Cities setting biophilic commitments.

Pittsburgh has become the latest city to be inducted into the Biophilic City network, setting ambitions and commitments to eliminate the use of all pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, to increase the city’s tree canopy from 42 percent to 60 percent by 2030, to pursue  the daylighting of streams in stormwater management efforts and to develop more greenways.

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To qualify as a Biophilic City, cities work within a number of guidelines and monitoring indicators:

Guidelines:

  • Biophilic cities are cities of abundant nature in close proximity to large numbers of urbanites; biophilic cities are biodiverse cities, that value, protect and actively restore this biodiversity; biophilic cities are green and growing cities, organic and natureful;
  • In biophilic cities, residents feel a deep affinity with the unique flora, fauna and fungi found there, and with the climate, topography, and other special qualities of place and environment that serve to define the urban home; in biophilic cities citizens can easily recognise common species of trees, flowers, insects and birds (and in turn care deeply about them);
  • Biophilic cities are cities that provide abundant opportunities to be outside and to enjoy nature through strolling, hiking, bicycling, exploring; biophilic cities nudge us to spend more time amongst the trees, birds and sunlight.
  • Biophilic cities are rich multi-sensory environments, where the sounds of nature (and other sensory experiences) are appreciated as much as the visual or ocular experience; biophilic cities celebrate natural forms, shapes, and materials;
  • Biophilic cities place importance on education about nature and biodiversity, and on providing many and varied opportunities to learn about and directly experience nature; in biophilic cities there are many opportunities to join with others in learning about, enjoying, deeply connecting with, and helping to steward nature, whether though a nature club, organised hikes, camping in city parks, or volunteering for nature restoration projects;
  • Biophilic cities invest in the social and physical infrastructure that helps to bring urbanites to closer connection and understanding of nature, whether through natural history museums, wildlife centres, school-based nature initiatives, or parks and recreation programs and projects, among many others;
  • Biophilic cities are globally responsible cities that recognise the importance of actions to limit the impact of resource use on nature and biodiversity beyond their urban borders; biophilic cities take steps to actively support the conservation of global nature.

Indicators

  • Natural Conditions (eg % of forest or tree canopy cover, % working/living within 300m of green space, area of green roofs, living walls)
  • Biophilic Engagement ( eg daily visits to green spaces, flora and fauna eco-literacy, outdoor activity membership)
  • Biophilic Institutions, planning and governance, (eg city budget allocated to nature conservation, restoration education)
  • Human Health and Wellbeing (% spending 30 mins + in urban nature, in outdoor activities, equitable and just access to nature)

Other aspects of a biophilic city include bird friendly, water friendly (blue urbanism) and dark sky preservation.

Other Biophilic Cities include Wellington, NZ; Birmingham, UK; Victoria Gasteiz ; Spain; Portland, USA and Singapore.

The Biophilic City website has a wealth of information, stories and resources.

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The Connected Construction Generation

F U T U R E S T O R A T I V E  Extract Page 139

CHAPTER SEVEN: A DIGITALLY FUELLED RESTORATIVE FUTURE 

The rise of social media has led to a communications shift in the way construction industry professionals share information and participate in conversations. In many ways, this new social dimension – based on engagement, relationships and trust – is at odds with the historical construction industry approaches of competitiveness and fear of sharing.

bridge-bricks-steel-cables-suspension-bridgeWe are seeing the emergence of a new ‘connected construction generation’ sharing information in real time across organisations, sectors and countries, and forming digital communities of practice. Good examples are the influential #Be2Camp and #UKBIMCrew, cross-organisation communities sharing social media and BIM knowledge.

Groupings of conversations with a focus on sustainability, BIM and collaborative working are creating communities whose participants are both ‘Generous and Expert’. That is, they are …

FutuREstorative – Working Towards a New Sustainability

 

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UK among the most nature-depleted countries in the world…

Agriculture, Urbanisation, Wetland and Forestry Management alongside Climate Change are the cause in a significant drop in the health and state of UK nature and wildlife. The State of Nature 2016 report published today describing the UK as “among the most nature-depleted countries in the world”

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The 2016 Report led by the RSPB and the collaborative effort of over 50 conservation organisations details the dramatic decline in nature as a result of climate change “overwhelming negative” agriculture, industrialisation and urbanisation, pointing out that it is not just historical but continues today.

The report highlights the positive efforts with examples of natural habitat and wildlife recovery but sadly points out there are too few to prevent a tipping point, citing how public funding for biodiversity has decreased by a third over the last 7 years.

Of particular interest, relating to the current surge of interest of nature within the health, wellbeing and biophilic agendas, and recognition of biophilia and rewilding as the secret sauce for sustainability, is the report’s Connection to Nature Index.

connection-to-nature-index

  • Nature can have positive impacts on young people’s education, physical health, emotional well-being, and personal and social skills,
  • Only 21% of eight to 12-year-olds in the UK currently have a level of connection to nature that is considered to be a realistic and achievable target for all children.
  • Children who were more connected to nature had significantly higher English attainment” and that there are “strong correlations between [connection to nature] and pro-nature behaviours and pro-environmental behaviours.”

 

 

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Books that have shaped our thinking … Parts 1 and 2

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 – Anne’s Books 

It feels strange to say that I enjoyed the journey with Martin back from Andrew’s funeral but so it is.‘Death is the great re-organiser’ I read the other day and have reflected on how true this is – how paths then take new turns, how events are changed or adapted or gain new meanings, how people are further drawn together or sent further apart. Even more than that it is astonishing how much you learn about people and yourself from the death of a close friend.

Like many people I knew Andrew Platten firstly in a professional context and then he became a friend. This feels to me like a very joyful process and I personally love the interaction between friendships and professional contacts – why not? Do we need walls around different areas of our lives?

So it was with this conversation about books….My memory is that we discussed our ‘favourite’ books and so I was fascinated to read in Martin’s blog about books that shaped our thinking. I had a wonderful moment of reflection on this – is my list one and the same? Are my favourite books the ones that have most shaped my thinking? Largely, my answer is ‘no’! This amused me. Whilst I love books that give me new angles and new perspectives on things, my most favourite books are ones that somehow feel musical or poetic in some way – feel soulful or even romantic. So again, I learn something about myself!

So here we go Martin, my top 5 ‘favourite’ books and my top 5 ‘books that have shaped my thinking’ list. I can compare and contrast and develop further insights no doubt! Andrew would be amused too – he loved a fun take on working life. This is his most powerful legacy to me and for which I am truly grateful. It is the capacity to love work and have fun with it which paradoxically gives it the most enduring and deepest impact. In my experience all endeavours that are done with love are the most sustainable. Actions driven by fear or grasping of some kind somehow just don’t do it….

Here’s to you Andrew and to Fairsnape and enduring connections!

Top 5 ‘favourite’ Books

1. ‘Dracula’ Bram Stoker

2. ‘About Love and Other Stories’ Anton Chekhov

3. The Poems of Rumi

4. ‘Little House on The Prairie’ Laura Ingalls Wilder

5. ‘True Love’ Thich Nhat Hanh

Top 5 ‘Shaped my Thinking’ Books

1. ‘A New Earth’ Eckhart Tolle

2. ‘A Course in Miracles’

3. ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ Marcus Buckingham

4. ‘The Way We’re Working isn’t Working’ Tony Schwartz

5. ‘Here Comes Everybody’ Clay Shirky

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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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