Unstoppable! The rise and rise of Britain's green buildings

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Innovative design honoured this week – and ministers are taking note


Orlando Bloom has an eco-house; Prince Charles has built a sustainable home, and now even Damien Hirst is turning to green development with plans to build 500 eco-homes in Devon. Despite the economic gloom, the green way of building has never been more popular. And soon, it seems, all building work could be green. The Government is consulting on tightening building regulations so that homeowners undertaking major improvements would have to carry out energy-saving measures at the same time.

The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (Breeam), a leading green rating system, assessed 7,000 projects last year, a number that has more than doubled since 2009. More buildings were awarded an "Outstanding" rating than any year previously.

Alan Yates, technical director for sustainability at BRE Global which runs Breeam, said the growing numbers can be put down to tighter government policy around the "drive to zero carbon, waste reduction and water conservation", and an awareness of the role buildings play in meeting policy targets: "Both industry and government are aware of the impact our built environment has on climate change," he said.

The 10 buildings here are Breeam award-winners. The full list of 16 will be announced on Tuesday at Eco-Build, the sustainable design exhibition, in the ExCel centre, east London.

Dogs Trust, Shrewsbury

Designed to provide a comfortable environment for dogs waiting to be rehomed, this building was awarded the highest Breeam score ever. It has a 750msq green roof, which provides insulation, ceiling tiles and fences that reduce noise, and a rainwater-harvesting system to supply the water for washing kennels.

Energy 'hub' school, London

Ashmount Primary and Bowlers Nursery are part of the £13m Crouch Hill Park development, which is transforming unkempt land in north London. The site will absorb more carbon dioxide than it produces, and will feed energy to nearby homes. The artist's impression above shows cold and warm airflow into and out of the building.

The Green student accommodation, Bradford

The Green, a 10-block student residential village comprising more than 1,000 bedrooms, a communal area and energy centre, at the University of Bradford, has incorporated real-time energy-use and water-use displays in every student flat, so that students can control their energy and water consumption. Other sustainability features include a rainwater-harvesting system, which provides 600 student rooms with toilet-flushing water.

Thameside Prison, Thameside

The 600-cell living unit at Thameside prison, or Belmarsh West, is the first prison building to achieve an "Outstanding" rating. It is part of a new prison facility, for which pollutants were removed from the site and the ecology enhanced. Among other sustainability features, space and water heating is provided by waste vegetable oil biofuel boilers.

Waitrose Stratford City, London

The first retail store to receive Breeam's "outstanding" rating, Waitrose Stratford City is run completely off-grid through Westfield's energy centre. All unusable food waste is sent to an anaerobic digestion plant where it is converted into energy which goes back into the national grid; low carbon lighting is used, and cold air is retrieved from the fridges and used to cool the shop.

Harold Hill Fire Station, east London

London's first new fire station in more than two decades, Harold Hill used 42 per cent less energy than the average London fire station in its first year. Aluminium "sun pipes" bring daylight into the station even on a cloudy day.

Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts, Lancaster

The first higher education building to receive the "Outstanding" rating, this £10m, 500msq building is on three floors. The pre-fabricated timber-framed building set in woodland on the north campus of Lancaster University, provides high levels of air-tightness. The design also includes roof-mounted solar panels and rainwater- harvesting, both with live digital information displays in the reception. There are low water-use sanitary fittings and 75 per cent efficient thermal-heat recovery.

St John's Vicarage, Wembley, north-west London

A traditionally built, zero-carbon dwelling, St John's Church Vicarage in Wembley, north-west London, is the first building of its type in the UK to comply with the highest level of the sustainable homes code. The building's high thermal performance, extensive PV panels, ground-source heat pump and mechanical ventilation heat recovery system ensure that no energy from the national grid is required.

Houghton Primary Care Centre, Sunderland

The centre is heated by solar thermal panels and a ground- source heat pump. It has a wind turbine and uses rainwater.

One Silk Street, east London

Following extensive refurbishment, law firm Linklaters LLP has cut its electricity use by 40 per cent since 2001, becoming the first Breeam-rated project in the City.

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