Books that have shaped our thinking … Part 1

Driving back from Andrew Platten’s funeral with Anne Parker, conversation was centred on how Andrew had inspired us, and others, in numerous ways; (for me, sustainability, academia/industry collaboration and cycling)

And as is common when discussing inspiration, our conversation picked up on books that have shaped our thinking. As we travelled over the M62, I rattled off a few of my all time favourites:

Linked to travels and expat work postings (India, Trinidad and S America) way back in my 20’s, novels  such as Fireflies, V S Naipaul / Midnights Children, Salman Rushdie / Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez were influential on my choice of reading for quite a while. I did, and still do enjoy reading books, novels or travelogues that are located in the area I happened to be traveling or working. One travelogue in particular  In Patagonia Bruce Chatwin, stands out as a brilliant read, highly recognised as a literary classic.

Let My People Go Surfing is on my list as a shining example of how an individual (Yvon Chouinard) and an organisation (Patagonia) rooted in the great outdoors can become environmental, sustainability  ‘cool’ and in doing so both shape corporate responsibility thinking and inspire so many.

Image 8.1a Book Shelf

The final book I mentioned on that journey was Nan Shepherds meditation on the Scottish landscape, The Living Mountain, written during the second world war but only recently published. It is a great autobiographic account of life in the Cairngorms and a celebration of the mountains there that touches on current themes such as mindfulness, biophilia and rewilding. Her descriptions and insights, (going into the mountain, rather ‘up the mountain’) has certainly made me think of mountain and natural landscapes in a whole new light.

Part 2 – Annes book list to follow

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Sustainability, Sharing and Success

Below is my keynote presentation given to the UCLan Teaching and Learning conference recently, where the theme of the conference was Sustainability, Sharing and Success.

My keynote covered development of sustainability thinking, from the throwaway dreams and society  of the 1950’s to the circular economy, from the ubiquitous Brundtland definition to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, from sustainable buildings to healthy, biophilic and salutogenic buildings that heal. The keynote explored sharing through social media, and successful, ‘just’ sustainability leadership.

All themes covered  in detail within FutuREstorative published end of August 2016.

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Advocacy and Activism: Patagonia ‘Tools’ Book Review

Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists.Edited by Nora Gallagher and Lisa Myers; introduction by Yvon Chouinard. Book Review

ToolsAdvocacy or activism. Advocacy has become a common descriptor for many sustainability folk, and one I’ve used for many years. Maybe now is the time for the activist description to become as popular as the advocate, moving from advocating for change to doing and driving change.

Advocate: a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.

Activist: a person who campaigns for some kind of social change.

Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists, the latest from Patagonia Books, captures the best wisdom and advice of 20 years of the Patagonia Tools Conference, ‘where experts provide practical training to help activists be more effective in their fight” 

Whether its scaling damns, (Damnation) protecting wildness (see the stunning Jumbo trailer)), circular economy thinking, (Wornwear), using clothing catalogues and promoting environment awareness through social media (dirt bag diaries and the Cleanest Line blog) or promoting family business, Patagonia continue to follow their mission – ‘using business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis’

Tools, has created a resource “for any organisation hoping to hone core skills like campaign and communication strategy, grassroots organising, and lobbying as well as working with business, fundraising in uncertain times and using new technologies

Each chapter, written by a respected expert in the field, covers essential principles as well as best practices is accompanied by a hands-on case study that demonstrates the principles in action.

And in the world of sustainability, including built environment sustainability we can learn a lot here. Within Tools, there are many stories to inspire strategic thinking, tools to adopt and employ, and tips to help, for example;

  • Using social media within organisations and externally
  • Leadership to insure that every decision made on a project or within an organisation contributes to the overall mission

There are many contributors those in sustainability will be very familiar with for example Bill McKibben (350.org) and Annie Leonard (Story of Stuff) and those in the built environment sustainability space will recognise Denis Hayes, the driver behind the Bullitt Centre, the worlds greenest commercial building. I was particular interested to see Wade Davis, author of Into the Silence, a 2012 Boardman Tasker award shortlist, included here.

Patagonia hopes the book will be dog-eared and scribbled in and always at hand, an insightful resource and reliable companion to the environmental movement, I am sure it will be.

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Brexit is moving UK from client status into the supply chain

There have been many, and there will be many ‘what Brexit means for …’ articles, blogs and opinions. Here is my take on how I see the impact for the built  environment and sustainability. It is a blog post that I started on June 24th, but with each passing day, hour, a new twist has emerged …

flag_yellow_lowFar from dust settling after the EU Referendum that saw ‘Leave’ gain a slender majority, we are seeing more dust being kicked up from the daily political, financial and environmental developments. What all this means for the built environment, as many organisations are telling me in emails, tweets and statements is unclear and remains to be seen. It is still unbelievable that political and industry organisations and companies did not and still do not really have a plan in the case of an out vote, and what the implications of triggering Article 50 would entail.

