Every Breath We Take

The 2016 Every Breath We Take report from the Royal College of Physicians is a sobering update on human and cost consequences of poor air quality. And not only outdoor air quality, notoriously poor within many of our cities, but also consequences arising from indoor air quality, significantly triggered through the design, construction and operation of the buildings we live, work and play in.

RCPCH-1“Each year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution, with more linked also to exposure to indoor pollutants”

The report estimates that the cost to society, business and health services in the UK adds up to more than £20 billion every year.

This is a prime example of how, in the built environment we externalise the real cost of low cost construction.

The report focuses on pollutants from buildings that occur during operation, but also touches on pollutants during construction. The high volume of construction transport, predominantly diesel in addition to the pollutants known to be asthmatics, organic & mineral dust, or carcinogenic (asbestos fibres in older buildings, formaldehyde and VOCs in newer builds)

The built environment is responsible for an increasingly complex cocktail of air quality issues:

“Looking to the future, newer ‘green’ workplaces will be constructed, and newer technologies will be developed for use within them. The latter include significant developments in, for example, the use of advanced materials and three-dimensional printing. The construction, occupancy and exposure profiles of newer workplaces will lead to the potential for novel inhaled hazards and risks, and vigilance will be required in order to identify the occupational lung problems attributed to the workplaces of tomorrow”

Every Breath We Take makes a number of recommendations:

Lead by example in the NHS. Is it acceptable to design, build and maintain health facilities that themselves are not net health positive.

Quantify the relationship between indoor air pollution and health. Pressures for ever more energy efficient buildings with lower carbon footprints raise the potential of reducing air quality in homes, offices and schools. An holistic and collaborative effort is required across built environment organisations, research and health organisations to develop policies and standards.

Lessons:

Following the findings of the Every Breath We Take report, there really should be no air quality performance gap, even a small gap will result in human health issues and externalised health costs.

Adopting the increasingly popular Living Building Challenge and Well Build Standard, air quality must become a key element of performance gap analysis. Design stage set the required air quality threshold that is validated post construction, with a fully occupied facility over a 12 month proofing period, and the on a regular on going basis. Established standards such as BREEAM and LEED must make award of certification dependent on proven air quality.

This is a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) issue of high magnitude for those who commission buildings, those who design and construction and those who manage buildings, anything less can not be acceptable to a responsible built environment sector.

Based on extract from FutuREstorative

 

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BioClimatic Design: Book Review

Sustainability and eco design are now common place in todays built environment, yet how appropriate is our level of understanding and relationship with natural and bioclimatic conditions necessary to address climate change?

9780691169736-us-300Design for Climate, Bioclimatic Approach to Architecture Regionalism by Victor Olgyay originally published in 1962/3 has been recently updated with new essays and insights on climate change and design.

Today, even though we may have far greater understanding of climatology and potential solutions, we still strive to understand how built environment design will influence the drive to cap global warming to 1.5 deg c. The core teachings and messages in Design for Climate remain just as relevant, and indeed perhaps far more so.

The original book is populated with wonderful pen-drawn climatic and bioclimatic charts and illustrations that pull the reader in to discover more. Sadly, much of the data, charts and methodologies included within the book would now be included within BIM environmental modules, even on smart phones, based on algorithms, and possibly applied without in-depth knowledge of for example sun path diagrams and insolation affects.

I say sadly, as we have perhaps lost that connection and innate understanding of the natural climatic conditions pertaining to the individual places in which we build.

Considering that the original edition would have been conceived, researched and produced without the use of computers and the internet, the meteorology, climatology and biological data incorporated into Design for Climate are outstanding.

There are a number of areas in the book, both within the original text and in the new prefaces that resonate with where I am in my sustainability research, practice and thinking for FutuREstorative.

For example there is a resonance with the Living Building Challenge philosophy, and of the flower metaphor for buildings rooted in place, harvesting all energy and water whilst being adapted to climate and site. Words which would not have been out of place within Olgyays text and charts.

Within the new preface, Victor W Olgyay describes how the very local bioclimatic conditions at Limone, Lake Garda, have given rise to very specific architecture, something that Living Building Challenge students on the annual Regeneration design competition, held nearby in Dro, take into account as they prepare designs for local municipal buildings along Living Building Challenge principles.

