UK Government 25 Year Environment Plan is … disappointing.

nature globeThe UK Governments 25 Year Environment Plan (A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment) released yesterday should, on the face of it be a very significant document. Leaks and pre-issue comments from Gove in particular, hinted at great things in respect to addressing plastic, aligning health benefits of nature with healthcare and restoring nature in light of housing and infrastructure developments.

The Plan identifies six key areas:
Using and managing land sustainably (chapter 1).
Recovering nature and enhancing the beauty of landscapes (chapter 2).
Connecting people with the environment to improve health and wellbeing (chapter 3).
Increasing resource efficiency, and reducing pollution and waste (chapter 4).
Securing clean, productive and biologically diverse seas and oceans (chapter 5).
Protecting and improving the global environment (chapter 6).

And of note for the built environment,

‘Embed an ‘environmental net gain’ principle for development, including housing and infrastructure. (Chapter One)

High environmental standards for all new builds. New homes will be built in a way that reduces demands for water, energy and material resources, improves flood resilience, minimises overheating and encourages walking and cycling. Resilient buildings and infrastructure will more readily adapt to a changing climate.

And, to improve existing green infrastructure by encouraging more investment while making sure there is a presumption for sustainable development.

However what we have is low on ambition and nothing more than a plan to plan. Each action is peppered with “consider”, “explore”, “promote”, “help” etc … and to work with others if they would care to.

25 yr plan quote

The fact this is a 25 year plan, in 2018, it takes us through to 2043 – firmly into the next generation that will undoubtedly be severely compromised by what we do or don’t do today.  One only has to compare other initiatives with target dates within this timeframe to see how low on intent this plan is. Compare with the WorldGBC plans for zero carbon new buildings by 2030 and all buildings zero carbon by 2050, or the auto industry to move away from fossil fuels.

As commented by many, there is an ‘extraordinary omission’ in the plan: there is no mention at all of fracking. Given that the only sustained solution to the environmental and climate crisis is leaving fossil fuels in the ground, the continued support for extracting yet more through fracking cannot be justified in the light of the this report.

We are now acutely aware that  we do not have the luxury only to explore, to consider and to just reduce impacts … that is not sustainable. We require more direct leadership, commitment and action to do more good, to restore and regenerate the environment.

George Monbiot commented ‘ Those who wrote (the plan) are aware of the multiple crises we face. But, having laid out the depth and breadth of our predicaments, they propose to do almost nothing about them”

Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, “unless more leadership is shown, wildlife will continue to decline & with it our mental health as more people become isolated from benefits of contact with nature’

What we do have however, and should take action on, is further recognition that the environment  and connection with nature is severely affecting the health of the planet, of ourselves and of other species. Gove is trying to secure commitment to an Environment Act in the next Queen’s speech and we should help to secure this as there is not yet full government support, but there certainly needs to be more leadership, direct action and targets in this 25 year plan.

The Plan is available to download from here 

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Seasons Greetings

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Inglewhite, Lancashire. Our daily view …

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It is custom at chez fairsnape to create our own Christmas cards with our images taken during the year.

Here are the images from 2017 used on our cards.

 

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Fairfield and Grisedale Tarn January 2017

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Brenta Dolomite. 60th Birthday Celebrations April 2017

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Dunmail Raise, February 2017 

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Soller Mallorca, November 2017

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Materials in Buildings: the impact on health of those who work, learn and play within them.

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“the next phase of market transformation for the built environment is going to be led by material performance …” 

Health and wellbeing issues relating to the materials we specify, purchase, build with and dispose of has been increasingly arising in discussions of late. These may be within CSR, Environmental ISO workshops or in events such as the Specifi series (recent London). Indeed it is unusual for wellbeing in relation to materials not to be on the agenda for sustainability events.

In addition, within sustainability related meetings with clients, contractors and facilities management organisations, the issue of material health raises, often in reference to Grenfell, asking the question – do we really know the wider impacts on what we specifi, build with, maintain, replace  or dispose of?

Alongside this there is a rapidly growing interest in health related material standards such as Declare, RedList, Portico Fitwell and Well

A welcome addition to the debate is the (forthcoming) Materials Wellography from the Well Build people at IWBI. Below is an extract from their recent blog release which provides a very useful insight to the importance of materials and products we work with day in and day out.

Materials WELLography; your guide to the connection between the materials and products that make up the built environment, and the effect they have on the health of those who work, learn and play within them.

Materials make up our world. Much of the industrialized world is built from man-made, industrial chemicals. The chemical industry converts raw materials into more than 70,000 different chemical substances that make up our world. As the global population increases and urban centers expand, so do both the demand for manufactured goods and the rate of chemical production, which is projected to grow three times faster than the global population and to double every 25 years.1

The quantity and variety of chemicals on the global market makes the task of tracking chemical hazards both critical and extremely difficult. An estimated 95% of chemicals, used largely in construction, lack sufficient data on human health effects.,2 Although various countries apply their own framework for the management of chemical production and use, these are not harmonized globally, so different chemicals are regulated to different extents in different countries.