What we see however is the UK on the brink of a self inflicted move from client, or framework prime contractor status to supply chain status and all the implications that would bring. No longer would we be setting the trading and governance conditions but having to negotiate, and ultimately comply.

And with the mature supply chain conditions that most in the built environment are now familiar with, this entails, fair, ethical , equitable and environmentally sound practices and governance across an organisation. Practices that are not only limited to the goods or services provided to a client (in this case the EU) but across all operations.

And the pandora’s box of potential implications, a few good but mostly disastrous in the short term, we now face in the built environment include …

A continuation of OJEU – the EU tendering and procurement process. (an Housing Association pre-referendum article foresaw this as a possibility , to ensure open access to contracts as a good ethical and fair trading practice)

Compliance with EU environmental standards, such as air quality and the Near Zero Buildings directive. Although many of the EU environmental issues have, over time been incorporated into e.g. Building Regs, as a government we have fought most EU environmental legislation, particularly air quality regulations. Boris Johnson, described as Trump-Lite in his approach to the environment, has been accused of withholding failing air quality statistics in London schools, hampering any real improvement. Now, to trade with EU it is highly likely that air quality thresholds will be an imposed condition in light of the recent statements from EU officials that they remain committed to protecting health and wellbeing of all European citizens.

Uncertainty and worry questions the free movement of skills, talent and people on which the built environment has thrived. Free movement of skills has been vital for construction on site, in Architectural practices, Environmental consultancies, Universities and other research organisations. Even BIM, which through free movement of IT talent, many of whom based in London and created the innovative IT hub, that has helped us become a BIM world leader. Not surprisingly there are warnings that IT and multi-i organisations will seek more EU centric locations, for example Berlin, relocating away from London and the UK.

Indications are that we will see short and long term price increases in construction materials. 60% of all imported construction materials come from the EU. Exported services will be expected at a lower cost which may prove to be unviable.  Imported timber, increasingly the structural material of choice – will be subject to trade and cost implications This should of course bolster Grown in Britain timber, but that itself may well be subject to wider EU trading implications – as a supply chain would be expected to do so to demonstrate good governance and ecological considerations.

The construction industry is often the barometer for the health of the economy – and hence a prelude for a recession. It requires amongst other factors, strong confidence in a pipeline of work flow. That pipeline had slowed pre referendum, with a number of contracts having Brexit clauses, and now, post referendum in some cases (e.g. infrastructure projects) come to (a temporary) stop. With the value of construction organisations being reduced, so will funds available for innovation, investments in new technologies (digital and BIM) and crucial for the industry, education, training and development.

On a wider macro sustainability level, leaving the EU risks weakening efforts to protect human rights, tackle corruption, environmental destruction and climate change, all which require a collaborative effort with our neighbours. I have already heard “that as FSC is a EU Legislation requirement we can now use unsustainably sourced timber?”

Facing all of these potential implications, never before in the sector have we needed our modern day, mature approaches to improving the built environment. These include lean construction, a diverse and ethical sector, collaboration not silo’d isolation, sound training and development, BIM, and a restorative sustainability approach that is not weakened to doing even less just to reduce the built environments sustainability impact.  

At the same time we need to speed up the incorporation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as the sectors sustainability mission.Chart_of_UN_Sustainable_Development_Goals

Far from taking back control, we may be handing over what control we had as we take a new position within the supply chain. But then … who knows what will occur, if and when and by whom article 50 is ever triggered.

So what now? The Brexit debate has moved from the binary referendum to a complex cocktail of political issues. It is possible we will see a snap election, less likely the called for 2nd referendum, but we will have new leaders of our main parliamentary parties and debates that focus not only the future of the EU but the UK itself. All will have huge impacts for the built environment.

As individuals we have avenues to register our concerns, through social media advocacy, through our institutions and membership organisations, through the call for a 2nd referendum, and as this is now a political issue through MP lobbying.

We should also see a step up in appropriate lobbying from built environment groups – now is not the time to wait and see, now is the time for groups such as RIBA, CIOB, CE, UKGBC, CIBSE, ICE, IEMA etc etc … to mobilise, be proactive and lobby government, potential party leaders and MP’s with responsibilities within the built environment spectrum, to protect our industry and all the wonderful progress made through union with the EU.

