, the expectation is that we will need to demonstrate reduced resource use as well as reduced costs compared to business-as-usual.”

The Guide highlights a number of important strategies: a focus on the circular economy approach to construction; a better understanding of client drivers; a re-examination of human ‘comfort’; application of whole-system thinking when designing buildings.

Guide L: Sustainability is available from CIBSE ( The PDF version free to members; £49 to non-members.


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