Life cycle of building materials and exposure hazards. Exposure to harmful chemicals can happen at various stages in the lifecycle of a commercial material or product. Below is an example of this lifecycle:

  1. Exposure can occur when contaminants are released into the environment during manufacturing or materials extraction.3, 4, 5, 6
  2. Throughout occupancy of a built space, chemicals used in furniture, furnishings, paints, adhesives and coatings can off-gas and end up in indoor dust, compromising air quality. 7,8,9,19 Proper ventilation practices and materials selection can help minimize indoor air contaminants. For more information on the benefits of adequate ventilation, refer to the Air WELLography
  3. Finish, maintenance and renovation work often involve dust-laden contaminants, fumes, solvents and gases. This is especially problematic in the absence of the exposure and ventilation controls typically required in production or construction settings.
  4. Construction and demolition work often include exposure to large amounts of dust (made up or and carrying chemical substances), as well as solvents, and other hazardous substances, for example those  associated with use of diesel-powered heavy equipment 10,20. Fortunately, improved awareness of exposure risks in maintenance, renovation and demolition has prompted additional work safety measures through various voluntary standards.

Environmental and Health Impacts. Chemicals used in building materials and byproducts made during their manufacture can persist in the environment. Even small concentrations of these chemicals can find their way into organisms in high enough doses to cause damage. The accumulation of toxicants in water or soil has implications for human health as these chemicals can advance up the food chain and accumulate in human tissue. 14

Long-term, large-scale biomonitoring studies have helped to show the impact of policy changes on human exposure risks. For example, a Swedish study involving long-term testing of human breast milk for the presence of the pesticide DDT and its residues has shown a significant decrease of the chemical following its restriction and later ban. A gradual decrease in PCB is also evident, likely due to efforts to move away from the chemical across the European Union. In contrast to the decline of these two chemicals over time, concentrations of the flame retardant PBDE was found to increase along the same timeline, consistent with increased across EU states. 21

Market forces at work. As evidence of the environmental hazards and health issues related to chemicals accumulates 15, an increasing number of hazard assessment tools emerge in the building material sector. These evaluation tools are being introduced and used in the marketplace as means to differentiate products and ingredients with lower hazards and to certify greener chemical ingredients in consumer products. Despite gaps in data and regulation, the good news is that we have a growing repository of tools at our disposal that can provide direction in understanding the tradeoffs of materials and products over their life cycle.

Careful evaluation and selection of building materials and products is an important and effective first step to identifying safer materials across installation, use, maintenance and disposal. In the long run, the call for the prioritization and responsibility of advancing safer chemicals and sustainable materials can lead to an improved, data-rich market, comprehensive regulations and policy reforms and a shift towards safer chemicals and investment in green chemistry.

Access the full IWBI article here. And download the excellent Well App for news and articles.

References noted above can be found via the IWBI article.

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Reconnecting the eco system: Specifi Services London

logoIt was a real pleasure to present a sustainability keynote to the 100 plus service experts and engineers attending the Specifi Services event in London on the 29th November.

The keynote focused on the impact that the built environment sector  has on climate change and how we can all become part of climate change solutions. I introduced the need to think beyond sustainability, to a regenerative approach that connects with and enables natural eco systems to flourish.

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Sharing insights from FutuREstorative, I put forward the case that we no longer have the luxury of being less bad, and that we need increasingly radical approaches of being more good.

This includes working towards the Sustainable Development Goals (that will replace the Brundtland definition of sustainability) and for example meeting the World GBC from Thousands to Billions target for all new buildings to be net zero carbon from 2030 and all buildings to be net zero carbon by 2050

One particular mention for London services is the Getting to Zero report which lays out a ‘roadmap for making all London buildings zero net energy by 2050‘ from the London Energy Transformation Initiative. LETI is driven by Clara Bagenal George at Elementa who was able to respond to questions during the evening, particularly the recommendation, endorsed by the London Plan, that public and private buildings to disclose their performance on energy use.

On LETI, the following extract is from the recent Integral publication Impact, transforming the engineering industry’

Focused on mitigating catastrophic climate change by dramatically reducing carbon emissions from the city’s buildings, LETI was established as a multidisciplinary collaboration working toward a zero-emissions future for London.

LETI is poised to make a big difference, and it all began with the vision of one person, a member of Elementa’s London office named Clara Bagenal George. Hers is a story of the power of one to make a big difference, and is also a story of the power of many. It shows how a person with a vision, backed by a supportive team with access to resources, can mobilise like-minded people who together can have a tremendous impact on one of the world’s biggest cities.

