Built to Last – Designing Out Landfill

There has been an increase in circular economy thinking and the built environment recently, and no doubt we will see much more in the coming weeks and months.  It forms a core element behind the Green Vision half day conference in Leeds on the 12th Dec.

Whilst researching back ground information on “Designing Out Landfill” for a client I was struck by these useful paragraphs from Sophie Thomas  co-director of design at the RSA and published in a Guardian Sustainable Business article in September 2012

Built to last

Design sits at the heart of the challenge to create a circular economy. Approximately 80% of a product’s environmental impact is “locked in” at the design stage, so understanding production cycles and reconfiguring them for maximum effectiveness is key. We cannot simply substitute one material for another without understanding the consequences.

Designing in this way is complex. Gone are the days of “sustainable” or “eco” design, when a simple change of material to a recycled alternative would give a project environmental credibility. This system calls for investigation into materials at a molecular scale. It demands true co-creation, with all stakeholders involved in the lifecycle of a particular product. Finally, it requires a new logistical approach to capturing and recirculating materials.

This effort needs to be led by businesses. At the moment, it is rare to see a company setting a design brief that includes requirements to recover material. Now, however, the business model is changing and the economic imperative for recovery is growing stronger.

So…

How well is design, construction and facilities management prepared for such ‘deep green’ thinking to waste elimination?

Advertisements

UK’s first Best Practice Benchmarking Awards 2012

It was a real pleasure to sit on the judging panel for the UK’s first Best Practice Benchmarking Awards 2012, devised by the UK Benchmarking Institute in conjunction with The Best Practice Club and Ideas UK at the 2012 Ideas UK Conference on 8th November.

France Telecom Orange and HSBC received awards for their outstanding benchmarking projects.

France Telecom Orange for its “Broadband MTBA (Mean Time Between Assist)” project led by Thierry Denant, Senior Benchmarking Manager

HSBC, for its “When Social Media meets Business Strategy” project led by James Shewry, Best Place to Suggest Manager.

Ray Wilkinson, founding fellow of The Benchmarking Institute and director of the Best Practice Club explains:

“The Benchmarking Awards were set up to recognise examples of best practice in large organisations and raise awareness of benchmarking as THE most powerful business performance improvement technique around today.  Successful benchmarking requires organisations to identify clearly what performance they want to improve, understand it fully and then select, adapt and implement the most appropriate best practice available.  None of this is easy to do and many organisations have wasted lots of time, effort and money in benchmarking activities that have failed to deliver business benefits. Lack of awareness of how best to apply best practice is the root cause of this.

Benchmarking in its broadest definition remains the most popular performance improvement tool, although this claim would include the simple act of comparing performance with another organisation through KPI’s rather than structured benchmarking.

It was a pity that although interest was high there were no entrants from the built environment sector. Hopefully this will be corrected in 2013. Benchmarking remains an important business improvement tool for the sector, and as Paul Morrell commented recently, benchmarking should be driving construction costs.

“If a company wants to see a future, 80% of what it will have to learn will be from outside its own industry.”

As our improvement, communication and sustainability agenda has widened considerably with topics not traditionally found in construction, for example, social value, Corporate Social Responsibility  healthy materials and so on, it is arguably external benchmarking that will return maximum improvement to organisations and the industry.

The Benchmarking Awards is a judged competition, celebrating outstanding benchmarking at individual project level.  After all submissions were assessed, finalists were then selected and invited to present their submissions on the 8th November, at the Ideas UK Conference, where they were subjected to an in depth questioning process to explore the details of their benchmarking project.

The 2013 Awards will open for submissions from March next year.

The Benchmarking Institute consists of a wealth of unparalleled benchmarking experience. Check out the list of founding fellows and industries represented.

If you are interested in dramatically improving your business, looking to gain far much more value from KPI’s or just curious of how benchmarking can help reduce costs, the Benchmarking Institute can help.  Please do get in touch.

Awards reported in Project Manager

Eagle eyed observers will notice the Benchmarking Award is a replica of the Ordnance Survey trig column flush bracket plate. More here on wiki

Can social media power the Green Deal (and Sustainability)?

