Sustainable Built Environment SuBETool Framework
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Dundee
Unit of AssessmentArchitecture, Built Environment and Planning
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Environmental Sciences: Environmental Science and Management
Economics: Applied Economics
Summary of the impact
This impact relates to the research and development of the SuBETool, a
new framework and method for assessment of spatial master-plans.
International use of this framework by planning professionals has set a
new bench-mark for master-planning, and re-positioned master-planning as a
critical stage in the development process.
The SuBETool research has:
- actively engaged industry in the SuBETool's design and roll-out;
- demonstrated how an integrated approach assists in creating
- changed perceptions and influenced professional and policy debates
internationally (eg Scotland, Italy, UAE);
- been applied in practice (e.g. Milan 2009, Greenwich 2011);
- resulted in a university-industry partnership (AlWaer,
Clements-Croome, Hilson Moran);
- been disseminated at international conferences.
Different urban environments are susceptible to diverse and often
unanticipated socio-economic and climatic change. Since joining the
University of Dundee in 2008, Husam AlWaer has sought to embed appropriate
indicators of sustainability at the inception of a development project and
to integrate bespoke weightings for environmental stewardship, economic
growth and socio-cultural impact, according to regional differences and
development priorities. The work critically examined the available
methodologies of sustainable urban assessment and explored how integrated
systems-based approaches can be used to advance master-planning knowledge
and practice. The research involved Clements-Croome (University of Reading
and advisor to the project) and Hilson Moran, an international
multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy. A pilot phase was funded by
the University of Dundee's School of the Environment and Hilson Moran.
The research rationale was that the complexity of design, planning and
development activities for new urban solutions necessitates a form of
strategic forward planning that is itself resilient to change. Moreover,
the strategic management of diverse private and public interests,
coordination of operational processes, and professional team-working are
of paramount importance in major development schemes. The initial research
objective was to critically examine linear-sequential models of
master-planning, which are predicated on a desired end-state and tend to
comprise discrete physical parts, and to design a simple and responsive
approach to sustainable master-planning sensitive to the dynamic nature of
physical development and to the different stakeholder interests. Informed
by iterative feedback loop thinking, the logic of the tool's design
involves on-going assessment of the changing context; review of the
performance of design proposals; and adaptation of the built response.
A detailed and comparative view of the structure and operation of
assessment methods/systems of master-planning worldwide identified a
number of concerns:
a. Short-termism: The available assessment systems focus on the
installation phase, rather than taking a longer-term life-cycle
perspective to ensure continued performance;
b. Narrow focus: Few methodologies give equal weighting to
environmental, socio-economic and cultural aspects of master-planning;
c. Limited stakeholder engagement: The multi-factorial nature of
master-planning requires a working consensus about critical issues and
their relative importance;
d. Black Box Syndrome: Assessment processes tend to lack clarity
for individual users with methods typically offering answers, but lacking
transparency and justification;
e. Poor transferability: Available frameworks lack adaptability
meaning that different regions cannot set priorities and rating systems
relevant to specific socio-economic, cultural and environmental contexts.
Based on the literature review and critical examination of assessment
systems then in use by developers, the research:
- re-conceptualised master-planning as a critical tool for framing
strategic, integrative action and framed it as a key stage in
development planning processes;
- established a holistic framework comprising 75 social, economic and
environmental Key Performance Indicators, a weighting process, and an
assessment system, covering the total scope of urban sustainability;
- piloted [Milan] the SuBETool Framework methodology for resolving
multi-partner action and stakeholder communication (version 1, 2009);
- developed case studies [Greenwich] demonstrating how effective
communication of multiple variables and predicted impacts can be
realised across diverse sets of stakeholders (version 2, 2011).
References to the research
1 AlWaer, H., Sibley, M. and Lewis, J. (2008a) Different Stakeholder
Perceptions of Sustainability Assessment. Architectural Science
Review, 51(1), 47-58. DOI: 10.3763/asre.2008.5107.
2 AlWaer, H., Sibley, M. and Lewis, J. (2008b) Factors and Priorities
for Assessing Sustainability of Regional Shopping Centres in the UK.
Architectural Science Review, 51(4), 391-402. DOI:
3 SuBETool (Version 1, 2009, version 2, 2011) A new proprietary
framework and protocol for assessing the sustainability of master
planning. This framework comes with a manual of guidelines which explain
the 75 identified indicators, participation process and the compliance
requirement for each indicator, and an assessment system. This
practice-related output has been published internally by Husam Al Waer,
Derek Clements-Croome, Hilson Moran. (listed in REF2)
4 AlWaer, H. and Clements-Croome, D. J. (2010) Key performance
indicators (KPIs) and priority setting in using the multi attribute
approach for assessing sustainable intelligent buildings, Building
and Environment 45 (4), 799-807.
7 AlWaer, H., Bickerton, R., and Kirk, R.D. (2013) Examining the
components required for assessing the sustainability of communities in
the UK. Journal of Architecture and Planning Research. (in
Details of the impact
The development of the SuBETool has shaped the terms of sustainable
master-planning debates. As theoretically informed, collaborative, applied
research, use of the tool has been disseminated to developer, government
and policy actors, who are direct and indirect beneficiaries.
Specifically, the impact has shaped theory and practice through (section
- re-framing sustainability assessment methodologies and
- setting new benchmarks and standards for sustainability, guiding
planning and design decision making processes for large and medium size
- informing the wider community of the benefits of master-planning
processes for different locations and contexts; in particular aiding
understanding of the significance of assessing sustainable
- developing an integrated approach linking sustainability assessment
and master-planning with Key Performance Indicators for environmental,
social, cultural and economic factors;
- demonstrating innovation in the use of an adaptable framework designed
to allow different regions to set relevant priorities and rating
- strengthening academic-industry partnering relations.
