Sustainability in our DNA

At Douglas and King we champion sustainability in all of our developments. To be truly effective, sustainable design requires a holistic approach to a whole range of issues from social engineering to construction impact. A viable approach to sustainable design requires sustainability to be engrained into the DNA of all design possesses and development decisions.

In architecture, this decrees a responsible approach to all aspects of development to create a positive future for all. Sustainability is not just about conserving our planet’s resources but also about creating places that encourage successful communities and whose life span endures beyond a generation. We work to create low impact developments that eliminate pollution and minimize environmental and climate damage.

Our projects are exemplars in sustainability because we set standards through example. Our track record proves that that sustainable developments can be economically viable and engender a positive legacy for future generations.

We are an RIBA Chartered Practice. Our Environmental Policy is fully compliant with the guidelines set out in the RIBA’s Chartered Practice Environmental Policy Guide.

RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge

As a Chartered Practice, Douglas and King have signed up to the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge Checklist. The policy sets out the actions the practice is taking to set standards for meeting the need to limit global temperatures below a 1.5°C rise.

Focused Knowledge

As Design Team Leaders we run annual focus groups to ensure that our own and wider team members are implementing sustainable design. For our 2020 programme we shall be hosting seminars, writing research papers and highlighting our knowledge on live projects. Our programme includes presentations from guest experts and fellow consultants, visits and studies of exemplar projects, and attending lectures given by The Building Research Establishment and other relevant bodies.

Focus Areas for 2020  Include

Creating Sustainable and Aspirational Social Environments

Aspirational Homes are Sustainable

Sustainable Drainage and the Natural World

Innovation and Technology that Limits Emmisions and Energy Use

Sustainability and The Experts

Kintsugi and Re-Inventing Existing Buildings

1. Creating Sustainable and Aspirational Social Environments

Placemaking is the tool by which we encourage sustainable developments and communities. Our placemaking blog provides a lot of detail on our principles and approach.

Whether we are designing 3 houses or 300 we consider who will live in the homes we create and how they will interact with each other and their environment.

We design inclusively and holistically in order to create positive social impact through our developments.

Example Projects with Placemaking at their Core

This project creates hundreds of new homes in Essex within a placemaking context. The construction phase is low carbon because we are using offsite timber framed construction methods. Our master plan for this new community is socially inclusive and facilitates communal interaction through shared common spaces and public transportation.

This is one of our suburban densification projects and aligns with the Mayor of London’s New London Plan. Here we are achieving a 38.4% improvement upon the requirements of Part L of the Building Regulations relating to carbon emissions. The development is an example of how a brownfield site can be re-imagined, create much needed new homes, and provide a robust and long life balance

In this project we are designing new family homes around a copse in the Hertfordshire landscape. This small new community will have a low carbon footprint including a sustainable drainage system. The rural environment is central to the community spirit we are creating and our landscaping design reflects this

2. Aspirational Homes are Sustainable

The design of successful homes requires an understanding of practical issues of lifestyle, it is important to create unique and inspiring spaces that are flooded with daylight during the day and are warm and safe at night.  We design buildings of architectural excellence designed to create a sense of belonging for their owners and the ability to be fully integrated and identified with their specific site.

Example Projects set to Inspire

We design houses that are unique to their location and use. House in an Urban Woodland demonstrates our approach to create a contemporary family home and how we design in a way that allows the client to develop a strong emotional bond with their home.  We listen to our clients, to hear how they wish to inhabit their home, and develop our design accordingly.  We ensure that the design makes the best use of orientation and the natural features of the site including sun, wind and landscape.

This project was shortlisted by the Architects Journal for the award category of the best residential development in the UK built during the last year with a construction budget under £10m.

The form of the building suggests an architectural conversation between the neighbouring listed Church and the area’s mansion block typologies. The grid of the windows emulates the proportions of both and re-interprets them in a modern way to give expansive views of the immediate surroundings and creating light filled interiors within.

This is a robust concrete and masonry building that will last and look good for a very long time. It is about a permanence of architecture, built in a traditional way in an historic context, yet with an unashamedly modern aesthetic.

External/internal wall insulation was inserted to a gauge of 150 mm, an unusually generous degree, and the flat roof of the building is wrapped in solar panels to provide an alternative and supplementary energy source.

3. Sustainable Drainage and the Natural World.

Why is it you can build in Holland at all when the whole of the Netherland is located in a flood zone?

It is argued that building within flood zones is not sustainable due to rising flood levels and frequency through climate change.

Our landscape is constantly changing and rivers and low lands are are more threat than ever before from flooding. Local Councils and the Environment Agency are trying to meet the challenge faced with large civil engineering flood defence programmes. At Douglas and King we design our flood risk contingency at the concept stage of every project. We consider the viability of creating onsite flood barriers or whether to build beams into the landscaping to elevate the ground floor levels of the structures.  In all cases we aim to achieve a higher than 1 in 100 year climate change flood risk level.

