Pushing beyond Paris

1562_6136.original

The UN Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) meets in San Francisco, California from 12-14 September 2018, and in addition to the physical meeting, actors around the world are invited to participate by demonstrating the depth and range of climate action in their sectors and geographies to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

This raises the question what have we done in the (business, regional, national and global) built environment to contribute to the Paris Change Agreement. The ILFI through Living Building Challenge is one of the few building standards that seek to meet the Paris Agreement, and One Planet Living through its alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Yet we no longer have the luxury of only less bad is not good enough and as is becoming increasingly obvious, meeting the Paris targets may not be enough, and ‘good’ is now looking way beyond the 1.5 DegC aspirational targets.

The UK Construction 2025 Vision, launched in 2013, set a target of 50% reductions in built environment carbon emissions by 2025. Indications are that we are far from achieving this. (A 2015 BRE analysis showed that BREEAM assessed buildings achieve an average 22% reduction in CO2 emissions). We only have a handful of projects setting real carbon reduction targets. Yet we know we will have to improve on the 50% and get to 80 percent by 2033 if we are to meet the 1.5 degree target .

Better technology and design alone will not get us there without a shift towards a worldview thinking, that embraces regenerative system approaches, and sees the built environment within the context of wider ecological systems.

The California Summit is focused on taking ambition to the next level through five key issue areas: healthy energy systems, inclusive economic growth, sustainable communities, land and ocean stewardship and transformative climate investments.

All of the five key issues areas are built environment related, with the sector being a contributor to the problem, but can also deliver a significant solution, particular so on the sustainable communities challenge:

The sustainable communities challenge is an effort led by cities to create buildings, communities and infrastructure that are clean, healthy, and livable. Cities can encourage community driven climate projects, a transition to net zero carbon buildings through the World Green Buildings Council and a progression towards zero waste.

Healthy energy systems can prevent dangerous effects from climate change. They can be achieved through a shift toward clean and equitable energy in addition to building a decarbonized energy and transportation system aligned with scientifically founded action requirements.

  • Action you can take: Accelerate the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) and make electric transport the new normal by 2030 by joining the EV100 initiative.

Inclusive economic growth requires climate leadership in business, clean technology, and an energy transition that fosters good jobs while spurring inclusive global economic development.

Land and ocean stewardship focuses on the role that forests, food, lands and other ecosystems must play in mitigating climate change and making our world more resilient, while also ensuring sufficient food supplies for a growing population. This climate action pathway requires support of sustainable food systems, conservation of resilient landscapes that deliver climate solutions, technical and financial support for new stewardship projects, and transparency, engagement, and investment from industry actors.

  • Action you can take: Implementing climate friendly land use, conservation, and agriculture policies. The 30X30 Forests, Food and Land Challenge’s goals is to achieve 30% of climate solutions by 2030 through improved agricultural and land use practices.

Transformative climate investments will require the mobilization of investment on an unprecedented scale to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Investors, considering their financial duties to clients and beneficiaries, are encouraged to act in one or more of the following four areas: Investment, corporate engagement, investor disclosure, and policy advocacy.

  • Action you can take: Commit to the use of green bonds for infrastructure investment and ask investors to invest in them. The Green Bond Pledge coordinated in part by Ceres is an initiative you can join.

Lastly, if you wish to inspire others who may wish to participate in the Global Climate Action Summit challenges, you can:

  1. Encourage your firm or community to find ways to take part in one of the five key climate action challenges.
  2. Share this video with your colleagues and business network so that they can also join the movement in raising global climate ambition.
  3. Follow the action on social media through the UNFCCC and the Global Climate Action Summit accounts:

 

Source: https://unfccc.int/news/rise-to-meet-the-global-climate-action-summit-challenges

 

Advertisements
Posted in comment, sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Knowing the plastic numbers …

With the focus on plastic avoidance, reduction and recycling, do we really know the plastics that we use everyday and incorporate into our buildings, often without second thought to their impact on human and planetary health.

