Phase 1: Consultation

1.2 Sustainability

These activities explore the contribution of the construction industry towards a sustainable future. Students consider what ‘sustainability’ means before using an online interactive to explore a sustainable school.
They can discuss the wider concept of sustainable communities and how sustainable development contributes to positive social, environmental and economic outcomes.

  • Use What does it mean to be sustainable? as a starter or short introduction

A more sustainable school


  • Introduce the scenario and review students’ ideas from.
    What does it mean to be sustainable? (see above).

Main activity

  • Students explore the interactive in small groups, making notes.
  • They organise their ideas under headings of ‘materials’, ‘technologies’ and ‘processes’, and add more ideas of their own.


  • Gather ideas from each group into lists on the board.
  • As a group, discuss sustainable builds v sustainable operation within a building’s lifecycle.
  • Students can research one item as a homework activity, to create a one-page briefing or one-minute talk during the next lesson.


Easier/Level 1:
Deliver as a whole-class activity. Create headings on the board and nominate three students to write down ideas.

Students consider the balance between investing now in energy-saving features, or paying later in monetary and environmental terms. They research the costs and payback periods of technologies and materials.

Answers: What does it mean to be sustainable?

The resources needed to build and operate a building include:

Building: concrete, rock, hardcore, bricks, timber, insulation, glass, plastics, gypsum (in plasterboard), water, metal, and energy for making materials, transport and construction plant (machinery).

Operation: water, energy, materials for maintenance and repair.

The effects include:

  • timber use can be unsustainable if greater than replanting
  • concrete, bricks, glass, plastics and metals all need raw materials and energy to produce, which can reduce natural resources, harm the environment during extraction or production, and add to global warming
  • water use can reduce the water that is available, or harm its cleanliness and quality if untreated.
  • A sustainable construction industry provides a framework for Level 2 students to explore the concept of sustainable communities. This can work as a class discussion. You may wish to begin by discussing what each type of outcome means to students.

Answers: A more sustainable school

The following items are hotspots on the diagram, with full details on how they contribute to sustainability:

  • Design
  • Walls
  • Windows
  • Roof
  • Orientation
  • Car park
  • Materials
  • Generation
  • Garden
  • Heating
  • Wates: Taking action provides real background data on how the Wates Group is working to become more sustainable. Students can research similar data from other construction firms.




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A sustainable school

See if you can discover all the hotspots that make this school sustainable.