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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Recognising Outstanding Young People in Construction

The Construction Development Alliance (CDA)Young Persons Awards was held on the 26th May at Burnley Mechanics Theatre. Hosted by  TV Presenter Dominic Littlewood and supporting the YMCA Young Persons Housing Project, the event recognised outstanding young talent within the North West. The impressive winners for each individual category had been announced, and the overall winner was announced live at the event. 

Category Winners are:

Pearl Cavaney – Young Designer (Burnley College)

Bobby Bolton – Young Construction Professional (LendLease)

Lucy Anderson – Young Construction Environmentalist (Sheffield Hallam University)

Franchesca Hurn – Young Construction Apprentice (M’s Touch Female Decorators)

James Eastham – Overcoming Adversity  (Eric Wright Construction)

And the overall winner was Bobby Bolton – Young Construction Professional (LendLease)

News, pictures and more were shared from the event on twitter using the #CDAAwards16 hashtag and a storify record created here.

BROCHURE winners page

 

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Biophilic Design & Rewilding- the secret sauce of sustainability?

Biophilia is emerging as the secret sauce of sustainability. It is not just about being able to see trees and fields from our windows, or having green plants within rooms, but something deeper and more profound.

The Cuerdon Valley Park Visitor Centre in Lancashire, the first UK project to be registered for and working towards Living Building Challenge certification, recently staged a project team biophilic design workshop (1), led by Joe Clancy using the Terrapin Bright Green guide ’14 Patterns of Biophilic Design’ (Joe, as an intern with Terrapin Bright Green was part of the guide team and co-author)

The workshop reviewed the design, construction and operation of the building from a new perspective, through each of the 14 patterns, covering aspects from light through to the layout of chairs and food to be served in the cafe.

 

Biophilia translates as love of nature and in design terms the consideration of how our innate relationship with nature can be addressed within buildings. We have evolved as part of nature, and as such the human mind and body function with greater efficiency and performance when natural elements are present. Biophilic design is ensuring that these elements and patterns are present.

Biophilic elements enhance wellbeing, foster the feel good factor, reduce building related illness and even improve health. For example light as in daylight, circadian lighting, differing light spectrums is being considered as a form of medicine, not only to reduce illness, but to improve and maintain health.

ReWilding
There is much talk of rewilding at present, and as rewilding nature and environments is not just about reintroducing wolf, lynx or other top of the chain predators but more about restoring or regenerating the natural environment ‘creating conditions that allow the emergence of natural responsiveness and development’(2)

We should learn from and apply rewilding thinking to our built environment,and in doing so rewild people, those who inhabit buildings, creating the conditions, through for eg biomimicry and biophilic applications, that allow (new and existing) buildings to breathe and to respond to natural and bioclimatic cycles. We are losing or removing our natural barometers from buildings, increasingly replacing them with SMART technologies, to satisfy a blinked focus on energy performance. In turn, this has weakened our intrinsic relationship with nature.(3)

It is recognised that a lack of connection with nature reduces our tolerance to respect the environment. However, enabling biophilic conditions that ‘rewild’ our built environment will improve user behaviour and increase respect for the sustainable function of buildings.

Biophilia could, therefore be a root cause solution to addressing our buildings sustainability performance, closing performance gaps, providing salutogenetic improvement on the health & well-being of those using the building, and providing business benefits relating to people costs and productivity

And, biophilic workshops are not just for green building design, but should be part of the start-up activities for any project, considering in addition to the building in use, the biophilic aspects of the construction process. Biophilic thinking applied to construction environment can address the stress, mental health and safety, productivity, enthusiasm and wellbeing of those working on our construction projects. Therefore, biophilic thinking could be a key to improving construction quality, environmental and safety compliance, productivity and hence costs.

On two, very recent, project sustainability review/audits, it has been encouraging to hear of construction organisations increasing awareness of biophilia through training related to health, sustainability and design.

(1) Report available soon.

(2) George Monbiot in Feral

(2) extract from FutuREstorative

Lynx Kitten Image:   www.conservationjobs.co.uk

Rewilding Building Image: Cuerdon Valley Park Visitor Centre

Rewilding People image – see – Last Child in the Woods Richard Louv

Images from Sense of Urgency presentation available on Slideshare.

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Are we Building Schools for the Future???

Dangerous and dilapidated, poorly built and wasteful. Too many school buildings are failing our children + teachers wellbeing and educational attainment reports the RIBA in a comprehensive POE research based paper that calls for a Government review.

Since the early 2000’s Building Schools for the Future programme, through to the current EFA and Academy programmes it is concerning to read our schools still do not have civilised environments, foster health, wellbeing and happiness, delight and inspire children and teachers*

The RIBA report focuses on how design impacts on wellbeing but sadly omits the body of research and knowledge on biophilia and importance of connectivity with nature.

schoolsbanner-Cropped-660x424cropped

RIBA’s new report into the state of school buildings, Better Spaces for Learning reveals:

  • 1 in 5 teachers have considered quitting because of the wretched condition of the school buildings they have to teach in
  • The Government’s Education Funding Agency’s new school building programme is too rigid and is leading to waste and poor value for tax payers
  • Over 90% of teachers believe well-built and designed schools improve educational outcomes and pupil behaviour
  • Over-engineered schools, with Government-specified equipment that only costly consultants know how to operate, is costing £150 million per year which could have been avoided if schools were designed better

A new report on the state of school buildings in the UK has been published today (Wednesday 11 May) by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Using the largest ever analysis of primary and secondary school buildings in the UK, a nation-wide poll of teachers, and extensive engagement with school buildings experts, RIBA’sBetter Spaces for Learning report makes the case for an urgent review of the Government’s Education Funding Agency’s current school building programme.

The report emphasises the importance of well-designed school buildings on young people’s wellbeing, behaviour engagement and crucially, attainment.

RIBA has identified that good school design can reduce running and maintenance costs, in some cases by more than several times a teacher’s average salary a year; it could have prevented the English school estate from spending upwards of £150m annually on unnecessary operation and maintenance costs.

The new report is further insight into the Government’s own assertion that just 5% of the nearly 60,000 school buildings across the UK are performing as intended and operating efficiently.* The prevalence of damp, leaky classrooms and asbestos-ridden buildings in British schools means too many pupils and teachers are struggling to learn and teach in conditions damaging to their health and education.

Better Spaces for Learning reveals that the Government’s current programme of building new schools is inefficient – with a lack of flexibility to make the best possible use of resources, and little opportunity for school staff to input into the design of their own new buildings. RIBA believes that the Government programme must be improved to guarantee better outcomes for our public money.

RIBA President Jane Duncan said:

“This country is in the grip of the worst shortage of school places in living memory. Our report highlights the vital importance of school design and how it affects the general health and wellbeing of their users, our children and their teachers. As limited funding is available to deal with the growing problem, every penny spent on schools must deliver maximum value for money. Award winning well-designed, successful schools with happy pupils and productive staff like Burntwood School in London shouldn’t be the exception, they should be the standard.

“How can we expect our children to compete with the world’s best when too many of our school buildings are substandard? Educational improvements resulting from the current programme of school building are not reaching the basic standards that British taxpayers and our economy expects. We need to do better for all of our children and their hardworking teachers. We urge the Government to review its programme of building new schools.”

(*to use Living Building Challenge parlance).

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