The new normal

We now have many solutions available to us that will undoubtley become the new normal. For example, Project Draw Down contains over 100 solutions that already exist in practice, and the new emerging regenerative sustainability standards such as the Living Building Challenge  that gives us a new direction for a new future built environment.

The keynote focused on two new normal aspects – Healthy Material and Rethinking Carbon …

Healthy Materials:

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Declare is the ILFI material declaration standard against the Living Building Challenge Redlist– a key area of debate for LBC, Well Build, Google and other projects in London at the moment.
The Declare label asks three questions .

  • Where does a product come from?
  • What is it made of?
  • Where does it go at the end of its life?

Rethinking Carbon:

There is a growing recognition to reimagine carbon. Thinking of carbon as an unwanted evil may be preventing real advance on effective carbon management.

Maybe the metric for carbon success is not just reduction in fugative emissions but a metric that acknowledges the carbons locked into circular economy materials (Durable Carbon) and carbon returned to where it belongs (Living Carbon)

The keynote provided examples of two Living Building Challenge projects, the Bullitt Centre in Seattle & the Cuerdon Valley Park in Lancashire, and concluded with the question – ‘how will your organisation, your product, your building get beyond zero’

Specifi events are unique, providing an opportunity to listen and to learn from inspirational speakers, an opportunity to learn and share in an informal networking format with leading exhibitors and industry colleagues, and then to discuss in more detail over a three course meal. (All included in the free attendee ticket price!)

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Download an abridged version of the Specifi Services London keynote

See you at the next Specifi: Design in Manchester in 2018

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Revolutionary, Regenerative Sustainability; RESTORE Training School

The UK RESTORE Training School

The first RESTORE Training School took place in Lancaster, UK between 14th and 17th November 2017 organised and facilitated by Martin Brown, Fairsnape. Over 40 trainees and RESTORE core group members attended, representing a great spectrum of sustainability disciplines, experience and EU countries. The four days were lead by trainers and guest lectures from the UK, EU and USA, but with a distinct Lancashire focus!.

The focus was firmly on Regenerative Sustainability, Biophilia, and Sustainability Education,  in four days trainees gained a deep understanding of Restorative and Regenerative Sustainability and the key topics from RESTORE working groups.

The week was very busy and very interesting, with topics and activities that went well beyond my initial scope and expectations” Trainee Report Feedback

Training school designed to progress the RESTORE Cost Actions purpose.

“I believe this was the beginning of something bigger and totally revolutionary”            Trainee Report Feedback

Discussions and agreement on sustainability definitions was a crucial start to the four day training school

“I received clear definitions and deep understanding of three basic, but important words: sustainability, restoration and regeneration. I think that this precise explanation will allow me to direct my research toward more “green direction” Trainee Report Feedback

 

“So one of the key insights to me was to understand sustainable design as a philosophy. It’s not a list of do’s and don’ts about materials, site development, and building systems. It’s a holistic ethic that includes all the stakeholders in the dialogue, encouraging feedback for continuous refinement and improvement. It seeks to imitate the efficiency and diversity of nature and create design solutions that are responsive, self-regulating, and full of spirit” Trainee Report Feedback

“Working with experts from different fields, discussing different ideas, learning about others and about their expereinces, their work, education, their side of the story – that is how you can learn so much in just few days, something that you can not learn by reading only books. I am so very glad that I was part of this Training School and I can surely say that I had a great time, but at the same time learnt a lot”  Trainee Report Feedback

“Do nothing today to compromise tomorrows generation” Also, the concepts of salutogenesis and healthy materials were introduced. These were completely new expressions to me, so besides trying to process all the information I had great times in the debate parts, where discussions among a completely heterogeneous group lead to a perfect understanding. Trainee Report Feedback

State of the Art and Visions from the working group subgroups central to the training school content

“Newly learned term: salutogenesis. The “sustainability” of the people living/working inside a building could be more important than the sustainability of the building itself”  Trainee Report Feedback

Quotes and comments shared through social media during the four days made for a good number of Regenerative Sustainability Takeaways …

“The Living Building Challenge presented itself as one of the most holistic sustainable building standards I have come across and I would really hope to get the LFA certification and aim for a LBC building in one of my future projects. I also thought the 20 LBC imperatives provide a great lens in which to scrutinise projects”. Trainee Report Feedback

Project visits to Brockholes and CVP enabled the students to witness the application of the topics covered during the training school. Planting trees at the Living Building Challenge Project ( in part to offset carbon from travel, but also to provide locally available Larch timber for any future cladding replacement of the Visitor Centre)

“New approaches were given, new ideas were born and this was only possible due to amazing hosts and organizers which knew how to keep us motivated and focused all day long… hard work was done, and great results were attained” Trainee Report Feedback

Read our Storify here 

Download our full infographic here

 

(Header Image Credits TopL JustEngland.org TopR Lancaster Uni. Bot L+R Martin Brown @fairsnape)

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Towards 1.5 DegC: Built Environment’s role in COP23

pexels-photo-425050-2COP23 located in Bonn, Germany and hosted by Fiji takes place from 6 – 17 November.