There are exemplary projects throughout the world that have met the challenges of building on flood zones and we are constantly learning from the techniques employed and their effectiveness as part of our ongoing sustainability strategy.

Example Projects that live Above the Water

Our project creating five new family houses on the riverside in Buckinhamshire is one of several projects that are built within a flood zone as designated by the Environment Agency.

We have worked with specialist Engineers to set the ground levels of the builings above the 1 in 100 year Climate Change floor level. Each dwelling is designed with an undercroft to take any flood water away from habitable space, the flood level being calculated through extensive survey and investiagetion both upstream and downstream.

These homes have ground floor levels set 1.1m above the surrounding terrain, well above the average river level.

4. Innovation and Technology that Limits Emissions and Energy Use.

As construction technology is constantly changing and evolving therefore we need to keep in step as to how we best approach and implement sustainability practices in current construction procedures.  It is critically important that we as Architects understand the environmental impacts of the materials we specify.

For example, concrete manufacture creates 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Today, in order to reduce the environmental impact of using pure concrete, the specification could replace 30% of the cement in a concrete mix with PFA Fly Ash, or replace 70% of the cement in a mix with GGBS or blast furnace slag, both of which reduce the amount of cement used and also add strength. Both PFA and GGBS are waste products from coal-fired power stations and blast furnaces both of which are currently being fazed out, however there is a 30-40 year stockpile in the UK alone.

Structural steelwork has a better environmental footprint. The initial excavation and production is very costly to the environment but it is a material that is easily recyclable so scores very well in lifecycle points.

However, the best and most sustainable material for construction remains timber and this is widely used in off-site construction processes.

We also keep a close eye on developments in the following key areas:

On Site Renewable Energy Sources: Wind / Ground and Air Source / Solar / Hydro

Carbon Footprint of Materials with a strong support for timber in construction methods

Heat recovery and cooling – MVHR and Cross Ventilation

Encouraging landscape and ecological values

Projects with a the Highest Standards in Low Environmental Impact

Our proposed Picture House in Shoreditch is designed with a BREEAM Excellent rating which is the highest standard for minimal environmental impact of a building of this type. The facades are designed to create solar shading and materials have been selected to minimise the carbon footprint of the entire construction process.

5. Sustainability and The Experts.

To maintain our sustainability aspirations and to deliver the best possible solutions we employ specialist Environmental and MEP consultants as core team members from the very beginning of our projects planning. From the conceptual stage to user handover their expertise and advice leads our design sustainability values.

Our Core Environmental Expert Partners are

There are a number of regulatory and benchmark organisations and standards that we work to and with depending on the type, scale, occupancy needs and location of a project.


Passivhaus is a voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, which reduces the building’s ecological footprint. It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require very little conventional energy sources for space heating or cooling. Our new homes in Dorney Reach aim to achieve Passivehaus accreditation.

Passivhaus buildings require little energy to maintain a constant pleasant temperature, due to excellent insulation, air tightness and efficient heat recovery systems. This means that these buildings can easily be powered by renewable energy sources such as solar panels and heat pumps. Sustainable constructions are therefore a very attractive option for residents and homeowners as they drastically cut energy bills and help to lower the carbon footprint. Passivhaus energy bills are slashed by typically 90% – that can mean a saving of several hundred pounds per year. For example, energy bills for a 3 bedroom house can be as little as £100 per year.

This type of sustainable construction is also a wise choice for social housing projects, as tenants will have considerably lower heating bills.

Code for Sustainable Homes and the Building Regulations

The Code for Sustainable Homes (the Code) was an environmental assessment method for rating and certifying the performance of new homes. The Code  brought about a step change in applying targets to sustainable development. In its time it set a national standard for the design and construction of new homes with a view to encouraging continuous improvement in sustainable home building.

In 2015 it was replaced by optional Building Regulations which set guidelines for various services and supplies, eg water and access, along with a new national space standard. The optional regulatory standards are comparable with the requirements for the former Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 and are often a requirement for planning permission to be granted.


BREEAM is an international sustainability assessment method for the master planning of projects, infrastructure and buildings. It recognises and reflects the value in higher performing assets across the built environment lifecycle, from new construction to in-use and refurbishment.

Our commercial projects in London are all BREEAM rated and the Picture House and Titchfield House, both commercial developments have been rated ‘Excellent’.


Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building, community and home project types, LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings

Our commercial projects in London are all BREEAM rated and the Picture House and Titchfield House, both commercial developments have been rated ‘Excellent’.

BIM Level 2 – Including Lifecycle Impact

BIM or Building Information Modelling enables 21st Century architects and designers to significantly improve energy performance and stimulates  innovative ways of delivery and operation. Sustainability assessments can be built into BIM and it is a compulsory component of all public sector building commissions.

In terms of research there are thousands of scientists working on this most important and pressing issue and here we list a few of the specialist bodies/regulations that we work with or refer to regularly.