Rethinking Sustainability Research: Eight Global Challenges

mb-m-and-c-1-blue“We must start to envision what a positive future looks like and work to make this happen”  Bob Watson, Chair of Future Earth’s Interim Engagement Committee.

Further reinforcement that good or best practice may not be enough, with the need to identify the ‘required practice’ to enable us to address big sustainability issues is central to Future Earth’s recently published Strategic Research Agenda 2014  .  This concept, (mentioned many times by myself in presentations, seminars and on this blog) resonates well with the Living Building Challenge and restorative sustainability thinking or forward visioning.

The Strategic Research Agenda 2014 publication, result of a year-long global consultation on priorities for global change research, calls for a rethink  in research to address serious environmental, social and economic threats.

The Strategic Research Agenda 2014 focuses on three themes: firstly, on understanding how the planet is changing; secondly, on deploying integrated, interdisciplinary science to address urgent sustainable development needs; and thirdly, on transforming development to be more sustainable in the long term, through eight global sustainability challenges;

  1. Delivering water, energy, and food for all.
  2. Decoupling carbon emissions from economic growth.
  3. Safeguarding land, freshwater and marine natural assets.
  4. Building healthy, resilient and productive cities.
  5. Promoting sustainable rural futures.
  6. Improving human health by incorporating global change concerns.
  7. Encouraging sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  8. Improving governance and early warning systems to respond to complex future threats.

‘The Strategic Research Agenda 2014 advocates not just a set of research priorities, but also a novel way of doing science. This approach is detailed in the Future Earth 2025 Vision and includes a strong emphasis on full integration among scientific disciplines, on engagement with societal partners in co-designing and co-producing knowledge, on international collaboration, on producing knowledge that is valuable to decision-makers, and on generating the solutions that society needs’ Strategic Research Agenda 2014

Download: strategic_research_agenda_2014.pdf

Source

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Green BIM – a thinkBIM round table summary

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreen BIM is healthy, yet only just coming of age with a long way to go. Here is the outline and summary and the Green BIM round table I chaired at the brilliant ThinkBIM/Green Vision event in Leeds on 3rd Dec. More information, reports, blogs and videos from the event can be found through the ThinkBIM blog

Introduction:

The world of sustainability and green building is moving rapidly into the circular economy and health & wellness arena, not only for healthy buildings but also for healthy, ethical and just material inclusion. This round table explored how BIM relates to Restorative Sustainability, Red List and Healthy Materials and the Circular Economy:

  •      Can BIM assist in ‘restorative sustainability’ ie not just doing less bad, but doing more good.
  • What safeguards do we have to prevent unsustainable, unhealthy or toxic materials from inclusion into BIM Models.
  • How is BIM addressing increasing influence of bio-sustainability – biomimicry, biophilia, bio-urbanism.
  • What is the role for new thinking illustrated by the Well Building Standard and Living Building Challenge in BIM development? (and of course BREEAM, LEED, PH developments etc)
  • What data do we have, do we need relating to the impact of healthy / toxic materials on occupant health – or should we just follow the precautionary principle?
  • Deconstruction of buildings is increasingly a design consideration – how can BIM assist circular economy thinking as buildings as material banks

Summary 

Green BIM is coming of age, but has a lot of maturing to do to address the emerging wider sustainability thinking and agenda.

Material Passports can provide a good tracker for materials on source, ethics, health and more. With a Level 3 BIM thinking of linking databases, material passport datasets can link to / interigate health databases. Waiting for legislation may not be acceptable – we need to adopt the precautionary principle and act on known / identified risks to prevent or pre-empt another asbestos/lead paint scenario

Currently GreenBIM focus is on energy reduction issues, yet for many large organisations the well being of staff to minimise staff costs is a bigger driver. There is a space for BIM to incorporate wellness of building occupants in modelling. POE experiences and stories need to be channelled back into BIM development thinking. Is there a need for social / well bing knowledge or expertise within the early BIM development stages – identified within the BIM documentation for example?

