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.

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