Circular Economy and the Built Environment

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This coming week sees a number of circular economy events, for example Green Vision 10th Feb  (#GVis2016) in Bradford and ConstructCE 12 Feb (#cethinking) in London. Also see the Build Well 2016 Feb 10/11 event in the USA.  If you are at all interested in learning more about Circular Economy and its current popularity in construction, get along to at least one for these, and, engage via their twitter streams

This blog has mentioned and covered concepts of Circular Economy, Cradle to Cradle and related themes on many occasions, including the 2008 Constructing Excellence Lancashire Waste is Stupid event and presentation for that asked the question when did the construction Take Make Dump become acceptable, and why it remains so.

Whilst we see an increase in interest and a hunger to understand, an occasional interface with mainstream sustainability (as represented by BREEAM) and with BIM (GreenBIM), circular economy thinking struggles to gain any real traction within the built environment.

Research shows that the circular economy could be worth up to £29billion to the UK economy. It remains unclear how much of this would be construction related, but is this another area we can apply the rule of thumb 40% factor to, making a significant impact on the sector?

The Living Building Challenge provides a great framework for circular economy thinking, requiring for example, Conservation Plans not just Site Waste Management Plans, and pulls on the DfD (Design for Disassembly or Design for Deconstruction) principles as a guide for material selection and management within Living Building Challenge projects.

And it is DfD principles that will form the core of my talk at the Green Vision circular economy with examples from recent visits in the UK, Europe, Canada and the US.

Circular Economy and DfD principles present great opportunities and challenges for todays design and construction within the world of BIM. Can we for example design buildings with materials and components that have a secondary designed life after the first? and, how can we incorporate materials and components that are already insitu within existing buildings? The Alliander company ‘new’ HQ building in the Netherlands demonstrates it is possible, using concepts such as Material Passports to incorporate 80% raw materials from existing buildings and have designed re-use potential for 80% of the new building.

However, if we are serious in designing and constructing buildings with circular economy thinking, with a planned lifetimes reaching to 250 years, as for example in the case of Bullitt Centre, is it acceptable or responsible to specify or include unhealthy or toxic chemicals or materials?  We would be potentially locking risks into many years of use and potentially many future buildings. A good place to start is to ensure the buildings are LBC Red List compliant. The Bullitt Centre has demonstrated toxic material free buildings are possible in six-storey, city centre commercial buildings.

The era of just harm reduction should really be history, and, in an age of responsible construction, the Precautionary Principle (to do no harm where evidence of health or ecological risk exists), should be forefront in design. And if unhealthy or toxic materials are really unavoidable, then project Deconstruction Plan’s must detail the designed replacement rationale and methodology as soon as healthy alternatives become available.

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Circular thinking and DFD are explored within my upcoming RIBA publication FutuRestorative as inspirations and challenges for a new sustainability in the built environment.

 

Event Links:

Green Vision 10th Feb   Hashtag #GVIs2016 @lsigreenvision

CE Thinking 12 Feb  Hashtag #CEthinking @constructCE 

Build Well 2016 Feb 10/11 @BuildWELL_EBNet

 

 

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Introduction to the Living Building Challenge + Project Workshop

UK_collaborative_logoWe are pleased to announce an Introduction to the Living Building Challenge (LBC) on Tuesday 9th Feb 2016 at the Cuerden Valley Park Visitor Centre, Berkeley Drive, Bamber Bridge, Preston PR5 6BY at 1pm.

The event will be led by Martin Brown of Fairsnape, the LBC UK Ambassador and supported by Barbara Jones and Hannah Hunt of the Straw Works Design team.

The event is free but we will accept donations of £5 or more towards costs.

Programme:

13.00 Introduction to the Living Building Challenge

including associated programmes: JUST, DECLARE, Living Product Challenge and Administration of LBC: Handbooks, Dialogue, Documentation, Certification

14:00 Understanding/Confirming LBC Requirements for CVP and the Seven Petals:

  • Place
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Health and Happiness
  • Materials
  • Equity
  • Beauty and Inspiration

16:30 Summary of Actions

17:00 Close

Background to the Event

Straw Works have designed and successfully achieved Planning approval for a new Visitor Centre at Cuerden Valley Park (CVP), with the support of Chorley Borough Council. It is currently under construction by volunteers of the CVP, with Straw Works providing support and running training courses where necessary. The project is registered with the LBC, the first UK project to be registered, with funding from Veolia, who are part funding the whole project. http://www.strawworks.co.uk

The Living Building Challenge™ is the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard. It calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture. To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy. https://living-future.org/lbc

Martin Brown, Fairsnape, is a sustainability consultant, LBC Ambassador and UK Collaborative Facilitator. His new book, published by RIBA, FutuREstorative, exploring Inspirations + Challenges for a New Sustainability, publishes in summer 2016.