I am often asked by projects and offices what plastics are safe and or recyclable when looking to adopt responsible recycling or procurement approaches in reducing or removing plastics, or to address Red List compliance.

iStock-530479243-5

Plastics are stamped with the now familiar ‘recycling’ chasing arrows triangle, encompassing  an identifying number.  However this does not necessarily mean the plastics are recyclable or indeed ‘safe’ to use in all circumstances. The numbers within the arrows, from 1 to 7, tell a different story, and are key to understanding specification, manufacture, use and disposal ofplastics.

But as even when recycled plastics only break down into smaller components, that as ‘micro-plastics’ cause greater environmental issues, the best plastic strategy maybe to avoid.

#1 – PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

Polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PETE or PET. Usually clear in color, the vast majority of disposable disposable beverage and food containers and bottles are made of #1 plastic. Another common place you’d find #1 is in your household cleaning product containers. This plastic is relatively safe, but it is important to keep it out of the heat or it could cause carcinogens (like the flame retardant antimony trioxide) to leach into your liquids. Hence the warning on water drinking bottles to keep out of sunlight. Plus, the porous nature of its surface allows bacteria and flavor to accumulate, so avoid reusing these bottles as makeshift containers.

Products made of #1 (PET) plastic can be recycled but not reused.

#2 – HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)

HDPE plastic is the stiff plastic used to make milk jugs, detergent and oil bottles, toys, and some plastic bags. HDPE is the most commonly recycled plastic and is considered one of the safest forms of plastic. It is a relatively simple and cost-effective process to recycle HDPE plastic for secondary use.

Products made of HDPE are reusable and recyclable.

Red List: HDPE and LDPE are excluded from the Red List. However the Red List includes Chlorinated polyethylene and chlorosulfonated polyethlene (CSPE)

#3 – PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

PVC is a soft, flexible plastic used to make clear plastic food wrapping, cooking oil bottles, teething rings, children’s and pets’ toys, and blister packaging for myriad consumer products. It is commonly used as the sheathing material for computer cables, and to make plastic pipes and parts for plumbing. Because PVC is relatively impervious to sunlight and weather, it is used to make window frames, garden hoses, arbors, raised beds and trellises.

PVC, although tough in terms of strength, it is not considered safe for cooking or heating. PVC contains softening chemicals called phthalates that interfere with hormonal development.

PVC is dubbed the “poison plastic” because it contains numerous toxins which it can leach throughout its entire life cycle. PVC’s vinyl chloride monomer building block is a known human carcinogen. Almost all products using PVC require virgin material for their construction; less than 1% of PVC material is recycled.

PVC is a common, strong but lightweight plastic used in construction. It is made softer and more flexible by the addition of plasticizers. If no plasticizers are added, it is known as uPVC (unplasticized polyvinyl chloride) or rigid PVC.

Products made using PVC plastic are not recyclable.

PVC is a widely used plastic found in piping, electrical wire sheaths, and window frames.  It contains phthalates, which are also components of flexible vinyl products, sealants, and finishes.

  • There isn’t a great alternative to PVC wire sheaths.  Metal-sheathed wiring (“armored” cable) can be used, but it is harder to work with and much more expensive.
  • There are a few alternatives to PVC pipes.  Metal (copper, steel, or ductile iron) pipes, which can be used for some purposes, are heavier, susceptible to corrosion, and typically more expensive to buy and install.  Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) and other related plastics are now being used to make flexible, convenient, and cheap pipes that do not contain PVC.  Unfortunately, PEX cannot be recycled and its health effects have not been definitively studied.  PEX degrades with sun exposure and may be more permeable to chemicals than other types of piping.
  • Wood, aluminum, and fiberglass are common alternatives to PVC window frames.  Wood requires additional maintenance, while aluminum frames should be used with some sort of thermal break to insulate the window and prevent condensation.  Prices vary, and the environmental impact of manufacturing should also be considered.
  • Avoid vinyl flooring, cords and hoses, shower curtains, artificial leather, pool liners, or paints made with phthalates.  There are many alternative plasticizers.

