Monthly Archives: March 2014

Greening the construction site cabin environment for health and wellbeing

Cutting my teeth on construction sites as a green horn QS back in the 70’s was an introduction to the frozen feet, sweating head, un-insulated site cabins, with their austere, bleak and unwelcoming work environment.

Fast forward and today, yes we have insulated cabins with PIR sensors, and occasionally you come across plants in the site cabin, windows providing decent daylight or sparks of innovation, like the free fresh fruit for site personal provided daily, but generally the internal working environment hasn’t changed much since the 70;s. Even co-location spaces on large projects are often tucked away in the bowels of a building with no daylight.  We tend to think of these offices as temporary, but temporary can be anything up to a few years, and many site personnel spend careers in temporary, accommodation

In a word, grey, not green.

Encouraging then to read  Australia’s first green construction site, a partnership with 202020 Vision, a programme seeking to increase urban green space, and bringing the greening concept into the site office.

“Incorporating green space into our site offices is part of our broader plan to create high performance workspaces. International research shows developing green space within office environments not only significantly boosts the health and wellbeing of staff, but also increases productivity,” says Lauren Haas, Brookfield’s Australian sustainability manager, and 202020 Vision advocate.

“Through introducing a Plant Plan, we envisage seeing the same or better improvements in our own staff that is integral to delivering high performance buildings for our clients as well as being an employer of choice.”

The 202020Vision programme is also conducting pre and post occupancy tests on the site team to see if their ‘green environment’ improves health and wellbeing.

We know from (eg the latest World Green Building Council’s Business Case for Green Building report) that biophilia, greenery, views to nature through windows, can improve worker well-being by reducing stress levels, less frustration, increased patience and improved overall satisfaction. The Living Building Challenge, Health Imperative, founded on biophilia principles requires daylight to all working spaces … And all this should apply to construction offices not just the buildings we design and construct.

Hopefully as contractors develop in line with Sustainability, CSR and HR best practice we will see more attention to biophilic thinking, creating green healthy inspiring places to work, enabling construction of green buildings. And, coupled with the rise in interest of mindfulness thinking for site staff, are we heading into a new era of contracting?

lbc biophillia

Healthy building concepts should apply to construction site offices as well as buildings we construct.

 

 

Related:

Biometrics and Biophilia – the new sustainable construction?

Have we picked the low hanging fruit of Sustainable Construction?

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Biomimetics and Biophilia – the new sustainable construction?

There is a new language and lexicon emerging within the world of built environment sustainability, from circular economy to biophilia,  indicating a maturing of construction’s approach, moving from better waste management to circular economy thinking, from biodiversity management to biophilia.

I participated in a brilliant tweetchat yesterday evening, under the hashtag of #CityofLife, hosted by Melissa Sterry (http://melissasterry.com) and others with some very knowledgeable contributors from Northern Europe and elsewhere, exploring the concepts of Biomimetics in buildings and cities. There will be a transcript soon and more debates, so watch this #CityofLife space.

It did strike me though, whilst being comfortable with these new terms in sustainability, many readers and subscribers to this blog may not be, so here is a quick primer.

Biomimetics –  learning from nature as models for building design and construction. See Building a Bionic City (Intriguingly George Mokhtar (@GeorgeMokhtar) tweeted  yesterday before the chat “biomimetics, basically the reason I started using 3D models” proving, maybe, a foundation link with BIM?)

Biomimcry, imitation of nature for the purpose of solving complex problems. Perhaps the best source of information can be found at Biomimicry38  and the Janine Benyus  Biomimicry TED talk

Biophillia, exploring the intrinsic bond between humans and nature, most commonly from a health and well being perspective of building users and occupants.

lbc biophillia

Biophllic thinking is core philosophy for the Living Building Challenge  and suggests the adoption of Richard Kellert’s Six Biophilic Design Elements, (roughly 70 design attributes,  from egg-shaped buildings a historical connection to place)

Suggested reading:

E.O. Wilson, Biophilia 1984 (There is a very useful primer on Ecology, based around E.O Wilson work, within the iBooks (ipad) series from the Open University, with texts, videos and workbooks)

Last Child in the Woods: Richard Louv

Building for Life: Richard Kellert

Case Study Cities: Melissa Sterry, Sustain Magazine

Suggested people to follow on twitter

@melissasterry @thefuturemakers @StefanoSerafi11

@amandasturgeon  @livingbuilding @livingbldgUK

@JanineBenyus @RichLouv @biomimicry_uk @AskNatureTweets

Other Links:

Bios – Flipboard Magazine 

Biophilia in the Real World

Biophilic Design Solutions and Effect

Sustain – my flipboard magazine 

Green Revolutionary Engineering

Integral_cover_9x7_FINAL_webIntegral Revolutionary Engineering – a review.

Every now and again you come across a book that is both simple and profound, full of ah ha moments, of innovative ideas and yet seemingly familiar. One such book I have mentioned often on this blog (and gifted to many) is Yvon Chouinard’s “Let my people go surfing”  to which Integral Revolutionary Engineering book published by Ecotone has a similar feel.

I had the opportunity to meet and chat with Kevin Hydes at an Inetgral reception at EcoBuild this week, and picked up a copy of Revolutionary Engineering. Kevin served as the Chair of the USGBC  2005-2006, was a founder and director of CanadaGBC and a former Chair of the WorldGBC and is Founder and CEO of the Integral Group.