1962 also saw the publication of Silent Spring, in an era of environmental awakening, of pollution awareness and of the impact or relationship of buildings with the climate, which ushered in the modern environmental protest movement.

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Earth Day Catalogue

Through the text and the images, even the paper quality, I was reminded of another near-contemporary text, towards the end of that decade, the Earth Day Catalogue and its mantra of that time, still relevant today, to Stay Hungry Stay Foolish.

Further there is a striking continuity which caught my eye, Victor Olygay passed away on the first earth day in 1970. Part of the organisation team on that day was Denis Hayes, who, 40 years later would apply the essence of Design with Climate, translated through the Place and the other Living Building Challenge imperatives on the built environments green flagship at the Bullitt Centre.

Design for Climate includes a number of concepts that now seem way ahead of its time (or rather concepts not fully understood or adopted by practice) re-emphasised in the new Scannable Documentessays. For example, the concept of interlocking fields for climate balance – suggesting that architecture design should be in balance with biology, technology and climatology. Something which is very close to the current thinking of integrating digital technologies (BIM) with bio-data, nature and climatology within todays restorative sustainable design and build.

Core to Design for Climate text is the concept of comfort, again a concept central to todays sustainable building design, for example within passive house thinking. Olgyay quotes a Dr Cannon “the development of a nearly thermostable state in our buildings should be regarded as one of the most valuable advances in the evolution of buildings” An outcome we have lost sight of perhaps in our search for ever more energy efficient buildings under the label of sustainability, but now being addressed through a balancing wellbeing and healthy building agenda

I was somewhat surprised to note that demand for Design for Climate has outstripped supply, most likely as being an AIA recommended text for architect studies. Indeed if that is the case then why are we not seeing more buildings fully bioclimatic focused? Maybe this new and updated version will correct that, bringing understanding of bioclimatic design principles to a new generation.

In one of the new essays, (The Roots of BioClimatic Design) John Reynolds comments “while the teachings of these are still rippling out there are many corners of our built environment that cry for their application”


 

I am grateful toMolly Miller via Princeton Press. to forwarding a copy of Design For Climate for review here and within FutuREstorative

 

 

Circular Economy and the Built Environment

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Updated: Ready for a Circular Economy?

This coming week sees a number of circular economy events, for example Green Vision 10th Feb  (#GVis2016) in Bradford and ConstructCE 12 Feb (#cethinking) in London. Also see the Build Well 2016 Feb 10/11 event in the USA.  If you are at all interested in learning more about Circular Economy and its current popularity in construction, get along to at least one for these, and, engage via their twitter streams

This blog has mentioned and covered concepts of Circular Economy, Cradle to Cradle and related themes on many occasions, including the 2008 Constructing Excellence Lancashire Waste is Stupid event and presentation for that asked the question when did the construction Take Make Dump become acceptable, and why it remains so.

Whilst we see an increase in interest and a hunger to understand, an occasional interface with mainstream sustainability (as represented by BREEAM) and with BIM (GreenBIM), circular economy thinking struggles to gain any real traction within the built environment.

Research shows that the circular economy could be worth up to £29billion to the UK economy. It remains unclear how much of this would be construction related, but is this another area we can apply the rule of thumb 40% factor to, making a significant impact on the sector?

The Living Building Challenge provides a great framework for circular economy thinking, requiring for example, Conservation Plans not just Site Waste Management Plans, and pulls on the DfD (Design for Disassembly or Design for Deconstruction) principles as a guide for material selection and management within Living Building Challenge projects.

And it is DfD principles that will form the core of my talk at the Green Vision circular economy with examples from recent visits in the UK, Europe, Canada and the US.

Circular Economy and DfD principles present great opportunities and challenges for todays design and construction within the world of BIM. Can we for example design buildings with materials and components that have a secondary designed life after the first? and, how can we incorporate materials and components that are already insitu within existing buildings? The Alliander company ‘new’ HQ building in the Netherlands demonstrates it is possible, using concepts such as Material Passports to incorporate 80% raw materials from existing buildings and have designed re-use potential for 80% of the new building.

However, if we are serious in designing and constructing buildings with circular economy thinking, with a planned lifetimes reaching to 250 years, as for example in the case of Bullitt Centre, is it acceptable or responsible to specify or include unhealthy or toxic chemicals or materials?  We would be potentially locking risks into many years of use and potentially many future buildings. A good place to start is to ensure the buildings are LBC Red List compliant. The Bullitt Centre has demonstrated toxic material free buildings are possible in six-storey, city centre commercial buildings.

