APC competencies: sustainability

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1 March 2017

Ewan Craig, a speaker at the RICS annual It’s Your APC conference, offers guidance on the Sustainability competency

Sustainability has an influence on many aspects of construction, such as the use of energy, carbon and other resources. It can be viewed as integral to good practice in the technical competencies, as follows.

  • Construction technology and environmental services: the availability and synergy of technology and services to minimise or negate environmental impact.
  • Design and specification: selection of materials, components or systems to minimise or negate environmental impact while providing a fit-for-purpose property.
  • Conservation and restoration: to minimise or negate environmental impact in maintaining or restoring historic fabric.

The levels

The requirements for this competency by level are as follows.

At Level 1
Show knowledge and understanding of why and how sustainability seeks to balance economic, environmental and social objectives at global, national and local levels in the context of land, property and the built environment.

At Level 2
Provide evidence of the practical application of sustainability appropriate to your area of practice, and of awareness of the circumstances in which specialist advice is necessary.

At Level 3
Show evidence of reasoned advice given to clients and others on the policy, law and best practice of sustainability in your field.

You should be familiar with the sustainability issues in your submission documents, and be ready to address questions on them and on related matters.


Actual questions are based on the candidate’s experience, which should be at Level 2 but could exceed this. Two examples are given below. 

Please explain your involvement in refurbishing building X and the BREEAM assessment.
This question is aimed at Level 2 candidates, but it could be extended to Level 3 if you prepared reasoned advice for the client. The answer should explain pertinent issues to support your application of knowledge.

This project included internal and external alterations, new windows, re-roofing, lighting and other improvements to the commercial block. The client instructed that the block be assessed as 'very good' by BREEAM.

It is vital to involve the stakeholders and encourage them to focus on the project’s targets as early as possible, as BREEAM advises. I instigated the bringing together of the BREEAM assessor and other parties at meetings from the early briefing stages and throughout the design process. The client was a freeholder and occupier, so unusually the works covered all 4 parts of the BREEAM UK Non-domestic Refurbishment and Fit-out 2014 scheme:

  1. Fabric and Structure;
  2. Core Services;
  3. Local Services;
  4. Interior Design.

I worked closely with the BREEAM assessor to prepare the cost implications and payback of the available options to rule out some design team options at an early stage and help decisions on the final design. Example energy consumption savings include a reduction in heating and cooling from improved external wall insulation. Consumption was further reduced by increasing the use of natural light, with a new light well, improved fenestration and LEDs. The predicted capital costs were used at the design stage assessment. The client was pleased with the final building, which did achieve a BREEAM 'very good' rating.

Please describe how you dealt with the sustainability issues in lifecycle costing for the construction of building D.
This is aimed at Level 2 candidates as well. You should show the issues that you considered in applying your knowledge.

I was part of the design team involved in the construction of the shell and core of building D, from BREEAM stages 1 to 4 covering lifecycle costing and servicelife planning. I prepared and provided lifecycle costs at concept design stage, incorporated maintenance, occupation and service life costs, to BSI requirements. This helped the project team identify areas to review and improve the building.

The revisions improved the design, providing longer-life roofing, better performance and a superior maintenance regime. I prepared the more detailed envelope component lifecycle costing at technical design stage, which supported specification changes to the window and cladding system to maximise the critical value of the final design. The client was pleased with the final building, which achieved a BREEAM rating of 'excellent'.


Given the time constraints of the APC, your answer should be brief but comprehensive. Care should be taken to demonstrate your own skills, abilities and knowledge to the assessors.

Ewan Craig is an APC assessor and Associate with Ridge and Partners LLP

Further information