Red List: PVC and Phthalates are included on Red List

#4 – LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene)

LDPE is often found in shrink wraps, dry cleaner garment bags, squeezable bottles, and the type of plastic bags used to package bread. The plastic grocery bags used in most stores today are made using LDPE plastic. Some clothing and furniture also uses this type of plastic.

Products made using LDPE plastic are reusable, but not always recyclable.

Red List: HDPE and LDPE are excluded from the Red List. However the Red List includes Chlorinated polyethylene and chlorosulfonated polyethlene (CSPE)

#5 – PP (Polypropylene)

Polypropylene plastic is tough and lightweight, and has excellent heat-resistance qualities. It serves as a barrier against moisture, grease and chemicals.  PP is also commonly used for disposable diapers, pails, plastic bottle tops, margarine and yogurt containers, potato chip bags, straws, packing tape and rope. Polypropylene is considered microwave-safe because it is heat resistant and therefore won’t get warped in the microwave. This does not mean it is healthy for you to consume foods which have been microwaved in it! It is always best to microwave in glass containers
PP is considered safe for reuse.

#6 – PS (Polystyrene)

Polystyrene is an inexpensive, lightweight and easily-formed plastic with a wide variety of uses. It is most often used to make disposable styrofoam drinking cups, take-out “clamshell” food containers, egg cartons, plastic picnic cutlery, foam packaging and those ubiquitous “peanut” foam chips used to fill shipping boxes to protect the contents. Polystyrene is also widely used to make rigid foam insulation and underlay sheeting for laminate flooring used in home construction.

Because polystyrene is structurally weak and ultra-lightweight, it breaks up easily and is dispersed readily throughout the natural environment. Beaches all over the world have bits of polystyrene lapping at the shores, and an untold number of marine species have ingested this plastic with immeasurable consequences to their health.

Polystyrene may leach styrene, a possible human carcinogen, into food products (especially when heated in a microwave). Chemicals present in polystyrene have been linked with human health and reproductive system dysfunction.

Recycling is not widely available for polystyrene products. Most curbside collection services will not accept polystyrene, which is why this material accounts for about 35% of US landfill material. While the technology for recycling polystyrene is available, the market for recycling is small. Awareness among consumers has grown, however, and polystyrene is being reused more often. While it is difficult to find a recycler for PS, some businesses like Mailboxes Etc. which provide shipping services are happy to receive foam packing chips for reuse.

Polystyrene should be avoided where possible.

#7 – Other (BPA, Polycarbonate and LEXAN)

The #7 category was designed as a catch-all for polycarbonate (PC) and “other” plastics, so reuse and recycling protocols are not standardized within this category. Of primary concern with #7 plastics, however, is the potential for chemical leaching into food or drink products packaged in polycarbonate containers made using BPA (Bisphenol A). BPA is a xenoestrogen, a known endocrine disruptor.

A new generation of compostable plastics, made from bio-based polymers like corn starch, is being developed to replace polycarbonates. These are also included in category #7, which can be confusing to the consumer. These compostable plastics have the initials “PLA” on the bottom near the recycling symbol. Some may also say “Compostable.”

#7 plastics are not for reuse, unless they have the PLA compostable coding.

