Reflections on Sustainable Design

Gordon Hudson, Independent Consultant, CIBSE Trainer & Northumbria University Lecturer, was asked to present a talk to the CIBSE North East Region on sustainable design, which made him think back to his early career and the evolution of sustainable design in the Building Services Sector.

"When I started in the Industry in the 1980s we had just had the “save it” campaign and it was about money but not really resources and pollution.  

Delia Smith is shown in this video saving energy and money by cooking everything together(!)  


The “save it” campaign was followed by the “Monergy“ campaign, again appealing to our economic interest rather than saving the planet.

In the 1990s the issue of wider sustainable design emerged, and with it came tools such as BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). I was interested in these tools a great deal as they hoped to create a market-led demand for sustainable design of buildings. 

BREEAM in its early form was relevantly simple to administer and was meant to benchmark buildings, but it soon, as you would expect, created a situation where people were after a score, say “excellent” and would want to know the most financially efficient way of getting to it; so not so different from the 1980s. 

The concurrent development of switching our focus to carbon rather than energy through the Building Regulations has further complicated the landscape of Building Services Design. 

CIBSE publications, BREEAM and all the similar tools around the globe have tried to direct us to good, sustainable buildings and they are still developing and refining their approach.  

I suspect we still have lots to do, with the newly emerging “healthy workplace” standards to be considered too, there is much to excite and challenge us."

CIBSE is currently creating a new training course in this area. If you would like to receive more information please email


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