Biophilia and Beauty

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” John Muir, The Yosemite, 1912

“Beauty is an experience – it is not the property of an object. It is not a permanent state, but the response a person will have to something, another person or action, a feeling or object.”

Over the weekend I sat down to read and review Wellbeing In Interiors, Philosophy, Design & Value in Practice by Elina Grigoriou, recently published by RIBA. A book that is indeed a welcomed and fresh contribution to wellbeing within the built environment. I was struck on the alignment of my thinking with that of Elina in particular regarding ‘beauty’.

The latest edition of Living Building Challenge, 4.0, has moved biophilic design from the Health and Happiness ‘petal’ to Beauty. This takes a little understanding of the philosophy of beauty and nature, something Elina describes within Part 1 ‘Philosophy: prerequisites and outputs of wellbeing’

There is a caveat here., in that we should strive to be far less human-centric when considering biophilia and create buildings and spaces that are both regenerative and beneficial to nature and to humans. Seeing ourselves as part of nature not apart from, and nature as something that happens around us. In this thinking Biophilia would have found a better home in the Place petal, celebrating and recognising our inclusion within Ecology of Place.

Elina refers to the Living Building Challenge, noting the requirement towards creating aesthetically beautiful buildings and spaces, where beauty is a key requirement for a sustainable outcome.

a requirement that neatly explains LBC’s vision in nurturing designs that do not just elevate but celebrate peoples spirit and inspire everyone to be and to do better.”

The conclusion follows that if we design and incorporate biophilic principles within our buildings, we are creating beautiful buildings.

Wellbeing in Interiors also sheds light on another issue I am currently exploring, that of measuring biophilic interventions. Our COST Restore working group looking at KPI’s for interior comfort has identified biophilia as a key performance driver, and exploring indicators that observe successful biophilic designs.

Wellbeing in Interiors addresses this issue in the chapter defining project KPIs and UPA’s (User Profile Activities) within in the ‘Value in Practice: Measuring Wellbeing” section, and again, I am inspired with alignment on my thinking regarding the use of Maslow’s hierarchy (a commonly talked about but underused model) as the basis for inhabitant wellbeing when conducting POE assessments.

Indeed Wellbeing In Interiors provides much fresh thinking for moving the increasingly stale POE and ‘user’ evaluations into a modern, regenerative approach to measuring and monitoring the value of wellbeing interventions.

I look forward to exploring more of Wellbeing In Interiors in future review and insight articles.

Image: Google Earth

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Climate and Biodiversity Emergency commitment, expectations and actions: the new bidding and procurement criteria?

Are commitments and actions towards Climate and Biodiversity becoming procurement criteria for consultants, designers, contractors and building product manufacturers, and criteria for selecting which contracts to bid?

Practices and organisations who are making climate and biodiversity emergency Promise of Declarations are questioned on their actions, and outcomes on issues pledged within the declarations, for example:

  • Raising awareness,
  • Moving to regenerative design practices
  • Set mitigation as critical measures for awards, prizes and listings.
  • Sharing knowledge on open source basis
  • Evaluate all new projects against (climate declaration)
  • Going beyond net zero carbon
  • Collaborate (on climate / biodiversity emergencies)
  • Shift to low embodied carbon materials in all work

The pressure from investment organisations such as the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) in expecting material companies to make commitments on:

  • Accountability and oversight of climate change risk and opportunities.
  • Action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across their value chain consistent with the Paris Agreement’s goal
  • Provide corporate disclosure

Interesting the Creative Climate declaration contains the pledge to

  • Reveal income from fossil fuel and high carbon clients
  • Not work with fossil fuel client briefs’

Assessing Regenerative Sustainability Capacity

Although written before the current raft of declarations, the RESTORE WG3 Publication provides a Regenerative PQQ procurement guide. (Pages 41-45)

Header image by Mehmet Kürşat Değer on Unsplash

Investors call on construction material companies to commit to net zero emissions by 2050

Brick, Stone, Blocks, Building Material, Construction

With the construction materials sector exposed to significant transition and physical risk resulting from climate change, the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) recent paper, Investor Expectations of Companies in the Construction Materials Sectoroutlines the steps that investors expect companies to take to manage climate risks and accelerate action to decarbonise in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The guide is endorsed by other investor networks that make up the Global Investor Coalition of Climate Change, and was developed in line with the goals of Climate Action 100+ in order to inform investor engagement with construction material firms on the initiative’s global list of 161 focus companies.