Red List: Bisphenol A (BPA) used to manufacture polycarbonate (clear, hard) plastics and epoxy resins is included on the Red List

 Sources

Red List: https://living-future.org/declare/declare-about/red-list/

The ILFI Red List contains the worst in class materials prevalent in the building industry that may not be included in materials used in construction that seeks to meet the criteria of the Living Building Challenge (LBC).T

The commonly-used chemicals on the Red List are:

Polluting the environment
Bio-accumulating up the food chain until they reach toxic concentrations
Harming construction and factory workers

Plastics by the Numbers: EarthEasy – https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/plastics-by-the-numbers/

GreenSpec http://www.greenspec.co.uk/building-design/toxic-chemistry-health-environment-pollution/

The Seven Types of Plastic and What they mean for your health. https://www.nontoxicrevolution.org/blog/7-types-of-plastic

Green Building Alliance https://www.go-gba.org/resources/green-building-methods/materials-red-list/

 

 

 

Posted in comment, sustainability | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Living Buildings in Europe. What does good look like?

Living Buildings in Europe, the autumn workshop series.

Living Future Institute Europe

The International Living Future Institute works every day to realise the climate actions defined by the Paris Accords, leading the direction toward products, buildings and communities that are socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative.

With this vision as our guide, we can enact truly transformational change.

Now, the Living Future Institute Europe is poised to unify a regenerative standard across a continent that is already leading the way to resilient built environments. We invite you to partner with LFI Europe to support this transformation and bring global solutions to a global problem.

At the Living Future Institute Europe, we are excited to announce that this October, we are hosting a series of Living Building Challenge
Workshops and events across the continent. Here, you will learn:

  • How to create truly biophilic and regenerative buildings and communities
  • How to become a Zero Energy leader
  • How to achieve a Net Positive Water demand
  • How to select Healthy Materials

Barcelona October 17th 2018

These workshops are aimed at architects, engineers, developers and product manufacturers interested in innovative and transformative solutions, providing insights from leaders in the green building community through real-world examples. Workshop participants will receive instruction on the actionable tools and techniques that can be applied in your local context.

REGISTER HERE FOR OUR UPCOMING EVENTS

Malaga October 19th 2018

 

Living Building Challenge in the UK

IMG_6797

Cuerdon Valley Visitor Centre, Lancashire, UK

In addition to the European dates above, we have a number of Living Building Challenge and collaborative events planned for the autumn in the UK.

For more information on the UK dates please contact Martin Brown

Also check out the ILFI webpage for all events:

Posted in comment | Leave a comment

Health and Wellness Rating System Comparison

This very useful comparison infographic was published recently on Building Green.  Although US and LEED based, it demonstrates the scope of the emerging rating systems that address, measure and promote healthy building and facility approaches, in planning, design, construction, building in use. Note the infographic on Building Green is interactive with more information.

health-wellness

More:

Living Building Challenge 3.1 Standard

Well 2.0

Fitwel

BREEAM / Well CrossWalk 

 

Posted in comment, Health | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Planting Trees to ‘offset’ Construction Carbons

We often asked by Constructco2 users, can we offset by planting trees on site and if so how much carbon is ‘offset’?

Beacon Fell Trees

The answer is not at all straight forward and publications / papers / articles found on the internet do not agree. However, the amount of carbon stored by a tree depends on its size, and age: young trees will absorb carbon dioxide quickly while they are growing, but as a tree ages a steady state would eventually be reached. At this point the amount of carbon absorbed through photosynthesis is equal to that lost through respiration and decay.

Ecometrica study found a one tonne carbon tree locks up around 3.67 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

A tree can absorb as much as 24kg of carbon dioxide per year and could potential sequester 1 ton of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old.

On average, each National Forest tree will sequester 79kg of carbon, equivalent to 290kg of carbon dioxide, over an 80 year period of growth.

A recent study carried out at Kielder Forest has calculated that the Forest’s 150 million trees lock up 82,000 tonnes of carbon* annually. This means that as a rough estimate each tree at Kielder is locking up 0.546 kg of carbon per year.

It is better to offset in forests rather than individual trees asm within the UK, forest soils contain around four times as much carbon as the trees.