The development of the SuBETool has gone through two phases to date. The
level of impact has increased as the research matured. Diverse,
complementary strategies were designed to enhance public, industry and
government awareness of the SuBETool (version 1). These included
dissemination through traditional web-based and professional publications,
academic symposia, engagement with key professional groups, industry and
government bodies, and industrial advisory panels (section 5:
Between the start of the research in 2008 and SuBETool's first pilot case
study in 2009 [Milan], AlWaer gave interim reports to organisations and
professionals and disseminated early conclusions in several international
conference/summit talks on sustainable master-planning. As a direct
consequence of this exposure, a series of workshops were run by AlWaer at
Hilson Moran (2009). The Director of Sustainability at Hilson Moran
identified the potential of taking the work further in relation to the
firm's master-planning activities. Three principal collaborators (AlWaer,
Clements-Croome, Hilson Moran) subsequently developed the tool (Section 5:
Hilson Moran adopted the SuBETool framework (version 1) as one of the
main protocols for large developments; namely: a major master-plan in
Milan (2009) and the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy in
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (2010). Version 2 (SuBETool) was then applied to the
Greenwich Peninsular mixed use development, adjacent to the Millennium
Dome (2011). Hilson Moran is committed to applying SuBETool to its
master-planning activities to assess the sustainability of new
developments, and the SuBETool team [Husam Al Waer, Derek Clements-Croome,
Hilson Moran] are developing version 3: http://www.hilsonmoran.com/sectors/urban-regeneration/
(Section 5: 1,8).
The SuBETool framework has led to changes in professional practice
relating to designing and planning for large and medium size master plans,
nationally and internationally. Based on the success of SuBETool, Scott
Brownrigg has developed their own method to assess the sustainability
performance of potential development land, called the Sustainability
Appraisal for Land Development (SALD). It enables the practice's
integrated master-planning, urban design and planning team to provide a
robust site analysis service for both local authorities and private
landowners. It is inspired by the BREEAM Communities, LEED Neighbourhood
Development and SuBETool methods: http://www.scottbrownrigg.com/design_research_unit/research_activities/sald/
(Section 5: 2,9,10).
The research has had broader impact within the construction industry
evidenced by AlWaer's invitation to sit on the steering committee of the
master-planning group at Hilson Moran since 2008. These close
academic-industry relations extend the profile of the Framework and its
innovative contribution to thinking about the master-planning process.
A number of inquiries from national and international organisations and
firms have been received for adapting the tool and applying it to new
contexts (Section 5: 9,10). The Building Research Environment (BRE)
offered to accredit the Framework as one of the world's leading assessment
tools for sustainable master-planning. ADAM Architecture, leading
practitioners of contextual urbanism in Europe, expressed interest in
using the SuBETool.
As part of our impact strategy, SuBETool has been disseminated by Alwaer
to (Section 5: 3,4,8,9,10):
- The World Future Energy Summit, Abu Dhabi 2009 and 2011.
- The European Future Energy Forum, Spain 2009.
- The international industrial conference ECOBUILD, London, 2010.
- Urban Design Skills, 2010.
- Turin City Council, Italy, 2010, 2012.
- Arab League Forum for Sustainable Urban Planning, Cairo, 2010, 2013.
- Scottish Government, 2011.
- EPSRC Event (IMPACT 360°: Success Stories from the Sustainable Urban
Environment-(SUE) research programme) in 2011.
- Architecture+Design Scotland, Edinburgh, 2011.
- ARUP, Visualizing Building Performance, 2011.
- Ministry of Public Works and Urban Planning, UAE, 2011.
- Urban Design Group, London, 2012, 2013.
- ADAM Architecture and Urbanism, 2013.
This complements dissemination by Hilson Moran to the following
organisations (Section 5: 8):
- The international industrial conference ECOBUILD, London, 2010.
- The World Future Energy Summit, Abu Dhabi, 2009.
- Ministry of Public Works and Urban Planning, UAE, 2011.
Sources to corroborate the impact
A. Online Publication relating to the SuBETool
- For more information, see the brochure `Capability Statement, Urban
Regeneration and Master-planning': http://www.hilsonmoran.com/sectors/urban-regeneration/
- For the SALD tool, which Scott Brownrigg based on SuBETool, please
B. Events and Conferences
- EPSRC, `Success Story':
- ARUP, `Visualizing Building Performance Conference`:
C. Online debate and Press release
- Building for Change, `Making the leap from research to mainstream':
- Press release, `Hilson
Moran launches a unique sustainable masterplanning tool': http://www.hilsonmoran.com/News/Articles/Hilson_Moran_launches_a_unique_sustainable_masterplanning_tool/
The Director of Sustainability in Hilson Moran explains, "This powerful
tool offers a real breakthrough in sustainable masterplanning. It
enables us to analyse over 70 different indicators of sustainability at
the very inception of a project and to assess a proposed masterplan
using bespoke weightings for environmental stewardship, economic growth
and socio-cultural impact, according to the particular development's and
- Press release, `Sustainable Urbanism for the 21st Century':
The Director of Sustainability in Hilson Moran, states that the
framework, is "a paradigm shift in sustainable master planning which has
contributed to the practice nationally and internationally.... SuBET
allows stakeholders to decide what is most important and facilitates the
development of a sustainable master plan...."
- Regional Director Qatar, and Director of Sustainability in Hilson
Moran, UK, EU and the Middle East.
- Group Director, Scott Brownrigg, UK.
- Director, The Urban Design Group, London.