Environmental and sustainability impact assessment of infrastructure in the United Kingdom

Sustainability, now embedded within the legislation and development policy of the United Kingdom, is beginning also to be implemented within the design and construction process. Methods to assess the sustainability of construction projects have been in development since the early 1990s, but to date the majority have focused on the building sector, with little consideration for the detailed assessment of civil engineering projects. In addition, the tools developed have rarely considered sustainability in its widest sense, instead concentrating on the more quantifiable aspects of the environment, ecology, and building material use. The U.K. civil engineering industry has attempted to fill this gap with the development of the Civil Engineering and Environmental Quality Assessment and Award Scheme (CEEQUAL). The use of CEEQUAL is voluntary, but it is seen as a benchmark for assessing the environmental and social impact of infrastructure. Background to sustainability assessment for projects in the United Kingdom and the development of CEEQUAL and areas for improvement are presented. The paper then presents the results of a backanalysis for three infrastructure projects, with CEEQUAL to assess the design teams' compliance with and comprehension of sustainability issues within their projects. Although infrastructure design teams are likely to engage with sustainability issues in assessment areas in which they have previous experience (such as environmental impact and biodiversity), more education is required to encourage increased awareness in the relatively new areas of design assessment, including minimizing carbon footprint, material specifications, and material use and reuse.