CO2 is absorbed from the atmosphere by trees during their growth through photosynthesis. The carbon element of the CO2 absorbed remains locked into the timber until its End of Life. The sequestered carbon should though only be considered a benefit in the scope of (any) carbon assessment when the timber is sustainably sourced – certified by FSC, PEFC or equivalent. This is to ensure that any trees felled are being substituted with a minimum of the same number of trees planted and therefore not contributing to deforestation and not compromising the overall carbon- absorbing capacity of woodlands.

Understanding definitions. The language used when talking about carbon in trees and other eco systems is important. 

Biogenic carbon. The carbon sequestered in timber or other bio-based materials.If we are concerned with using trees to offset our construction carbon emissions then we need to address the tree’s sequestration and storage of CO2.

Sequestration The natural process removing (ie seizing) CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it within biological material.

Sink  A carbon ‘sink’ is where there is a net transfer of carbon from the atmosphere to the (tree/forest)  A forest only remains a sink while its carbon stock continues to increase.

Store Wood products are a store of carbon, as they themselves do not capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but keep it locked up throughout their lifetime

The most important point is that offsetting – whether through tree planting or not – should not be the first consideration; reducing emissions should always be the main objective.

Perhaps value engineering to increase materials that have a high carbon store (eg timber) in lieu of materials that have a high embedded carbon footprint through processing (eg concrete) may prove a more viable carbon option.

Importance of locking carbon into long lived, circular economy based, timber products … 

When a tree dies the carbon that is stored in its biomass is either released to the atmosphere or added to the carbon in the soil through decomposition. The rate that carbon is released back to the atmosphere can be controlled by reducing the rate of decomposition, for example by using timber to create long-lived wood products. However, eventually most of the carbon sequestered by the tree will be returned to the atmosphere where each tonne of carbon will be converted to about 3.67 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

More than just Carbon

UK woodland, especially native species, in addition to providing the habitat for our incredible natural biodiversity, provide a wide range of “ecosystem services” such as the control and condition of water supplies, mitigation of surface water flooding, provision of shade, shelter, control of pollution.  Woodland plays a far greater role in the move to a low carbon economy than simple carbon sequestration by trees.

ConstructCO2 Guidance

  1. If planting (additional) trees on site obtain a carbon figure from the projects ecologist or landscape architect. (ConstructCO2 can arrange one for you). You cannot count the landscape design as offset for your construction emissions.
  2. A very rough figure for guidance, for each additional young tree planted on the project 1kg CO2 per month that the tree will be growing.
  3. Consider and promote the regenerative benefits of trees, which will be far greater than simply carbon offsets.
  4. If looking to offset your construction CO2 through tree planting offsets – use a certified organisation and ensure that the offset is an additional measure, and not counted elsewhere.
  5. Consider offsetting to schemes that protect, enhance soils and bring peat bogs and moss lands back into healthy, carbon sequestration eco systems. This can be a higher co2 sequestration than trees.
  6. Consider increasing project materials with a high carbon store – locking greater levels of carbon into the building through sustainability focused value engineering.

Tree Facts

  1. A single tree can absorb CO2 at a rate of 12kg per year.
  2. Trees act as natural pollution filters by absorbing pollutants through the stomates in leaf surfaces.
  3. Trees lower temperature by transpiring water and shading surfaces.
  4. Trees reduce heat sinks.
  5. Trees reduce erosion.
  6. An acre of trees absorbs enough CO2 over one year to equal the amount produced by driving a car 26,000 miles.
  7. Trees provide food and wildlife habitats.
  8. Planting trees remains one of the cheapest, most effective means of drawing excess CO2 from the atmosphere.
  9. Trees recharge ground water and sustain stream flow.
  10. One large tree strategically placed can replace 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours per day.