Earlier this year, through Be2camp, the built environment social media advocacy, we published a guide on using social media to improve understanding and application of Green Deal issues.  

This was discussed in a 2degreenework interview with myself and Stephen Kennett 

Stephen Kennett : You’ve launched the ‘Social media framework for the Green Deal’, can you explain what it’s about?

Martin Brown: Of course – It’s a wiki guide to using social media to improve understanding and application of Green Deal issues. It was initially compiled by a group of social media and sustainability advocates all working in the Green Deal space, and brought together through the Be2camp movement.

The purpose of the guide is to explain how social media can be used to understand, learn, and share Green Deal learning. The aim is to look at four key themes: Green Deal workflow – in other words, how the Green Deal will work in practice; Green Deal delivery – installation and the skills issues; Green Deal business issues; and visibility – promoting best practice and good news.

SK: Why use social media in the world of Green Deal? …. Read the rest of the interview here 

…. Access the guide to social media for green deal here  and please do add to the guide …

Or for more information just get in touch or drop us a tweet

Carbon taxes to deliver ‘free’ #GreenDeal home improvements? #CSR

Reducing carbon emissions and lifting home owners out of fuel poverty traps were central to the development of Green Deal.  Reducing CO2 through Green Deal was part of the government’s fourth Carbon Budget to deliver the Climate Change Act 2008.

Yet amidst all the financial  assessment and standards debates over the last 12 months, these drivers seem to have taken second place.

I have commented elsewhere that if the Government were serious on these two aims they would fund home improvements directly, rather than through complex repayment schemes. In addition to reducing CO2 it would of course create employment and have other financial spending knock ons. After all if our social housing stock was still within local council or government control would this not be the approach taken?

Good then to see the report and study from Consumer Focus, showing that a Government carbon tax based energy efficiency infrastructure investment could:

  • Generate up to 71,000 jobs and boost GDP by 0.2% by 2015 and create up to 130,000 jobs by 2027.
  • Lift up to nine out of ten households out of fuel poverty, reducing energy bills in all treated homes by at least £200 per year
  • Cut household energy consumption by 5.4 per cent by 2027 and quadruple the impact of the government’s energy savings schemes – Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation
  • Cut overall carbon emissions by 1.1 per cent, including household emissions reduced by around 5.6% by 2027

Mike O’Connor, Chief Executive at Consumer Focus, said:  Using carbon taxes to ensure our homes leak less energy represents a triple-whammy. This would simultaneously improve the quality of life of millions of people, slash carbon emissions and generate greater economic growth than other measures.

Government has the opportunity to use the large and stable revenues from carbon taxes to deliver the most breathtaking and transformative energy efficiency scheme that we have ever seen.’ 

But why wait? This could be a hugely powerful CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility, opportunity. Construction projects and organisations could voluntarily offset CO2 emissions (if offset is the right word here) by improving the energy performance of badly insulated homes and families trapped in fuel poverty, within their community or neighbourhoods.

A rough calculation shows that if we value carbon tax at 20/tonne, a carbon tax scheme or voluntary CSR scheme would generate 2000 for each million of construction value, (based on Constructco2 construction project emissions)

Certainly enough to improve a good number of fuel poverty trap homes across the UK

BIM: More than just an information model

Last month I was delighted to present and explore ‘BIM, Building Information Modelling’ with Yorkshire CIBSE members.

I wanted to reinforce a few BIM issues, in particular that

  • BIM is just not about buildings – but facilities
  • BIM is about collaborating and continues the collaborative working journey started way back in Building Down Barriers, Rethinking Construction and others since.
  • BIM needs people collaborating to be a success

and that BIM is more than just an information model.

Here is Simon Owens, (@CalibreSimon excellent commentary from the evening:

The evening started with an introduction from Jim Marner of the B&ES expressing the belief that there is something of a “genetic  flaw” that leads the industry to perpetuate problems, 80% of which he believes could be resolved at pre-contract stage and mainly relate to design and procurement. Jim went on to say that he sees BIM as being an opportunity to create a new model leading to more projects being completed with a greater level of success than previously.

Having laid the foundations for the discussion to follow Paul gave an overview and then went on to talk about the challenge of the 2016 BIM target and how SES had embraced it to prepare for that deadline and gain advantage. What they have found is that for advantage to be realised, general understanding of BIM, cost of implementation and construction industry methodology would need to be addressed.

Paul discussed how poor models would be of limited value and that issues regarding the transfer of data between Architects, Modellers and other disciplines can hinder the cornerstone of BIM; that of being able to use information more than once and smooth out procurement processes.

Lee then discussed the technology side of BIM within SES and how they use AutoCAD as a basic package with Revit for Stage E moving on to AutoDesk Fabrication (formerly FABMep+ and CADmep+ as separate packages, now merged), their own system to quantify costs before NavisWorks for 3D visualization, clash detection, coordination, presentations and bringing models in from other packages.

The idea is that core information comes in at one end and is progressed through the system until the final result is produced and he demonstrated the value of using information more than once by extracting design data for a module and importing it in to their cost system. He then showed how the system could provide a list of the constituent parts, costs and labour for that module. While very impressive, Lee was keen to point out that to reach the stage of being able to make it look that easy had taken several years and many hours of development.

Paul raised the following discussion points as part of his rounding off:
– The industry appears keen to embrace BIM and its expected benefits, but there are still factors holding it back such as knowledge and questions of achieving return on investment.
– Who are the BIM Heroes and where are they coming from?
– Whether the industry as a whole is ready for the necessary culture change as opposed to merely buying the appropriate packages/technology.
– There are still inefficiencies within project procurement which BIM may not be able to fully help address.

As a final statement he talked about the need to blur the boundaries between the various stages of building and the different parties involved to achieve the necessary degree of collaborative working needed for all to benefit.

This final statement led very nicely on to Martin’s presentation Copy of Martins presentation here where he started with a definition of BIM as follows:

“The total and virtual modelling of all aspects of a facility prior to construction, during construction and in use.”

Martin stressed the word facility as he believes that clients do not commission buildings, but places which have to fulfil a purpose. He then compared the 13 month build period of the Empire State Building at the rate of 1 story a day with a maximum of 3400 people on site and one contractor with Ropemaker Place which took 3 years, had a maximum of 500 people on site and 140 contractors. What happened to progression? Complexity of building, process and organisational complexity as well as inefficient production were given as reasons; things that Jim referred to at the start, that SES has been developing BIM to minimise and something which Martin believes can be avoided through collaboration.

The origins of BIM go further back than most people think with its roots being in “Building Down Barriers” (pre-dating Egan) and Richard Saxon’s “Be Valuable”, a book he recommends reading. Richard Saxon is now the UK Governments BIM Ambassador who has introduced regional people to promote BIM at a more local level.

Martin asked whether technology was ruling the roost, or enabling the process; the clear thing is, he stated, if BIM is to lead to a 20% cost reduction by 2016, but is costing the industry more now, it is going in the wrong direction and only has a short while to make up ground, a concern of Paul’s when there are just over 3 years to go.

Taking communication as the root issue of many problems Martin described how email was used as a “splatter gun” while an effective BIM process will see all information relating to a scheme in a central point, ordered and accessible to all involved.

This is indeed a step change for the industry and he feels that the education system is teaching students about the old way; failing to show their students about the culture that the industry is adopting for the future.

So how to move forward?
– Get all parties involved, especially the smaller players
– Be comfortable with paperless sharing
– Be comfortable using social media sharing and its place in BIM

To make the point Martin likened taking social media away from young people to telling the previous generation that they waste too much time talking on their mobile ‘phone.

As a partial answer to where are the BIM heroes, he suggested that they are the people who are using Minecraft, Second Life etc. to design virtual worlds could well be those people given suitable understanding of construction.

With his presentation drawing to a close Martin talked briefly about Honda how “everything they do, goes in to everything they do” and the development of their culture, mind set and working practices to eliminate waste.

As a final comment, Martin highlighted the thought that we’ve tried solving the problem with technology, found it didn’t work and needed to go back to collaboration and then design the technology to facilitate that.

For further thoughts there is a Tweetchat about BIM using #TBim as a hashtag on the 29th Nov at 8pm – for details about what one is click here

There is also the thinkBIM network which holds regular meetings and discussions around BIM and its development. For further information visit:

http://ckehub.org/thinkbim

It is also worth looking out for BIM Storms click here for details

Please do get in touch by email, twitter (@fairsnape) or leave a comment below if you wish to discuss any of the BIM issues raised here.

Ash disease and the built environment

There has been a huge amount of coverage in the media, and indeed across social media on Ash dieback disease, but little as yet related to the built environment, and the role we may have played in the spread of the disease or the potential impact it may, no will, have on the built environment.

Despite the UK Government (DEFRA) slow response, not to mention odd instructions to wash boots dogs and children after visits to the countryside, the causes of Ash Dieback seems to be emerging as:

  • Climate Change
  • Bio Security, or lack of
  • Demand for instant landscaping

The built environment is accountable for around 40% of climate change issues (waste, transport, carbon, energy etc) but its the increase in demand for instant green that may be our biggest contribution.  Odd isn’t it that efforts to plant trees and plants to provide green landscapes and green roofs in response to CO2 and biodiversity issues may have opened the door to yet bigger problems.

There is of course a great example of complexity theory at play here, we can no longer rely on cause effect thinking, but need to consider wider, biodiversity consequences. As Muir is quoted as saying ” when we tug at one part of nature we tug at the whole of nature”

  • We face a tidal wave of diseases with over 30 damaging pathogens identified poised, ready to threaten UK trees and plants. See Guardian article.
  • We face movement and transport restriction on timbers from Ash, Scots Pine and other plants, both in landscaping and use in construction, finishes and furniture.
  • We need to rethink, and fast

20121104-160816.jpg

I am reminded of my visit to UBC CIRS building in Vancouver last year and the gorgeous timbers in the atrium and main hall, timbers ‘salvaged’ from local forests affected by pine beetle disease and closely monitored by the Living Building Challenge.

As we launch Living Building in the UK with a UK collaborative, it may well be that the certification of future green buildings in the UK is through standards such as the Living Building Challenge, that give hard earned recognition to buildings and facilities that, like plants, contribute to making the world a better place.

The CIRS Building was recently profiled in our CKE Green Vision series with a presentation from Max Richter at Perkin+Will.

Green Vision is a key driver in launching Living Building thinking into the UK. Look out for more announcements at the next Green Vision conference event on the 12th Dec in Leeds and across the web. (Hashtag #GVis2012)

For more information on the Living Building collaborative in the UK, leave a comment, get in touch or pop over to our Living Building UK Collaborative page on Facebook and say hello.

Construction Carbon Cost and Risk Management

Having effective scenario planning in place within a construction business is essential to developing effective forward looking strategies that protect the business into the future and provide resilience against change.

One of our current uncertainties is related to the price of carbon, and how once the price of carbon has been fixed, how that will impact your business and project costs. It is now only a matter of time before carbon costing becomes established as an indicator and ‘repayment’ cost for your environmental impact

As with the increase cost of waste management over the last decade or so, cost of carbon will, most likely be a supply risk and cost.

The concept of shadow pricing is not new, (based on the lifetime damage costs associated with greenhouse gas emissions)  Applying a shadow cost to your carbon emissions now will enable you to action plan and reduce carbons, reducing exposure to future costs  hitting your business.

A good place to start is through measuring and understanding your project construction carbons with Constructco2 and then applying a carbon cost of £10 per tonne.  If you haven’t measured your construction carbons as yet (why not?) then use the ConstructCO2 benchmark of 96.7 Kg/£K project spend.

How would that cost affect your business? How would you manage projects with this additional cost, and importantly what actions would you take to reduce your project emissions?

Perhaps we should be asking the question will you start?

Many of the contractors, clients and subcontractors we support through constructco2 are seeing cost and bidding benefits. (More)

Useful Background Reading:

Based on recent Huffington Post article  The Benefits of Carbon Shadow Pricing Tyler Elm and Jim Harris

DECC: Carbon Valuation