Investors supporting the Climate Action 100+ initiative expect construction material companies to make commitments in respect of

  • Implement a strong governance framework which clearly articulates the board’s accountability and oversight of climate change risk and opportunities.
  • Take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across their value chain, consistent with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the increase in global average temperatures to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Provide enhanced corporate disclosure in line with the final recommendations of the TCFD5 and, when applicable, sector-specific Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change Investor Expectations on Climate Change to enable investors to assess the robustness of companies’ business plans against a range of climate scenarios, including well below 2°C and improve investment decision-making.

Climate change risk is especially acute for companies that manufacture cement. As the most widely used construction material globally, cement is the source of 7 percent of global man-made carbon dioxide emissions. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest global emitter, behind only China and the US.

RE:Sources

Declare is a construction materials transparency disclosure programme.

The Living Product Challenge is a climate responsible framework certification programme for manufacturers to create products that are healthy, inspirational and regenerative, giving back to the environment and people. https://living-future.org/lpc/

The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), is the European forum for investor collaboration on climate actionand the voice of investors taking action for a prosperous, low carbon, future. 

A Promise of Declarations

What is the collective noun for declarations? An argument, (used to describe architects and wizards) sounds a good fit. But I like a Promise of Declarations.

Coupled with recent findings from the IPCC, the UK’s CCC Net Zero Report and inspiration from Greta Thunberg and school strikers, over 100 local authorities, have declared a climate emergency and / or committed to net zero carbon by 2030 or 2050. And within the built environment we have declarations from Architects (now over 500 practice signatures), Landscape Architects, Structural Engineers, Service Engineers, Creative Communicators and even Construction Supply Chains. Check them out:

And this is not just a UK initiative, there is also an Australian Architects Declaration at https://au.architectsdeclare.com.

And, if anyone is setting up, or knows of a construction sector emergency declaration, I would be more than keen to assist/support

Tell the Truth: The first objective of call of extinction rebellion is to recognise that a climate emergency exists and to tell the truth. The second is to Act Now. Now that these groups, institutes, practices and individuals have recognised a climate emergency problem exists, we can act, and now is the time to turn these commitments into actions.

Act Now – All of these declarations have similar, reassuring, commitments for faster change in our industry towards regenerative approaches. And in doing so recognising that business as usual sustainability (BAUS) has not moved the needle on carbon, global climate temperatures or biodiversity.

“faster change in our industry towards regenerative design practices”

Reducing Impact no longer cuts it
We need to move positive good of Regenerative Sustainability

Act NowReimagine carbon – the greatest contribution we can make in the built environment, given that we emit 40% of emissions, is to design, deliver buildings that store carbon.

Reimagine Carbon, Carbon is not the Enemy

Act NowDeclare: Only with greater transparency in respect of the products we use, can we address impacts our buildings have on human, biodiversity and planetary health. Declare is focused on taking toxic materials out of the Built Environment through fostering a transparent materials economy free of toxins and harmful chemicals.

3 Collaborate and going beyond silos, we cannot do this alone and will need the might of all good collaborative working approaches from the last 30 years. One powerful benefit of Living Building Challenge accreditation, in not awarding certification until design intent is proven over a 12 months continuous period, is the way in which design, construction, facilities managers and those using the building have to collaborate for sustainable success

RE:Sources

Climate Emergency Score Card Report: UK Must do better, within 18 months

It’s taken a while to read through the latest report from Committee on Climate Change, the government’s official climate change advisers, which forms the most recent assessment of progress in preparing for climate change in England, but here is an overview from a built environment perspective.

The report warns of a failure in cutting emissions fast enough, and adapting to rising temperatures, recommending that the UK Government raise the profile, and strengthen the governance, of preparations for the impacts of climate change. Actions over the next 18 months will determine the success of climate change ambitions. (See infograph below)

It also comes after a raft of Climate Emergency declarations from the UK Government, over 100 councils, Architects, RIBA, Landscape Institute and others that acknowledge the climate and biodiversity emergency with pledges to act on a raft of regenerative approaches.

Key Findings

The priority given to adaptation, including through the institutional and support framework in England, has been eroded over the past ten years.

England is still not prepared for even a 2°C rise in global temperature, let alone more extreme levels of warming. Only a handful of sectors have plans that consider a minimum of 2°C global warming – water supply, road and rail, flood defences and fl­ood risk planning for infrastructure.

Many national plans and policies still lack a basic acknowledgement of long-term climate change, or make a passing mention but have no associated actions to reduce risk. This includes aspects of agriculture, the natural environment, health, other infrastructure sectors and business.

None of the sectors assessed has yet been given top scores for reducing the risks from climate change through appropriate action.

