Sustainability GreenPrint

It can often be difficult to distinguish genuine sustainability from green claims made for marketing purposes. The recently developed ‘GreenPrint’ approach aims to help developers and designers to improve and credibly demonstrate the sustainability of their developments.

Improving development proposals

The GreenPrint methodology, developed by BRE, helps developers, design teams and other interested parties to optimise the performance of masterplans and site designs on development-scale issues. The first step is to gain an understanding of the site and its context, and to identify its strengths and weaknesses. This can be done through small workshops, but where public participation is required, large-scale exercises such as design charrettes can be carried out.

Objectives for each of eight GreenPrint categories (key areas that impact on sustainability) are then established, through work with the design team and others with an interest in the site and planning process. The objectives recognise the issues that need to be addressed, whilst also playing to the strengths of the site. For example, one site that BRE worked on could use waste heat from a nearby power station, and another had the opportunity to reconnect habitats that had been severed by a previous development. Others have had to deal with constraints, such as airports, that limit landscaping and renewable energy options. Within each category, the sustainability objectives are weighted to reflect their relative importance to the site.

What is gained?

The GreenPrint produces an independent assessment of the sustainability of a design proposal, which can be used to accompany planning applications, speed the planning process and act as a means of public consultation. This independent assessment can also be used to give confidence in the sustainability credentials of the development to potential purchasers and occupiers.

The objectives and benchmarks in the GreenPrint are clear and are developed with regulators and other stakeholders, incorporating planning policies, local priorities and targets. Doing this at an early point in the design stage reduces the need for expensive reworking and delays later on. GreenPrint can be used as part of a Planning Performance Agreement for larger developments.

Many sustainability objectives can only be achieved through cross-disciplinary working. The GreenPrint helps this to happen through creating clear objectives and targets for the whole design team rather than having them considered by individual specialists.

The GreenPrint process enables developers to show how they have maximised the overall sustainability performance. Used as part of a public consultation process, it is also a useful tool for involving interested parties, ensuring that all can see how their concerns have been translated into sustainability objectives, and how these have been addressed in the final masterplan.

The GreenPrint framework covers eight key areas which impact on sustainability

Climate change

Ensures developments mitigate, and are appropriately adapted to, present and future climate change impacts.


Promotes the sustainable use of resources including water, materials and waste, both in construction and operation.


Ensures transport hierarchy issues are fully addressed and catered for within the development.


Ensures the ecological value of the site is conserved and enhanced.


Ensures that the development contributes to the sustainable economic vitality of the local area and region.


Ensures the development supports a vibrant, diverse and inclusive community that integrates with surrounding communities.


Ensures the design process, layout structure and form provide a development that is appropriate to the local context.


Ensures that the design of individual buildings does not undermine the sustainability of the overall development.

Projects on which GreenPrint has been used include:

  • The Napier Park Development on the site of a former car factory in Luton, UK.
  • The re-development of the Shannon Free Zone in Limerick, Ireland
  • A mixed-use development in Plymouth, UK.

The Proposed Napier Park development in Luton

Does it work?

Using GreenPrint iteratively through the design process produces demonstrable improvements. Interim assessment reports to the design team and client show weaknesses and enable improvements. Where required, BRE can provide specialist design support and recommend on the key areas to address to improve the overall sustainability performance.

GreenPrint also helps in the planning process. Its participative nature gives all parties confidence that sustainability has been properly addressed. In one case, a client used the GreenPrint to set incrementally increasing minimum scores that future detailed design phases of the development must reach. The planning authority recognised the advantage of this process, and included it in the section 106 agreement for the site’s planning consent. Other planning authorities have welcomed the clarity and transparency that the GreenPrint process has brought.

For more Information

For More information please contact:
James Fisher
+44 (0)1923 664722