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  • PublisherCIBSE
  • Product CodeGVL2020
  • Number of pages240
  • Publication DateJul 2020
  • ISBN9781912034482

Guide L: Sustainability (2020)

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Guide L: Sustainability (2020)

This Guide provides building services engineers with guidance on how to respond to the changing sustainability agenda. It describes:

  • how they can influence the work done and decisions made by clients and other professionals.
  • the actions that building services engineers should take to enable their work to deliver sustainable outcomes.

Beyond Net Zero and the new CIBSE Guide L: Sustainability

CIBSE and AECOM hosted a webinar on Wednesday 23 September where a selected number of expert speakers presented and debated the ambitions of the net zero economy.

Watch now


Engineers have a huge influence over the energy use, carbon dioxide emissions, health and wellbeing, water use and other sustainability outcomes of buildings and the wider projects in which they sit. There is increasing pressure to address these issues and to understand how engineering decisions can deliver a more sustainable built environment.

The set of sustainability issues covered by this guide (set out in chapter 2) balances a concern for comprehensiveness, collaboration and whole system thinking with the need for clarity, the use of familiar terms, and the need to focus on issues where engineers have greatest control and influence.

The principles of sustainability discussed in this document apply wherever in the world engineers practice, and wherever designs or projects are undertaken.

The wider sustainability context is set out in the ‘The age of limits’ (chapter 3). There is necessarily a gap between that chapter, which highlights the challenges ahead and the scale of the societal changes that are needed, and the subsequent guidance chapters, which set out best practice for what practitioners can do now. Where possible, case studies are included from innovators and market leaders which already stretch best practice to progress towards more sustainable buildings and places.

As members of society and as engineers with obligations to society, we also have a duty to use our knowledge to help influence the wider debates and understanding of sustainability. After all, it is only with the full engagement of all of society that the solutions we offer within the built environment can fully deliver on sustainability.

This Guide is intended for all building services engineers.


Topics covered include:


  • Defining sustainable buildings
    • Key sustainability topics
    • Principles of sustainability
    • Sources of information and further reading
  • The age of limits
    • Sustainable development and socio-economic governance
    • Planetary boundaries
    • Engineers’ impact on planetary limits
  • The role of engineers in sustainability
  • Sustainability from the client’s perspective
    • Responsible property investment
    • Recognising the client drivers
    • Client risk and the sustainability approach
    • Quantifying the value of sustainable design
    • Sustainability assessment or certification tools
    • Sources of information and further reading
  • Engineering sustainability
    • Terms of appointment
    • Making the case for sustainability
    • A holistic approach
    • Defining the brief
    • Agreeing realistic and measurable targets
    • Establishing site opportunities and constraints
    • Communication to influence clients and project teams
  • Making buildings work: embedding performance throughout the project
    • Embedding operational performance throughout the project
    • Lessons learned from projects
    • The influence of designers and occupiers
    • Soft Landings
    • Handover and commissioning
    • Setting up a maintenance strategy
    • The operational stage: monitoring and performance evaluation
  • Health and wellbeing
    • Impacts of buildings on human health and wellbeing
    • Key topics
    • Air quality
    • Thermal comfort
    • Humidity
    • Visual quality, light and lighting
    • Water quality
    • Acoustic environment
    • Materials selection
    • Monitoring
    • Key actions
    • Sources of information and further reading
  • Energy use and CO2 emissions
    • Approach and definitions
    • Principles
    • Site analysis
    • Estimating energy demand
    • Reducing demand
    • Meeting demand efficiently
    • Demand management
    • Community energy
    • Low and zero carbon (LZC) sources
    • Enabling energy management
    • Designing for the future
    • Retrofit
  • Transport
    • Site assessment
    • Examples of measures
  • Water use
    • Infrastructure capacity
    • Predicting demand and discharge rates
    • Reduce demand
    • Water efficiency
    • Recycled/reclaimed water
  • Materials and resource use
    • Resource efficiency
    • The circular economy approach
    • Principles for building services in a circular economy
    • ‘Designing-out’ building services
    • Systems design
    • Principles for materials and product selection
    • Responsible sourcing
    • Materials with low in-use impacts
    • Materials with low embodied impacts
    • Reused and recycled content
    • Re-use and end of life
  • Operational waste
    • Waste strategy
    • Developing a waste management strategy
    • Facilitating reducing, reusing and recycling of waste
    • Composting
    • Design of waste storage and recycling areas
    • Recovering energy from waste
  • Ecology and biodiversity
    • Ecology strategy
    • Site assessment
    • Example measures
    • Vegetation and cooling effect
    • Trees and landscaping
    • Living roofs
  • Pollution
    • Air pollution
    • Water pollution
    • Soil pollution
    • Noise pollution
    • Light pollution
  • Flood risk
    • Types of flood risk
    • Site assessment
    • Example measures
    • Sources of information and further reading
  • Sustainable drainage
    • Example measures
    • Integrating SuDS and rainwater collection
    • SUDS and roofs
    • Water-sensitive urban design
  • Construction
    • Procurement
    • Construction site impacts
    • Community engagement and supporting local jobs, skills and competence
  • Climate change adaptation
    • How the climate is changing
    • Making the case for adaptation
    • Adaptation principles
    • Impacts of a changing climate and solutions to adapting buildings
    • Resources for building designers
    • Sources of information and further reading
  • Local environment and community
    • Community engagement
    • Accessible and inclusive environment
    • Heritage and cultural considerations
    • Local infrastructure
    • Effect on the local community



Principal authors

David Cheshire (AECOM)

Julie Godefroy (CIBSE)


Contributing authors

Max Deuble (Integrated Built Environment Ltd)

Peter D Ferguson (CBRE Global Workplace Solutions)

Nick Hayes (Strategic Green)

Susan Hone-Brookes (Catapult MTC)

Kirstin Johansen (Imtech)

Dorte Rich Jørgensen (Atkins, member of the SNC-Lavalin Group)

Mike Medas (University of Reading)

Jorge Abarca Montero (Cundall)

Niamh Murtagh (Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management (UCL))

Anastasia Mylona (CIBSE)

Aeli Roberts (Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management (UCL))

Chris Twinn (Twinn Sustainability Innovation)

Mukesh Visavadia (Ludgate Practice)

Tony Dennis (Integrated Built Environment Ltd.)