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2016 Built Environment Challenges

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One: 2016 is the year Building Information Management in the UK becomes mandated for public sector projects. Our ongoing challenge is increasing the scope and application, across all the built environment sectors and organisations, moving us towards a digital and data driven industry.

Two: The 2015 Paris Agreement sets ambitious intent to cap global warming to 1.5deg C. Current built environment sustainability strategies and approaches are based around a 2deg cap, with targets too low or too slow. Our challenge is to enable the built environment to play it part, for which we will need all the restorative sustainability tools we have at our disposal. We need to flip our 40% negative impact, but can no longer seek to be near zero or net positive but need to push towards being demonstrably ‘very positive’.

ThreeHealth is the new GreenBuild. We have seen a big increase in health and wellbeing awareness with biophilia now firmly within the sector’s lexicon. Our challenge is to ensure health and wellbeing is a key driver in design, in materials, in the construction process and within building operations.

Four: our biggest opportunity is to now create the conditions that allow for leadership in integrated and collaborative thinking, combining the innovative approaches and development from the BIM, Restorative Sustainability and Healthy Buildings agendas.

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These challenges are explored in depth in forthcoming RIBA Book:
FutuREstorative

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Something Remarkable Happened at COP21 (update)

We now know the outcome from COP21 and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

cop21 article 2 draft

 

The Paris Agreement will be highly significant for the built environment, signalling one of its most exciting and challenging eras, one of innovation and reward;

  • The climate change and sustainability language is changing, from 2degC to 1.5degC based on science, rather than economic targets.
  • The Paris COP21 discussions, negotiations and events were played out in a social, open, collaborative and transparent environment. During the summit we turned to social media feeds and the #COP21 hashtags rather than traditional newsprint or news media.  This sets a future for transparency and collaboration for the climate change  agenda, at global, national, the built environment sector, company and project level.
  • Construction and the built environment has now be recognised as a climate change problem and a key part of the solution. We now have to flip our 40% negative impact into a 40% positive impact.
  • With existing construction sustainability strategies, building certification standard and reduction targets based on 2 Deg, there is now the urgent need to rethink and to address  a 1.5Deg future with faster, tougher reduction targets and more focused approaches.
  • To achieve 1.5degC caps, we cannot continue with a sustainable construction as usual approach of being incrementally less bad, but would need to make the flip to restorative and regenerative approaches, such as the Living Building Challenge.
  • The Paris Agreement is recognised as signalling the end of the fossil fuel era, and the signal for a low carbon future. This presents a huge opportunity and challenge for construction, utlilising all the tools and approaches we have at our disposal – for example
    • BIM to design and model low carbon buildings and construction methods,
    • circular economy to reduce impact from construction resources
    • lean construction to reduce all forms of waste along with
    • education and advocacy to inform and inspire both the next generation and those in the industry.

As I write this I am reviewing an 2015 updated copy of Olgyay’s Design with Climate, A BioClimatic Approach to Architectural Regionalism. Originally published in 1963 – over 50 years ago – was a groundbreaking book for students of sustainable architecture. One of the core concepts, (the Interlocking Fields of Climatology, Biology, Architecture and Technology) would unfortunately still appear new and radical to many today, but is profoundly relevant to the new climate change agenda.  We cannot wait any longer to learn or relearn basics of sustainability.

Related previous blog post

Presentation to Brightest Greenest Buildings event on 10/12/15:

 

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How significant was the first Buildings Day at COP21?

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In coming years, hopefully very significant. This was the first time that the built environment has been recognised as important in any global, United Nation climate change summit.

We now have the recognition that buildings and construction have a major impact and influence on climate changes, being part of the problem but also key to climate change solutions

My thoughts from following inspiring feeds from Paris and elsewhere, through the twitter hashtags of #COP21, #BuildingsDay #BuildBetterGreen #BackClimateAction and others:

I felt ashamed by the approach of our government in weakening and dismantling sustainability strategies for homes and buildings whilst others around the world are deepening their green building strategies

That the built environment players (leaders, companies, advocates, agencies, academics) all need to collaborate to ensure a sub 2 degrees warming path is central to sustainability strategies

Not once did I see BIM mentioned or cited as part of the building environment solution. BIM needs to engage with the leaders and decision makers who are shaping the design, construction and operation of buildings.