Integral are a global network of design professionals collaborating under a single deep green engineering umbrella, providing building system design and energy analysis services, trading as Elementa in the UK

Revolutionary Engineering is a ‘treatise of innovation in deep green building design, featuring stories and ideas from some of the worlds leading engineers and designers’

And it does what it says on the lid, providing a portfolio of the Integral Groups experience of design on deep green buildings, an insight not only into what is possible today but what is highly achievable in the future.

That the forward is written by Jason McLellan (see bio) gives the clue that this a treatise of building services design on Living Building Challenge projects.

And there is a nice affinity here. Leeds, where we founded the UK Collaborative for Living Building Challenge is also Kevin Hydes’ home town.  Now residing in San Francisco, Kevin reminisces in his preface letter on a post industrial Leeds, with belching coal fired power plants and coal from Yorkshire burning in his very home. Times have changed, in Leeds and in sustainable construction since then.

Molly Miller (@miller_mm), author, is Integrals story teller with a background in sustainability writing at Rocky Mountain Institute and Mother Earth News. And what a great title – why doesn’t every company have someone with the story teller title, official or otherwise?.

In conversational tone, Molly includes many Kevin Hydes insights scattered and emphasised throughout, alongside quotes and comments from many other green build thinkers and project team members.

As I read Revolutionary Engineering, I was looking for hints as to how BIM would fit in, yet,  found it refreshing that BIM doesn’t feature. Although I am sure it must have been used to some degree on the large Hospital projects and Empire State Building refurbishment case studies.

… refreshing to read a book with Revolutionary in the title that doesn’t try to sell BIM as the panacea for all things design and construction, even green construction.

Revolutionary Engineering sees other drivers across its fours chapters Imagine, Perform, Sustain and Accelerate. For example, creative leadership and collaboration (there are echoes here of our collective leadership tweetchat from Tuesday evening), innovation and diversity

One of the barriers to innovative thinking and collaboration across the construction sector is acknowledged as lack of diversity – of age and gender. This is indeed something I’ve seen evident in my own work in the sustainability leadership and social media world. Revolutionary Engineering, sees that the processes and policies of an organisation need to be appropriate to women,  consciously arranging hierarchies and teams to be collaborative

The character of innovation relies on different ways of thinking and a homogenous group is just not going to provide that.

Addressing the Cost v Value issue, Revolutionary Engineering reminds me of the 1:5:200 and Be Valuable thinking of a decade ago, brought bang up to date in line with deep green buildings. What must be of interest to every client and contractor seeking sustainable buildings is how Integral brought the Living Building project at Simon Frasier University in on ‘standard budget’

Whilst an reviting read it is also challenging, for eg on the higher cost for going green issue –  to cite cost as an argument against energy efficiency or innovative practices in design is often an excuse to do something the same comfortable way it has always been done”

The book’s case study on the new Clif Bar headquarters is fascinating, illustrating the importance of putting the user first. “The occupant is the star of high performance buildings”  I must say I find Clif Bar an interesting organization for personal reasons, from a CSR and cycling perspective, so this case study added much to my understanding

A small criticism, a lack of page numbers and possibly too many images of one project in particular – the Vancouver VanDusen Botanical Gardens – it is a great Living Building Challenge project that I had the chance to visit in Vancouver a few years back – but perhaps too many images here that you get the feeling of ‘space filling’

In summary we can, as the UK construction industry learn much from the experiences and insights in Revolutionary Engineering as we start to embrace deep green and Living Building Challenge thinking it should be on the reading list of all sustainability professionals, services engineers and a text for construction and building services students … to further the ‘collaborative commitment to relentless momentum’

Integral are participating (exhibiting and talking) at the Construction21 Green Build Virtual Expo in May, prior to then, I will be in conversation with Integral as part of our EXPOC21chat tweetchat series.

Why Fairsnape?

I have been asked a lot recently on how my business name came about:

Fairsnape is a hill in the Forest of Bowland Fells, and was visible from my office window at the time I set up the business. (It hasn’t moved, we have, half a mile or so down the road). I wanted a name that wasn’t just tied to consultancy in construction, but one that could be flexible, grow with my interests in for example the outdoors and sustainability, as well as business improvement support.

And that has worked well.

photo (13)

But there is more significance in the name. Fairsnape is a minor hill at 510m with superb views, south across the Lancashire plains, north east, the Yorkshire Dales and north west to the Lake District. The later being inspirational to move on and explore greater ranges, from the Lakes to Scotland to the Alps to the Himalayas, as we did many years ago.

And so it is with sustainability. I delight in helping organisations climb that first hill, away from the flatlands of environmental management, and then on towards greater and bigger achievements. Something of Ray Andersons Mount Sustainability here I guess.

But, having discovered mindfulness of late, it is of course very fine to sit, contemplate and refresh, wherever you are on route, be it a mountain or a sustainability journey and not always to rush on to something new.  In the words of Nan Shepherd in her inspirational Living Mountain book on the Cairngorms  ‘I sat and listened to the waterfall until I didn’t hear it any more”  An approach we can learn from for a new sustainable construction thinking.