The era of just harm reduction should really be history, and, in an age of responsible construction, the Precautionary Principle (to do no harm where evidence of health or ecological risk exists), should be forefront in design. And if unhealthy or toxic materials are really unavoidable, then project Deconstruction Plan’s must detail the designed replacement rationale and methodology as soon as healthy alternatives become available.

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Circular thinking and DFD are explored within my upcoming RIBA publication FutuRestorative as inspirations and challenges for a new sustainability in the built environment.

Event Links:

Green Vision 10th Feb   Hashtag #GVIs2016 @lsigreenvision

CE Thinking 12 Feb  Hashtag #CEthinking @constructCE 

Build Well 2016 Feb 10/11 @BuildWELL_EBNet

2016 Built Environment Challenges

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One: 2016 is the year Building Information Management in the UK becomes mandated for public sector projects. Our ongoing challenge is increasing the scope and application, across all the built environment sectors and organisations, moving us towards a digital and data driven industry.

Two: The 2015 Paris Agreement sets ambitious intent to cap global warming to 1.5deg C. Current built environment sustainability strategies and approaches are based around a 2deg cap, with targets too low or too slow. Our challenge is to enable the built environment to play it part, for which we will need all the restorative sustainability tools we have at our disposal. We need to flip our 40% negative impact, but can no longer seek to be near zero or net positive but need to push towards being demonstrably ‘very positive’.

ThreeHealth is the new GreenBuild. We have seen a big increase in health and wellbeing awareness with biophilia now firmly within the sector’s lexicon. Our challenge is to ensure health and wellbeing is a key driver in design, in materials, in the construction process and within building operations.

Four: our biggest opportunity is to now create the conditions that allow for leadership in integrated and collaborative thinking, combining the innovative approaches and development from the BIM, Restorative Sustainability and Healthy Buildings agendas.

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These challenges are explored in depth in forthcoming RIBA Book:
FutuREstorative

Architects and Green Deal: greater ability to improve public health than medical professionals

‘Architects have a greater ability to improve public health than medical professionals’

A provocative statement  made by physician Dr. Claudia Miller, assistant dean at the University of Texas School of Medicine, at a recent  healthy building materials panel moderated and blogged by Kirk Teske on his Point of View blog.

The panel* made a unanimous call for cooperation and transparency from building product manufacturers … the type of collaborative action our industry needs to shift the building materials paradigm from translucent to transparent, and from toxic to healthy

Here in the UK we are seeing the Green Deal  gearing up, which, putting aside the programmes finance and operational uncertainty, has a huge potential to improve public health and NHS health costs. A benefit not addressed or recognised to date. (Particularly given the UK’s lowest ranking across European Countries for health and housing related issues)

How would Green Deal look, and what additional health benefits would it provide, if the scheme embodied Living Building Challenge’s Red List Materials? Seems a no brainer to me.

Likewise the recently announced PF2 Education Funding Agency programme for schools in relation to educational building occupant health.

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Google may be the influential game changer, globally they are opening 40,000 square feet of office space a week (including a new UK HQ in London).  And none of those workplaces will use any of the materials on the red list developed by the Living Building Challenge. Google’s decision stems from two principles, a focus on health and vitality of its employees and cost of healthcare

The UK Collaborative for Living Building Challenge was launched in April and is currently developing an UK overlay for the standard. Get in touch for more information.

 
 
Panel:
Dr. Claudia Miller, an assistant dean at the University of Texas School of Medicine,
Jason McClennan, founder creator of the Living Building Challenge and CEO of International Living Future Institute; 
Bill Walsh, executive director of the Healthy Building Network ,
Howard Williams, vice president at Construction Specialties, a global building materials supplier.

Green Vision for Social Media at Green Build Expo

logoBe2Camp returns to Greenbuild Expo in May with Green Vision.

This year’s session, taking place on 8th May at Manchester Central from 1pm, will be the most exciting  yet, with an amazing line-up of speakers (see below for programme).