The UK Government must raise the profile, and strengthen the governance, of preparations for the impacts of climate change. It should ramp up resources and action on all of the urgent risks set out in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, continue to take appropriate action for those classed as less urgent (but still relevant), and monitor the effects on climate risk over the next five year period.

Headlines (relating to the built environment)

Built environment and health, in respect of homes and hospital overheating, flooding % water, impact on biodiversity and air quality are singled out for lack of progress,

New policies must be found to help people lead healthy lives without fuelling global warming.

The report gives a low score to planning …. “short-term plans exist to provide guidance during hot and cold weather. However, longer-term adaptation plans to mitigate the long- term risks of climate change are missing, despite CCRA2 highlighting the risks to health from heat as an urgent priority. Plans are in place to review the Building Regulations, but as yet, there are no significant shifts in policy to ensure that new buildings are being designed with the future climate in mind and no strategies exist to help to adapt existing buildings.

It warns that the UK is failing to insulate itself from the knock-on effects of climate change overseas, such as colonisations by new species, changes in the suitability of land for agriculture or forestry, and risks to health from changes in air quality driven by rising temperatures.

Green space in parks and gardens, cools cities and helps reduce flood risks. But as more homes are crammed into cities, green spaces had shrunk from 63% of urban area in 2001 to 55% in 2018.

Heat magnifies the production of pollutants, so more people are expected to suffer breathing problems. Meanwhile, the proportion of hard surfaces in towns has risen by 22% since 2001, even though they make floods worse.

Building Over Bluebells

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Jackie Morris in the latest episode of the excellent FolkonFoot podcast series mentioned that children in schools she had visited didn’t know what a wren or bluebell or dandelion was. This ‘revelation’ that led to the creation of The Lost Words with Robert Macfarlane and reinforced the importance of words, and reminded me, why in FutuREstorative, I referenced a passage from Robert Macfarlane.

In a recent revision to the Oxford Junior Dictionary, a number of entries no longer deemed appropriate to were deleted and replaced by more modern entries. As nature writer Robert Macfarlane noted: ‘The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow.’ These were replaced by block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail. As Macfarlane said: ‘For “blackberry”, read “Blackberry’’’. This emphasises the need to re-wild our language as a precursor to understanding the importance of connectivity.”

FutuREstorative

Imagine if those children, oblivious to what a bluebell was, move on to a career role in construction, or design or planning. Being unaware of the ecological importance and cultural history, would they be less likely to protect, and more likely to sanction development?

This is of course against backdrop of the UN biodiversity assessment that we will lose 1 million species over the next decade, due to amongst other factors, land development, and against the grain of the current biodiversity net-gain initiatives, and the signing of climate emergency declarations such as architects declaration that includes recognition of a biodiversity emergency.

The twin crises of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss are the most serious issue of our time. Buildings and construction play a major part, accounting for nearly 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions whilst also having a significant impact on our natural habitats.

Architects Declaration

Such a lack of knowledge reinforces the need for ecology, and or climate emergency however you wish to define it, be a taught not only in schools but also as an ecology 101 for all design, construction trade and management training programmes. As we move more and more towards natural solutions for our buildings and building services, understanding how natural ecological systems function is vital. Without such knowledge, we will not indeed be able to design buildings that function as trees, living buildings such as the Bullitt Center, still the greenest building in the world

(Buildings and Cities) behave so much like living organisms that it is time to begin thinking of them as such. They consume oxygen, water, fuel and other natural resources, and burp out the waste. They have circulatory systems and neural pathways and at least a reptilian sort of brain to provide governing impulses.

Seattle Times
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A Module Programme for students and professionals, based on FutuREstorative, takes participants from an understanding of culture and challenges, ecological and human health, through a new thinking to regenerative building standards and digital futures. For more information, just ask.

Smart material reuse and sustainability innovations reduce construction and operation carbon.

Smart material reuse and sustainability innovations at British Land development will reduce carbon in construction and operation by 33% …

British Land Development at 1 Triton Square works closely with design teams and contractor to retain much of the original building. Smart material reuse and sustainability innovations mean that the building will produce 33% less carbon in construction and operation than best practice new build equivalents – a reduction of 35,600 tonnes of CO2e.

This saving is greater than the building’s operational emissions over the next 20 years and it exceeds the ambitious carbon reduction targets required to meet the UK’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. It’s equivalent to the emissions from heating and powering 8,800 UK homes for a year. High efficiency equipment, low-carbon materials and a circular approach to waste are all part of our BREEAM Outstanding sustainability plans for 1 Triton Square.

https://www.britishland.com/sustainability/strategy/sustainable-development

Part of a Fairsnape Climate Emergency Solutions series