The offices and dwelling places of the prime minister and the chancellor have received an ‘Excellent’ award for the environmental aspects of a renovation programme.

While the implications of the government's policies for making it the "greenest government ever" are in question, Downing Street is setting a shining example to the country of how to carry out a sustainable refurbishment.

The "In-Use Special Award", part of the BREEAM Awards, is being presented today at the opening of the world's largest exhibition devoted to sustainability in the built environment, Ecobuild.

It is one of just 17 projects around the world to receive the award this year. Others include Victorian terraced homes in Wigan, and innovative office and retail developments in Paris, London and Istanbul.

The 6631 m2 building complex has been undergoing a phased modernisation and refurbishment programme, Downing Street's first since 1963. 50 years on, much of the building’s structure and services were in need of renovation, repair and replacement.

Under independent assessment, it received a Very Good - 4 Star Score. In the Part 1 (assets) category it scored 62.12%, and under Part 2 (building management), it scored 56.73%. The 300-year-old grade 1 listed building's display energy certificate (DEC) rating improved from E to D since 2009, and energy use is published in real time on the Number 10 website.

Sustainability in Downing Street is largely driven by government-wide targets for improvement. The Prime Minister's Office has a working group, comprising key service delivery managers and stakeholders across the organisation. The group’s focus is on strategic issues and its remit includes facilities management, projects, sustainability, health and safety and the No.10 garden.

The BREEAM assessment was helpful in highlighting areas that require further attention and the group is currently developing a strategy to improve ecology and biodiversity in the building's garden and surrounds.

"Statistics released at the end of 2012 for BREEAM suggest that developers and owners are continuing to treat sustainability as a priority, despite the tough economic climate," says Richard Hardy, Managing Director of BRE Global, the company which develops and manages BREEAM.

"They show that 2012 was a record year for BREEAM registrations and certifications. Since 1998 BREEAM has certified more than 16,000 projects, equating to over 250,000 buildings and in excess of 45 million m2 of floor area."

The BREEAM Awards recognise the outstanding skill and determination of the building owners, developers, project teams and assessors who are setting new standards in sustainable construction. All of the award-winning buildings achieved at least an ‘Excellent’ rating, which requires a BREEAM score of 70% or above, with an increasing number reaching the 85% needed for ‘Outstanding’.

The very wide range of building types receiving awards reflects the expansion of BREEAM from its original focus on new buildings, to existing buildings in-use, refurbishment projects and community level masterplanning. It also reflects BREEAM’s increasing international influence, with buildings in Belgium, France and Turkey receiving awards.

In addition to the building awards, there are also awards for the most successful BREEAM Assessor company, and for individual BREEAM Assessors and BREEAM In-Use Auditors. These acknowledge the vital role that assessors and auditors play in the success of the scheme and the clients and projects that use BREEAM.

For the first time the BREEAM Awards include ‘BREEAM Country First Awards’, through which BREEAM Assessors in Bulgaria, China, Greece, Iceland, Lebanon and Malta are recognised for their pioneering work in those countries.

Measures introduced at Downing Street have included the following:

  • controlled lighting using motion detection and low energy lamps
  • voltage optimisation and power factor correction equipment
  • replacement condensing boilers and compact heat exchanges
  • waste heat recovery from IT equipment to heat hot water
  • thermal insulation
  • low water use fittings to replace existing fixtures
  • rainwater harvesting for garden irrigation
  • building management system with utility monitoring (real time use displayed on the No 10 website)
  • timber sourced from legal and sustainable sources
  • more than 90% of construction waste recycled.

 

The BREEAM In-Use audit found that the development’s top scoring categories included:

  • Part 1 – Waste (100%), Transport (100%), Materials (88.9%)
  • Part 2 – Water (100%), Management (89.3%).

 

Howard Parsons, the project manager for 10 Downing Street, said: "It was important for Downing Street to have an independent and impartial assessment of the success of the environmental and sustainable initiatives undertaken, and their effectiveness in reducing energy consumption and cost. The assessment has mapped our progress so far and highlighted areas for future focus in our drive for continuous improvement."

According to the live display on the website, as of Tuesday morning, the office complex has used the following amount of energy since midnight on 27 February up to 5 March: 49,760 kWh; costing £2,864, with an emissions impact of 18,744 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent, indicating that it is not on a renewable electricity tariff.

Story: David Thorpe, News Editor