BIM presents opportunities and options we haven’t seen before to really add value to the life cycle of buildings, including dis-assemble and re-use in the cradle to cradle sense, but also to add value to the well being of occupants. The 1:5:200 model can shape this thinking but there needs to be long term commitment of the project members to the whole life value ( the 200!) of the facility (and beyond)

There is exciting development within the worlds of BIM (digital tools) and sustainability (restorative) for example Google Flux, and the notion of the BIM being a seed that can be ‘planted’ to grow buildings which are respondent to the local conditions and local environment whilst being respondant to occupant and client requirements

A BIM could be seen as a operating system which comprises of a  number of apps that can be chosen and incorpated into the facilities, building or client portfolio, such apps could be cost, environmental, sustainability or all the way to restorative sustainability with net positive waste, energy and water.

Exciting times ….

The round table ran twice with excellent participation from all attending, thank you.

During the Green BIM round table we mentioned a good number of references:

Living Building Challenge  and UK Living Building Challenge Collaborative 

Well Build Standard

World Green Build Council – Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices: The Next Chapter for Green Building

Delta Developments, in particular Cradle to Cradle biz park 2020

Google Flux see Randy Deutsch Blog 

Material Passports Cradle to Cradle application in Ship Building

EPD

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The next chapter of construction business?

Construction business has moved a long way from Milton’s ‘the only purpose of business is business’ with many seeking to adopt more of a socially responsible approach, sometimes through choice, more often through client driven procurement requirements. But can businesses rooted in capitalism really morph into something that drives a more responsible sector, one that embraces a collaborative, sharing, responsible economy?

John Friedman @JohnFriedman writing in Huffington Post ‘The Next Chapter of Capitalism‘ thinks so,

In boardrooms and executive suites around the world, business leaders – those people who are truly leading and not just managing their companies – are writing a new chapter of capitalism.

The new chapter seeks to preserve (and expand) the gains in quality of life, longevity, health and well-being and prosperity that are the best results of this economic system while working to ensure that those benefits are universally shared and they do not come at the expense of the Earth’s vast – but finite – natural resources.

The next chapter of capitalism is where the performance of the private sector is in harmony with the progress of society.

The test for the ‘next chapter in capitalism’ will be when social metrics such as CSR, Community Engagement, Sharing, Responsible and Restorative Sustainability, gain a place on the construction board room agenda equal to or over riding the historic cost and profit metrics.

And, as John Friedman questions who will write this next question in capitalism, so we should ask who will write the next chapter in construction business.

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The UK Living Building Challenge Collaborative Report

The following was first published on the CKE blog:

The UK Living Building Challenge Collaborative met this week at Squire Patton Boggs in Leeds and saw construction professionals, architects, landscape architects, software vendors, sustainability experts and representatives from Leeds Beckett University discuss Standard V3 and the future of the UK Collaboratives.

Martin Brown gave an inspiring introduction to version 3.0, launched earlier in the year, covering the standards principles, petals and key imperatives. This was followed with a great discussion on the Living Building Challenge and relevance in the UK sector.

Martin emphasised that the Challenge is ‘A visionary path to a regenerative future’. Whereas other standards are focused on doing ‘less bad,’ the Living Building Challenge is based on the philosophy of doing more good, that is, restorative sustainability. We should no longer be satisfied with creating buildings that have negative impacts however small they may be, but look to create buildings, structures, and communities that contribute back to the environment and nature.

The Living Building Challenge uses a less technical, but more powerful, softer language than most standards, and puts topics such as beauty, education and biophilic design back into the equation.

Many present commented that a welcomed aspect was the inclusion of ‘health, happiness, beauty, nature’ within the standard.

Indeed the standard uses a metaphor of a flower, with seven petals, each of which comprises of several imperatives, 20 in total. All of these must be met in order to obtain full certification and the status of a Living Building.  We heard there are currently 201 registered projects worldwide.

2015 Plans

We are currently the only collaborative in the UK, however, we will be sharing this status with London due to launch in the spring and interest is growing elsewhere across the country.

During 2015 we will explore each of the Petals individually through workshops which will be held on the second Wednesday of each month, before the Green Vision evening and half day sessions. The timetable will be:

January 14th – Place

February 11th – Water

March 11th – Energy

April 15th – Health and Happiness

May 13th – Materials

June 10th – Equity

July 8th – Beauty

To drive these workshops, we are looking for ‘champions’ to head each ‘petal’. If you feel that you are an expert on any of the standard areas, or passionate about specific imperatives, or just want to get involved please send us an email at CKEEvents@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

We will also deepen the relationship with projects interested in registering and pursuing certification. And the exciting news here is that we have one potential project ready to register and other in development. Other activities will include design competitions, project charrette support, and a UK overlay to the International Standard with terminology, regulations and standards appropriate to the UK sector.