The hosting by Fiji is significant as as a island nation they already feel the impact of climate change more than other nations. Fiji will also bring a new consensus building and discussion approach to COP23 – ‘Talanoa’.

Talanoa is a Pacific, story telling, term for discussions aimed at building consensus, airing differences constructively, and finding ways to overcome difficulties or embark on new projects. It is one of the building blocks of Fijian society, used for centuries to foster greater understanding among a people distributed over many small islands, and carry them through a tough existence. It is hoped that Talanoa will break deadlocks that have limited COP progress over the last 20 years.

The built environment

In recognition of its crucial role of the built environment, (as part of the climate change ‘problem’ and part of the solution for reducing CO2 emissions) the sector should receive high levels of visibility at this year´s COP.

An unprecedented four-day buildings programme has been pulled together by Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction  which has at its core the overarching goal of COP23:

To harness innovation, enterprise and investment to fast track the development and deployment of climate solutions that will build future economies with net zero greenhouse gas emissions, in an effort to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

You should be able to follow discussions, comments and outcomes from the four days via a combination of #COP23 #GABC twitter hashtags 

Setting the scene: Building Action Symposium

9 November action is very much at the heart of the Building Action Symposium, a public event that will kick off the four-day event programme.

The objective of this action day is to identify key ingredients to achieving a low-carbon, energy efficient buildings and construction sector that will help to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement from 2015.

Turning theory into practice: Best practice examples on the ground

To illustrate that it is possible to walk the talk, the following day, a guided tour by the Federal Chamber of German Architects will showcase a selection of local buildings that are exemplary for sustainable architecture, including a day care centre and student housing.

Bringing about change within the construction and real estate sector: Human Settlements Day

Taking onboard recommendations from the Building Action Symposium on 9 November, this event will explore high impact change agents and measures, the role of private sector engagement and how to link buildings to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Linking buildings to the Sustainable Development Goals: SDG11 Day

Finally, Monday, 13 November is SDG11 Day will see a high-level dialogue between country representatives and senior industry leaders focused on ensuring the buildings sector delivers against key relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals:

  • SDG11 – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • SDG7   – Ensure access to affordable and clean energy
  • SDG13 – Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Sources: this post is based on and adapted from

RICS News post

Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction

Guardian 6th Nov 

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Reimagining Construction Materials: (Waste) Food for Thought.

 

pexels-photoA new Arup publication, (The Urban Bio-Loop) aims to demonstrate that a different paradigm for materials in construction is possible, through the adoption of organic waste re-imagined as construction materials.

“Adopting the principles of Circular Economy provides the rationale for a shift from a linear (take, make, dump) disposal model – towards a circular value chain where organic waste is the main resource.

The use of organic waste in construction would possibly allow the exploitation of its untapped value with a positive impact not only from an environmental perspective but also from a technical, social and economic standpoint”

The waste and resource use profile of construction is not healthy, as reinforced by statistics within the report. For example,  60% of UK raw materials are consumed by construction and operation of the built environment and up to 30% of EU waste comes from construction. (FutuREstorative used the 40% rule of thumb for waste and resource use)

And the food waste sector is equally poor, with 0.6 billion tonnes consumer organic waste produced globally,  accounting for 5% of global green house gases.

The report suggests that “organic waste from our cities and countryside, traditionally managed through landfill, incineration and composting could be diverted – at least in part – to become a resource for the creation of construction engineering and architecture products before being fed back in the biological cycle at the end of their service life”

Intriguing and Inspiring facts and examples include:

  • Pineapple: Internal cladding and furniture
  • Rice: Brick and Block Products. Rice can be also used as raw material for board production
  • Banana fruit and leaves can be used to obtain rugged textiles and carpets. The material is 100% biodegradable. http://leoxx.nl/
  • Sunflower: floors walls and ceiling boards, made by the repurposing of waste from sunflower harvesting. They are made by just adding water, heat and pressure with no additives. http://www.kokoboard.com/
  • Peanut: Flame retardant boards, made by the repurposing of waste from peanut shells. Peanuts shell are turned into particle boards by a hot press procedure and the use of a formaldehyde-free (e.g. soy based) adhesives.

Download the Arup report from https://www.arup.com/en/publications/research/section/the-urban-bio-loop 

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