Encouraged to hear of net positive approaches, being restorative and regenerative in built environment sustainability approaches. Not only for carbon reduction but for social and health strategies to be ‘net-positive’

Encouragingly there have been many great pledges from GBC members around the world – including the UK.

Whilst major contractors and manufacturers were visible in making commitments or presenting the built environment world of contracting, of SME’s and supply chains right across the sector still needs to engage, and understand that business as usual may not be that usual in the coming year.

Finally – with the built environments impact on climate change, often quoted as 40% of the problem, making the real change to get on a sub 2 degree global warming path may seem impossible. Globally, through design and construction we need to reduce emissions by 84 GtCO2 by 2050 – thats taking over 22.000 coal fired power stations out of service.

Yet impossible is only a challenge – and as Steve Jobs said – its kind of fun to do the impossible.

What Is COP21?

Understand COP21 in these 7 graphics (via Green Biz)

France is chairing and hosting the 21 th Conference of Parties to the Framework UN Convention on Climate Change (COP21 / CMP11) from 30 November to 11 December 2015. This is a crucial conference since it must lead to a new international climate agreement, applicable to all, to keep global warming below 2 ° C.

18 countries (Austria, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Senegal, Singapore, Sweden, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America), and over 60 organisations launched an unprecedented Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction to speed up and scale up the sector’s huge potential to reduce its emissions and literally build greater climate resilience into future cities and infrastructure.

Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction to Combat Climate Change

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Lendlease: Accelerating Wellbeing in Built Environment

In November 2015, Lendlease, one of the world’s leading integrated infrastructure and real estate groups, announced a global alliance with Delos, aiming to accelerate the integration of human health and wellness outcomes in the built environment. This alliance will include identifying pioneering projects in Australia, Asia, the United Kingdom and the United States, which will pursue WELL Certification and provide ‘WELL ready’ workplaces for tenants.

Untitled 5Geoff Dutaillis, group head of sustainability at Lendlease said, “Supporting the next generation of buildings and places that get it right for people, as well as the environment is very important….The built environment has a critical role to play in helping cities and governments transition towards a low carbon future; however, it’s the direct impact on human capital and productivity through increased focus on supporting human health and wellbeing which is the untapped potential.”*

The WELL Building Standard is the first protocol of its kind to focus on “improving human wellness within the built environment by identifying specific conditions that, when holistically integrated into building interiors, enhance the health and wellbeing of the occupants.” The WELL Building Standard is a performance-focused system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing including air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and importantly mind.

Wellness and Happiness: The Next Built Environment / CSR Frontier 

WELL Building Institute launches pilot programs for new sectors.

Designing Buildings Wiki: Well Building Standard 

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REGENERATION 2016

Great news is that Regeneration, the very successful and innovative European, Living Building Challenge, 64 hours design competition is back for another edition in April 2016. The event to be held in the Italian Trento region is organised by Carlo, Paola and team at the Macro Design Studio in Revereto.

The event will take place at Centrale Fies, Dro (Trento – Italy), on April, 13th to 16th, 2016

 

The competition is open to professionals (architects, engineers, environmental sustainability and landscape experts) in Europe, under 35 years old. The deadline for the request of participation is next January 29th, 2016. 15 of the best applicants will be selected on the basis of the documentation submitted.

The applicant form can be downloaded from here 

The event is 64 non-stop hours of integrative design in which each team, assisted by tutors expert of LBC, will compete in designing the best redevelopment project of an existing local public building. There will be side events i.e. a final conference open to the public on the issues of LBC as well as the final presentation of the projects, with the proclamation of the best project by an international jury.

And, once again I am delighted to have been asked to tutor the teams on aspects and insights of the Living Building Challenge.

As you know, The Living Building Challenge™ is a building certification program, advocacy tool and philosophy that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to rapidly diminish the gap between current limits and the end-game positive solutions we seek. LBC is a Visionary Path to a Regenerative Future.
It is administered by The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) based in Seattle (WA), a hub for visionary programs that promotes a sustainability that is Socially Just, Culturally Rich and Ecologically Restorative SM. ILFI is partner and scientific advisor of Macro Design Studio and the Living Building Challenge Collaborative: Italy in organizing REGENERATION.
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