Sources

Posted in carbon, comment | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Regenerative Sustainability Design Training School

Following the successful COST Restore Lancaster Training School in 2017, applications are invited for the second Training School to be held in Malaga, Spain in October  2018 offering a wonderful learning opportunity for students and practitioners looking to advance their skills at the interface of sustainability, #BIM, digital construction and regenerative design #CostRestore 

pexels-photo-305833

 

Regenerative Design: from Theory to the Digital Practice

The aim of the conferences and the training school is the digital implementation of Regenerative Sustainable Design principles in the transformation of existing sites. Via the use of freeware digital parametric modelling, the challenges are to improve outdoor microclimate qualities and the indoor wellbeing, operating a transformation that responds to the criteria of Circular Economy.

The research and design project will represent, in this regard, an opportunity for enhancing life in all its manifestations. This presumes shifting the focus from a solely based human-centred design process into a nature-centred one, where “people and buildings can commit to a healthy relationship with the environment where they are placed”. Such approaches are discussed in morning conferences and in the afternoon scientific driven design developments.

v3k6hhdbkqz6r7x2

The Barrio of La Luz, which was built after 1960 in Malaga is used as a reference. The site is a polluted heat-island, disconnected from sea breezes, with a spread hardscape, and with no presence of natural elements. Furthermore, the urban dwellers experience poor wellbeing due to the deprived quality of the units, being these modified by tenants often leading to obstructing natural ventilation and light. The projection of climate change will further exacerbate such outdoor and indoor conditions, and there is a need for an example of interventions that are scalable to the Spanish national level.

Trainees will form four groups that will develop four competing transformation design proposals. The design that shows a qualitative creative solution with the higher simulated performances will be awarded. Criteria for evaluation will also include the quality of the digital modelling phases and the dynamics of development of the integrated strategies. To assess the projects’ success, the jury is composed of a mix of international and local professionals and scientist, with experience in architecture, performance and modelling.

Further details and to apply by August the 5th, 2018

School Director:

Emanuele Naboni, Institute of Architectural Technology, School of Architecture, The Royal Danish Academy, School of Architecture (KADK), Denmark

Trainers:

Emanuele Naboni (KADK), Chris Mackey (Ladybug Tools and Payette, USA), Amanda Sturgeon (Living Future Institute, USA), Negendhal Kristoffer (BIG, Denmark), Angela Loder (International WELL Building Institute, USA), Martin Brown (Fairsnape, UK) , Ata Chokhachian (TU Munich, Germany), Daniele Santucci (TU Munich, Germany), Munch-Peterson Palle (Henning Larsen and KADK, Denmark), Alexander Hollberg (ETH Zürich, Switzerland), Panu Panasen (One Click LCA, Finland), Wilmer Pasut (Eurac, Italy)

 

Posted in comment, sustainability | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

From Construction to Prostruction

COST RESTORE‘s third working group kicked off in Koper, Slovenia in June, continuing the regenerative themes of working groups 1 and 2, seeking to bring about a paradigm shift in the way we approach construction and building operations.

Working group one addressed concepts of regenerative built environment within the language we use, through our social and ecological relationships (from Eco, to Ego to Seva), through new build and existing heritage buildings that leads to a regenerative economy. This work has been captured with the Sustainability, Restorative to Regenerative publication available for free download.

Working group two picked up these themes and applied to regenerative design.

One of the inspiring and light bulb discussions entered around building users, facilitated by facilities management …  as prosumers, not consumers. And those who design and deliver buildings as prostructors not constructors.

This thinking allows us to further develop the ‘less bad to more good’ diagram that has come to illustrate the work of RESTORE

PROSTRUCTION

We may never change construction to prostruction, however language is important and the wider the term is used, the better awareness of where our sector, organisations, projects and products are on the regenerative spectrum from consumption to prosumption.

Prostruction Using Natures Technology to Grow Buildings –  Eric Corey Freed 

A prosumer is a person who consumes and produces a product. It is derived from “prosumption“, a dot-com era business term meaning “production by consumers”. These terms were coined in 1980 by American futurist Alvin Toffler. Wikipedia 

An early paper exploring facilities management as community prosumers CbFM Community Based FM.

Posted in comment, sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment