Innovation and inspiration in sustainability

This free ebook from Guardian Sustainability Business contains excellent, innovative and inspiring case studies that should be read by directors, senior and Untitledsustainability managers across construction.

“At a time when multiple social, environmental and economic challenges face the world, instances of true leadership and innovation can be game changing and offer a much-needed light in the dark.

However, ensuring these examples of excellence are shared, embraced and learnt from can often be a tricky feat when the business landscape is so innately complex”

Built Environment related case studies include:

  • BAM Nuttall: peer-led training unlock wealth of hidden talents
  • British Land: chain reaction in building design
  • Skanska: working with rivals for the greater good
  • Interface: net gains for poor coastal communities
  • M&S: proud to be the biggest – and the greenest
  • URS: how to build a big building with a small footprint
  • The Co-operative: landmark HQ designed with environment in mind
  • Kebony: hardwood alternative that’s soft on the environment
  • Royal Mail: LED lights the way to energy savings
  • Hastoe Group: lays the blueprint for sustainable communities

However …

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

… real inspiration and innovation for those of us in construction and the built environment will come from learning from those outside of the sector, on themes of communications, carbon, employee engagement, biodiversity and more.

fairsnape: innovating and improving


Construction CSR – A Clients View

At the launch of the British Land Corporate Responsibility Report 2013,  Head of Planning and Corporate Responsibility, Adrian Penfold, gave people the chance to quiz him on our approach to corporate responsibility and on our plans for the future.

Here are Adrian’s responses to the questions we received via Twitter@BritishLandCR (original wording kept for all questions, including abbreviations).

Of course, I was particularly interested in my question:

Adrian, What do you see as key drivers for Corp Responsibility in built environ. over next 5 yrs? By Martin Brown @fairsnape

At a corporate level, we have identified three key drivers for corporate responsibility in general over the next five years:

  • Resource shortages and unpredictable climate patterns posing ever-greater risks to wellbeing and economic stability in developed and developing nations.
  • Public concern about how businesses operate leading people to ask questions about the role of business in shifting to more sustainable models of consumption and supporting wider societal needs.
  • Local, national and global issues stemming from low economic growth, challenges in accessing employment and skills shortages.

For the built environment, I think regulation will play an important part, particularly Minimum Energy Performance Standards and Building Regulations. But I believe the real changes are coming through in the attitudes of our customers. In our recent experience, Marks & Spencer and UBS are for example both very challenging in the environmental criteria that they require, particularly on new buildings. We welcome this, as we are well positioned to work with them in this area, and we expect to see more of this kind of requirement from other businesses.

Do read the whole article for similar comments on the built environment current challenges of wellbeing, energy, co2, green leases and green deal.

In addition to the comments this is another brilliant example illustrating the maturity of twitter in the built environment / corporate social responsibility sector, and why it should be a key tool for construction boards strategy planning.

Plans A and B – changing the sustainability debate?

Yesterday may well be remembered as a significant milestone in the world of sustainability with two major events: Marks and Spencers celebrated their Plan A with Al Gore and others, meanwhile Richard Branson was part of a global team that launched Plan B.

And there was  much relevance for the built environment and construction sectors, on carbon, supply chain management, social responsibility and on the urgency to change, away from business as usual. Now.

It was also a significant milestone for social media – in particular twitter, with so much of the events being shared, enabling many around the world, like me, to listen in, share key messages and comment. (Hashtags #PlanB and #PlanA2013 – see Storify links below))

If ever there was a reason for built environment organisations committed to sustainability to have a presence on twitter – it was yesterday.

Despite some of the contradictory language – “Plan A because there is no Plan B” and “We need a Plan B because Plan A isn’t working” – the two should definitely be seen as complimentary.

Many, like myself have seen and blogged on the complimentary messages from the two events, for example the UKGBC opinion article The day the debate changed: Plan A or Plan B and the article by Eddie 

There was so much information and comment shared during the day, I have captured the tweets on to storify for later reading and digesting. The storify records are raw tweets so I can go back and read, but please read and be inspired. As I re-read them I will tidy up to curate a better stori-fy.

Plan A : raw tweets from Marks and Spencers Plan A Conference 2013

Plan B – raw tweets from the launch of Plan B – a global conversation and new sustainable business era

Living Building Challenge Infographic

Spotted this excellent infographic explaining the Living Building Challenge recently covered on Treehugger

“The Living Building Challenge is the toughest green standard out there, but it is seriously gaining traction as people get to understand it”

Lloyd Alter writes “Skanska prepared what they call an infographic to help explain the Living Building Challenge. It’s not really; it is more like a Powerpoint presentation glued together, light on non-verifiable numbers, heavy on written content. It is the most concise summary of the LBC that I have seen yet”

Skanska_Living_Building_Final.jpg.492x0_q85_crop-smartWe are currently preparing the fist UK Living Building Challenge newsletter with exciting news, events, workshops, client interest and possibly the first UK registered LBC project!  To ensure you receive a copy follow @UK_LBC on twitter, leave a comment here or email us.

Inspired by Biomimicry

I participated in a short, sharp but highly inspirational #biomimicry tweetchat last night, hosted by TreeHugger with questions fielded by Janine Benyus

“Every design guideline that we need to plan the future already exists … in the bottomland hardwood forest and the tall grass prairie … Go outside. Quiet your cleverness. Listen to the lessons of the natives.”

Janine Benyus, Co-Founder, Biomimicry 3.8


TreeHugger have posted a useful record of the event, but there was so much (more) information, links and references shared during the chat I captured more of the tweetchat on a storify here:

Inspired by Biomimicry #biomimicry2013 Storify – Salient tweets links and comments from the whirlwind tweetchat hosted by Treehugger with Janine Benyus


Improvement through PAS 91

PAS 91 has recently been updated to align with the Government Construction Strategy.

PAS91-CoverHere are some of my thoughts on recently providing PAS91 support (training events, webinars and live bid support)

As with all bidding the trick is to:

 “delight the client to attain maximum scores and score higher than your competitors”


PAS 91 used properly could significantly improve the SME contracting sector, on topics such as Diversity, Quality Management, Environmental Management and of course Building Information Modelling.

The scoring I have seen to date heavily favours certification – to ISO 9001, ISO1400 and PAS1192. Providing these certificates scores full marks, and exempts the bidder from completing a large number of questions in an attempt to describe arrangements that meet the standards, and only score eg 75% of available scores. (in one case up to 12 sides of A4 are expected!)

A contractor without these standards in place are already scoring less than those who have, before they start to articulate their practices.

It makes attaining these accreditations a no brainer, whilst of course providing the benefits of accreditation. From a clients PAS91 perspective it allows further in depth questions in the Specific Questions Module, for eg delivering value, evidence of localism, sustainable material procurement.

The BIM optional module in PAS 91 contains some tough questions, but also provides a useful guide as to what bidders should be preparing for.

Top tips for maximising PAS 91 points:

  • Get a (free) copy of PAS 91
  • Practice, prepare and fine tune  your responses, get them internally and independently checked.
  • Ensure you provide complete responses to all parts of the questions
  • Evidence, Evidence Evidence – use real evidence (think business storytelling) to support.
  • Be consistent between what you say in the bid, demonstrate on your projects and say on your website and or social media (watch those linkedin profiles!)

We will be providing further training, public and one to one webinars, and live PAS 91 consultancy support over the coming months. Do get in touch 

We are also developing 91Cloud a PAS91 portal due to launch soon – watch this space

Also in addition in conjunction with ibepartnership we have developed a low cast but high value package for achieving ISO 14001 for smaller SME contracting organisations. Again, please do get in touch 

A sustainable, purpose-driven Green Deal?

sb13live-logoThere is a real buzz emerging from Sustainable Brands annual conference in San Diego focusing on the progress purpose-driven brands are having in moving the sustainability agenda. The strap line theme for this years event is from Revolution to Renaissance, and explores the positive sustainability shifts currently taking place where business and society meet.

The event has wide coverage via Livestream feed and a vibrant twitter stream at #SB13con

‘Research shows that brands have failed to align themselves with changes in society’  

From the event, there are significant articles from Jo Confino at Guardian Sustainable Business (one of the event platinum sponsors), in particular – Consumers believe brands can have positive impact but are failing to do so and Can brands help unlock the power of citizens to change the world? and well worth a read. 

Tuning into #SB13, following the livestream coverage, sharing tweets thoughts with others and reading the Guardian articles, it strikes me the UK Green Deal programme is a prime platform where purpose driven material and equipment suppliers could make a huge impact. Could green deal product suppliers move away from  traditional supply and sales driven profit routes and focus on a purpose of reducing fuel poverty, improving wellbeing and influencing the greendeal consumer?

Could the Kingfisher group be the first to move into this space and pioneer a ‘net positive’ and purpose-driven approach to Green Deal? Nick Folland, the company’s group corporate affairs director thinks so:

The Kingfisher of the future could be as much about helping people make, mend and repair things than selling them kit. “We’re going to go out into communities and teach these things, and [help them be] more self-sustaining.”

Kingfisher’s plan to put ‘net positive’ into practice

One of the notable themes from SB13 is the need for product brands to connect, collaborate and scale fast,  filling the sustainability gaps that governments at present can not.

What a different green deal we could have!

Related: More than just a Green Deal presentation via martin brown