Earlier this year, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) launched its 2020 Plan of Work, a comprehensive guidance document that organises the process of briefing, designing, constructing, and operating buildings into eight stages. The most significant revision in the 2020 plan is the inclusion of a Sustainability Project Strategy that is linked to the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge. While the RIBA Plan of Work has been around since 1963, this is the first version of the plan with a major focus on sustainability.

The Sustainability Project Strategy challenges teams to design with a focus on sustainable outcomes from the outset of the project. Those outcomes are defined by the client and project team in Stage 1, delivered through a project sustainability strategy plan, and verified in Stages 6 and 7.  The Plan of Work provides a framework of principles, with the onus on project teams to develop targets through eight Sustainability Outcomes while allowing those targets, benchmarks and outcomes to evolve and intensify in ambition and urgency.

The eight outcomes are aligned to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to balance social, environmental, and economic value for use by architects as well as the wider construction industry and its clients.

RIBA’s Sustainability Outcomes are:

  • Net zero embodied carbon
  • Net zero operational carbon
  • Sustainable water cycle
  • Sustainable connectivity and transport
  • Sustainable land use and biodiversity
  • Good health and wellbeing
  • Sustainable communities and social value
  • Sustainable life cycle cost

The Sustainable Outcomes Guide supports the 2020 Plan of Work in defining the eight outcomes and guiding project teams in choosing sustainability assessments and certification methods best suited to their projects and clients. Importantly, the guide is neutral in terms of methodologies, assessment tools and certification types, as it has to work for all scales of project, all types of client, and all levels of expertise. 

However, of significant note is the inclusion of the Living Building Challenge (LBC) that features well, if not better, in comparison with the other standards mentioned; LBC is the only standard that addresses all of the eight outcomes, with only one other standard addressing them through optional elements.

In particular, application of the LBC is noted in addressing Embodied & Whole Life Carbon, Sustainable Land Use & Bio-Diversity, and Good Health & Wellbeing. These are, without doubt, three vital areas on which we need real focus now to address our Climate and Ecological Emergency. 

The inclusion and scope of the LBC to meet all eight sustainability outcomes reinforce its acknowledgement as the most rigorous of sustainability standards and endorse it as a visionary pathway and suite of solutions to bring about a regenerative future.

Written By

Martin Brown

Martin is an innovative sustainability ‘provocateur’, advocate and business improvement consultant with his Fairsnape practice, based in the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire UK. He is VP of Living Future Europe, a Living Building Challenge Ambassador, and a firm believer that sustainability needs to be salutogenic, not just doing less bad, but doing more good. Supporting a number of UK LBC projects, he has guided the first registered project in the UK, the Cuerden Valley Park Visitor Center, through design, construction and now in-use performance. A project manager and strategic consultant to the built environment industry, Martin is a respected expert and advocate for regenerative sustainability and innovation, with an interest in all that will help bring about a healthier future for us and for the planet.