We are also compiling a library of UK building case studies that illustrate Living Building Challenge concepts. If you are aware of any projects, your own perhaps that addresses any of the standard imperatives or philosophies please do let us know for inclusion into our library.

We look forward to you joining our Collaboratives and getting involved, with your projects perhaps, in this exciting new era for built environment sustainability.

As Martin has said many times, ‘it’s time to heal the future’…

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Lean BIM: Six reasons why construction needs to embrace BIM alongside Lean Thinking

Combining Lean Construction thinking (in the shape of Last Planner approaches) and BIM (Building Information Management) on construction projects can enable big reductions on time, cost, waste and stress, and in doing so improve profits, capability, staff wellbeing and reputation.

Improving construction: we need to swap out the inefficient square wheels of yesterday for todays round wheel thinking.

Improving construction: we need to swap out the inefficient square wheels of yesterday for todays round wheel thinking.

My recent ‘Lean BIM’ lecture at Leeds Beckett, explored and discussed with case studies, how achieving the 30% construction strategy cost saving target is within reach.

Lean thinking and last planner approaches should be seen as collaborative working preparation for BIM. Both share similar aims – ‘producing  the right product at the right time in the right quantity for the customer and to produce exactly what you need and nothing more’.

Here are 6 of the many compelling reasons for adopting ‘Lean BIM’ …

  1. BIM in conjunction with lean construction (ie Last Planner approaches) can get construction activity closer to the Honda expression of “everything we do … goes into everything we do” (Currently only 40-60% of what we do in construction goes into what we do, ie what we get paid for or hand over to our customers).
  2. BIM, like lean construction thinking forces us to focus on the end game first, understanding client value and pulling that value through design and construction.
  3. BIM, like Last Planner will reduce firefighting and stress on project management team.
  4. BIM will drive lean and predictable programming and material sequencing.
  5. BIM will streamline the supply value stream for materials, enabling just in time supply, adding value and reducing unnecessary costs.
  6. BIM will greatly assist in improving information flow and communications, between project partners and supply chain. Techniques such as the TQM / Toyota ‘5 whys‘ repeatedly shows communication as the root cause of many if not all costly problem

However,  embracing  both BIM and Lean has a number of essential pre-requisites, for example

  1. BIM and Lean construction both need construction leadership at organisation and at project level.
  2. Contractor core processes (eg design and construction) need to be shaped around Lean Thinking and BIM requirements.
  3. BIM Is a people collaboration mindset. Even on BIM projects, approaches such as last planner are essential to ensure people (the last planner) involvement in project short-term planning and improvement, and
  4. Early contractor and supply chain involvement with strong collaborative culture must be in place.

“The construction aspects of projects is the easy bit – “a doddle”  … The harder, more complex bit is the collaborative working ‘glue’ that surrounds the design, build and operation of the facility, whether BIM is used or not” John Lorimer (In PPP Publication)

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Reducing Construction Carbon – Project Planner / Infographic

The planning chart / infographic below was produced as part of the ConstructCO2 support tools to enable projects to reduce construction phase carbon emissions. It provides a visual check box for use at project planning stage as to what actions, initiatives and approaches will be taken to reduce carbon, and to achieve the project carbon target.

Further information on the ConstructCO2 site
Reducing Construction Carbon - Infographic

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Sustainability through Diversity

On the 14th october I presented the above pecha kucha to Be2Camp Be2campOxon event on Ada Lovelace Day, taking the perspective of a young Ada, looking to a career in construction, in sustainability, in IT, in BIM, and the challenges she may face. Not only a glass ceiling but perhaps a triple glazed ceiling.

Initial thinking was triggered by the excellent Nilofer Merchant article in TIME You Are the Industry. You Must Be the Change, pointing out to Satya Nadella, Microsoft that it is not good enough to call for change in the (IT) sector – but that those in power, like Satya Nadella, should affect change.

And so it is in the built environment, particularly construction, where it is no longer acceptable for industry leaders, industry groups and strategy authors to record the fact we have a gender and diversity problem – but time to do something about it and affect change.

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