This blog is my view of the post referendum uncertainty, an interpretation from experience and knowledge of the sector, but undoubtedly also informed through reading many many articles, blogs and tweets, too many to reference here at the moment, but also worth reading are:

For a US perspective, Lloyd Alter: What impact will Brexit have on green building in Britain?

Understanding Article 50: David Allen Green  This is what sovereignty looks like

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Sustainia publishes 100 innovative solutions to support SDG’s

Over the last five years the Sustainia100 publication from Sustainia has always been a welcomed and inspiring read. Over this period It has tracked more than 4,500 solutions to date from all over the world. This year’s edition features solutions deployed in 188 countries, and more than half come from small and mid-sized enterprises. Showcasing everything from health solutions that tackle climate change, to renewable energy products that alleviate gender inequality, this year’s publication presents 100 solutions that respond to interconnected global challenges and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Chart_of_UN_Sustainable_Development_Goals

 

  • Four key trends:
    • Cities as Health Promoters
    • Making Profit from Unlikely Materials
    • Disrupting the Electrical Grid
    • People Powered Data for Better Infrastructure
  • Many Building related innovations and solutions are included, of particular note are:
    • Making Carpet Tiles from Old Fishing Nets (Interface / Aquafil)
    • Legislated Green Roofs and Solar Panels (France)
    • Growing Bricks with Bacteria (bioMason)
    • Green Bonds for Low Impact Building projects (Vasakronan)
    • Cement Free Mortar (KALK)
    • Solar Powered Water Purification (Desolenator)
    • Cities and Health: Using Communities to Bolster Health
    • Solar Storage Community Platform (Sonnen)

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Read the Sustainia  100 online here. The publication was launched on 7th June with an accompanying tweetchat, a storify record of which can be found on line, for example:

Q1: What does sustainable action mean to you ?

Q3 How have the #SDGs changed sustainable innovation?

Q8: What do you think is the next big opportunity in sustainability?

 

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Going Wild for 30 Days

From 1st – 30th June 2016. The UK WildLife Trusts are running a month-long nature challenge.

Reconnecting with nature through campaigns such as #30DaysWild can be seen as part of the secret sauce for sustainability behaviour. We spend 90% of our time inside buildings, and as our relationship with nature disconnects, then our tolerance for respecting the environment and behaving sustainably will diminish.

Rewilding Nature, Rewilding Buildings and Rewilding People is a key aspect in addressing sustainability, health and building performance gaps.

 

Here, then are my #30DaysWild plans …

  1. Stop to appreciate nature, birds and wildlife when cycling
  2. Spread the word about biophilia and rewilding within construction circles
  3. Sleep out under stars
  4. Climb a tree
  5. Re Read Feral
  6. List all the trees in our garden
  7. Visit Brockholes Nature Reserve
  8. Garden with bare hands
  9. Plant trees
  10. Turn off technology for a day
  11. Identify 10 ‘weeds’
  12. Support Curedon Valley Park visitor centre project
  13. Present at least once on Living Building Challenge
  14. Walk in the rain
  15. Bivy or Bothy by Bike
  16. Create log pile
  17. Take time to identify dawn chorus birds by birdsong
  18. Capture nature, wildlife, birds,  with GoPro
  19. Catch a sunset from a Bowland Fell
  20. Add a twibbon to twitter account
  21. Brew coffee on a hill, mountain top
  22. Share extracts from FutuREstorative
  23. Capture nature in images for future presentations
  24. Reinvigorate our compost heap
  25. Take time to site and tune into nature
  26. Stargazing – become familiar with a new constellation or cluster
  27. Read Wild – An Elemental Journey’ has been on reading list too long!
  28. Shop by bike, not car
  29. Bring pond back to life
  30. Watch sunrise from Bleasdale Woodhenge

Join in & do something wild every day for a month and share with #30DaysWild

 

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Living Building volunteer opportunities …

The project team at Cuerdon Valley Park Visitor Centre have three offers out for summer volunteer / interns to support the Trust in pursuit of the Living Building Challenge standard.

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UK 1st Living Building Challenge project at Cuerdon Valley Park, Lancashire

These are unique opportunities for sustainability and environment students:

  • Participation with potentially the greenest building in the UK, the 1st UK Living Building Challenge project.
  • Working with the UK foremost advocates who are pushing the boundaries of green build towards a restorative, just and healthy sustainable future.
  • Discover, first hand, more about the Living Building Challenge, related programmes and topics such as biophilic design.

Role details and contact information are in the following outlines:

Carbon Tracking

Communications Support

Materials Tracking

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