GreenBuild Expo itself attracts over 4,000 built environment professionals and takes place on 8th and 9th May. It features over 100 free seminars and workshops on all aspects on sustainable buildings, from integrating renewable energy and BIM for beginners to skills for Green Deal and strategies for climate change adaptation. Speakers include UK Green Building Council, Energy Saving Trust, Warm Up North, Manchester City Council and many more. For free registration visit www.greenbuildexpo.co.uk.

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The speakers will include some of the top presentations from Green Visions last three years’ programme, along with BE2 friends old and new. Join us for the whole afternoon, or one of the three great sessions we have planned.

1.00 Welcome

1.15 – 2.00 Green Knowledge – how social media can help us learn, share and advance green sustainability knowledge, including essential tips on promoting your green credentials and featuring ‘Integration is the name of the game’ Paul Toyne , Global Head of Sustainability WSP

2.15 – 3.00 Green Materials – transparency in green and healthy materials, featuring presentation from Kelly Grainger, Interface and Janet Beckett,Carbon Saver UK

3.15 – 4.00 Green Futures – what’s emerging in the world of green building, featuring ‘Green Towns’ Prof Angus McIntosh , Oxford Brooks University and a keynote live presentation from Amanda Sturgeon, VP Living Building Challenge, from the recently completed Bullitt Centre in Portland, called by many the greenest commercial building in the world. (Not one to miss)

Do you have something to share, Pecha Kucha style (thats 20 slides, each 20 seconds) that will fit one of the above sessions? We will keep one slot free for ‘on the day’ contribution But if you are interested please let the Greenbuild Expo organisers know in advance. (1st come, 1st served ….)

As in previous years, our afternoon session will be live streamed and web enabled allowing real global sharing from and into the event.

BE2 (Be2Camp) are Greenbuild Expo’’s social media partners, and a social media advocacy for built environment sustainability and collaborative working

Green Vision, part of the Leeds Sustainability Institute and Centre for Knowledge Exchange and committed to driving sustainable change for construction professionals

Introducing the Living Building Challenge in the UK

It was a real treat to introduce the public lecture from Amanda Sturgeon as part of the UK Living Building Collaborative launch at the Interface showroom in London last night.


Here are my introduction notes …

Good evening and a warm welcome to Living Building Challenge UK

Firstly a huge thank you to Interface, Kelly Grainger for hosting this evening and Claire Bowles at Green Vision for making it happen, and of  course Amanda Sturgeon from Living Building.

I and a few others have waited a long time for this …

As you may have read in Hattie Hartmans AJ article, our awareness with Living Building started via twitter and through twitter dialogues during the Living Futures conference in Portland in 2011

Later that same year I was privileged to have a guided tour of the CIRS building in Vancouver, during the week before completion (The CIRS building is one of the few buildings scheduled for LBC certification) Since then we have received Living Building related remote presentations live into Green Vision and Be2camp events.

Over the last few months we, that’s myself and Claire at Green Vision, have held regular Skype chats with Amanda and others at LBC, to set up this UK Collaborative and this event, so it’s a real pleasure to welcome Amanda along this evening

But before introducing Amanda a word about the Living Building UK Collaborative. We are part of the Green Vision / Leeds Sustainability Institute with two main aims:

One of advocacy to increase awareness and understanding of the Living Building Challenge

Secondly to provide support to clients for living building design, construction and certification in line with the challenging Living Building principles.

If you want to know more about the collaborative, would like to get involved or indeed would like support on possible future Living Building projects here in the UK please do get in touch.

We cannot let this evening pass without mentioning Mel Starrs, and her advocacy for deep green thinking. Mel, in her last blog piece (an article which you must read) welcomed the idea of LBC in the UK as a standard worthy of the green credentials of leading clients.

Mel’s blog was read by Su Butcher.

I am sure you will agree – launching the LBC here in the UK is in fitting honour for Mels passion for sustainability, green building and challenging standards.

Amanda – Vice President Living Building Challenge

Amanda is an award winning architect recognised as a pioneering leader in the green building movement in the US northwest, a founding member of the Cascadia Green Building Council and is a visiting professor at the University of Washington

Amanda was awarded with better bricks Architect Award in 2008 and recently gained Fellowship of the AIA, the American Insitute of Architects

Amanda, welcome to London and the UK Collaborative

The event was well tweeted, to catch up on comments and pictures view the #lbcuk and #uklbc hashtags (don’t ask) and follow @UK_LBC.

Record of the evening now on Storify

There will be a Slideshare record very soon

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