87 bike spaces, no bikes

The humble cycle rack is becoming the modern day equivalent of the bricked up windows of grand Georgian houses. Both are responses to the fads and fashions of government policy: one a tax on windows; the other the widespread use of environmental ratings systems. Cycle racks’ prevalence across new developments of every kind, often in startling numbers, demonstrates the success of tools such as BREEAM and the Code for Sustainable Homes in focusing attention on the environmental impact of buildings. Unfortunately, their ubiquity is also a sign of the dogmatic application of rigid systems that prioritise inflexible points-scoring mechanisms over features that would be of greater actual benefit. As rating systems come of age in the UK – BREEAM, the world’s first, was established in 1990 – it is clear they have made a great contribution to the sustainability of construction. But there are now signs of a backlash, with design teams complaining that they are more often tick-box exercises that suppress rather than drive innovation, conducted reluctantly and at breakneck speed to meet planning or funding requirements or for marketing purposes. In this piece for Building magazine, I investigated whether rating systems have outlived their usefulness – and discovered cycle racks in some very unlikely places.