Sustainable design is crucial to achieving high standards of sustainability in civil engineering projects.

This is because the design stage shapes later stages, determining the approach taken, materials used, and ultimately the outcome produced. Sustainable design is thus central to brining sustainable projects to life. BREEAM Infrastructure (formerly CEEQUAL) therefore encourages cohesive consideration of sustainability matters at the design stage to maximise sustainable outcomes.


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Why sustainable design matters


The earlier stages of projects, as projects are scoped out and design briefs are produced, offer the greatest, most cost-effective opportunities for achieving sustainability and driving performance. Identifying issues of strategic importance early and incorporating them into a robust design is key to achieving best practice in terms of sustainable performance, and higher BREEAM Infrastructure ratings.

Integrated sustainable design that draws on input from the various project teams, all with sustainability at the center of their considerations, is likely to produce the best outcomes. Indeed, once the design stage is closed out, only isolated sustainability improvements can be made, as opposed to integrated ones, which makes it more difficult to drive the highest standards, and subsequently ratings.


How BREEAM infrastructure supports sustainable design


Four of BREEAM Infrastructure’s five assessment types directly assess the design stage of projects: Whole Project; Strategy & Design; Design Only; and Design & Construction.

Across BREEAM infrastructure’s eight categories, numerous assessment criteria encourage consideration of sustainability at the appropriate times to drive sustainable design. Explore how BREEAM Infrastructure encourages sustainable design across the BREEAM infrastructure categories below:


The Management category considers how sustainability issues are incorporated into the overall management of the project. It covers the principles of sustainable development and the management of environmental and social performance throughout the planning, design and construction of a project.

The Management category encourages sustainable design principles in the following assessment issues:

  • 1.1 Sustainability leadership: ensuring that design adopts sustainable development principles and considers environmental and social issues
  • 1.2 Environmental management: ensures social and environmental risks and opportunities are identified and managed during design
  • 1.4 Staff and supply chain social governance: ensures design teams employ ethical procedures
  • 1.5 Whole life costing: ensures consideration of whole life costing principles in design to deliver whole life value



The resilience category encourages proactive hazard identification, risk evaluation and risk management for the asset and infrastructure system within which it sits. Issues including assessing and mitigating risks from natural hazards, intentional threats, and climate change plus designing for future needs. The section considers risks to the asset and its dependencies and consequently the required asset resilience. Specific environmental risks resulting from the asset’s construction and operation are covered separately in Pollution.

The Resilience category encourages sustainable design principles in the following assessment issues:

  • 2.1 Risk assessment and mitigation: ensures risks associated with natural hazards, international threats and climate change are assessed and mitigated in design
  • 2.2 Flooding and surface water run off: minimises negative effects of flooding through design measures
  • 2.3 Future needs: encourages designing for future needs and adaptability


Communities and stakeholders

This category addresses issues regarding the wider social and economic effects of a project on local communities and other relevant stakeholders who might be impacted directly or indirectly by a project’s delivery or operation. It covers initial and subsequent engagement and consultation on the proposed project through inception, design and construction – and how it might impact on wider community issues – to maximise the wider social and economic benefits that a project can achieve.

The Communities and stakeholders category encourages sustainable design principles in the following assessment issues:

  • 3.1 Consultation and engagement: encourages engagement and responsiveness to communities and stakeholders during design
  • 3.2 Wider social benefits: encourages mitigation of negative social impacts and promotion of social benefits through design choices


Land use and ecology

This category promotes the reuse of previously disturbed land so minimising negative impacts on biodiversity and the natural environment generally. It promotes outcomes that enhance ecological value through protection and enhancement of habitat in support of biodiversity whilst also promoting the enhancement of associated social and health value wherever possible.

The Land use and ecology category encourages sustainable design principles in the following assessment issues:

  • 4.1 Land use and value: promotes land-use efficiency through efficient design
  • 4.2 Land contamination and remediation: encourages design to incorporate appropriate use of land effected by contamination and promotes sustainable land and ground water remediation
  • 4.3 Protection of biodiversity: encourages design to incorporate protection of biodiversity
  • 4.4 Change and enhancement of biodiversity: encourages design that enhances biodiversity


Landscape and historic environment

This category encourages consideration of the landscape and associated heritage features within and surrounding a project site. It aims to protect and enhance both landscape character and heritage assets where present. Aesthetic value and visual impact of a project are addressed as well as actions taken to protect and enhance the historic environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

The Landscape and historic environment category encourages sustainable design principles in the following assessment issues:

  • 5.1 Landscape and visual impact: ensures character of the landscape is respected and enhanced through design
  • 5.2 Heritage assets: design ensures protection of heritage assets



This category promotes actions that address and minimise air, water and noise pollution resulting from the construction and operation of the asset. It focusses on carrying out risk assessments, developing and implementing appropriate mitigation strategies, and monitoring the effectiveness of the mitigation measures to maximise their outcomes.

The Pollution category encourages sustainable design principles in the following assessment issues:

  • 6.1 Water pollution: incorporation into design of measures to prevent and control water pollution
  • 6.2 Air, noise and light pollution: incorporation into design of measures to prevent and control air, noise and light pollution



This category promotes prudent and responsible use of all physical resources including materials, energy and water. It focuses on reducing whole life impacts from resource use by encouraging consideration of the environmental impacts of design, construction, and operation throughout the life of the asset. The category encourages users to evaluate resource use within the context of the circular economy, taking actions that are focused on reducing waste in accordance with the waste hierarchy.

The Resources category encourages sustainable design principles in the following assessment issues:

  • 7.1 Strategy for resource efficiency: embeds efficient use of energy, water and materials in design
  • 7.2 Reducing whole life carbon emissions: drives assessment, reporting and reduction of whole life carbon through design
  • 7.3 Environmental impact of construction products: minimising environmental impact by incorporating low impact materials in design
  • 7.4 Circular use of construction products: designing to maximise ongoing value of construction resources
  • 7.5 Responsible sourcing of construction products: design specifications prioritise local and recyclable materials
  • 7.6 Construction waste management: designing to minimise waste produced
  • 7.7 Energy use: reducing energy demands and increased energy efficiency through design
  • 7.8 Water use: reducing water demands and increased water efficiency through design



This category encourages the effective management of transport impacts from all modes of transport both during construction and as operation impacts. Transport impacts considered include the movement of construction materials and waste, construction workforce transport, as well as disruption to other users of the transport network during the life of the asset. An emphasis is placed on designing out transport impacts wherever possible and consultation with the local community to create opportunities for an integrated transport system.

The Transport category encourages sustainable design principles in the following assessment issues:

  • 8.1 Transport networks: enhancing local transport networks, promoting active travel and incorporating the local community in design
  • 8.2 Construction logistics: reducing carbon emissions and negative impacts on local health, safety and travel arising from construction through design measures


BREEAM Infrastructure and Sustainability

Go back to our sustainability page to learn how the BREEAM infrastructure aligns with and supports sustainability.

Learn More

Sustainable Energy, Water, and Waste Case Studies

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