Learning and Sharing in the Time of Corona

In these tough days of Covid-19, social distancing and isolation we can also look for the light of opportunity to share and to learn. We are hearing it is possible that physical, face to face events will not be happening for months, until the UK is clear enough for travel for home events, and until the EU is clear for EU events.

Not surprisingly then, we are seeing many events, workshops, exhibitions, film festivals, from book clubs to concerts to design shows, move into the online space.

We have a range of communication platforms to help us do that, from basic to more elaborate and feature rich platforms. It is good to see the virtual world of Second Life being used for Billions of Us – “an (emerging) creative community and collective devoted to using virtual technologies to improve the real world in this time of vast systemic change.” (Thanks to Pam Broviak for sharing this through her Public Works blog. Pam and I met in Second life back in mid 2000’s and then with Paul Wilkinson and Jodie Miners formed Be2Camp – now dormant but Paul has an archive of posts on his ExtranetEvolution blog)

Indeed there is nothing new to online exhibitions and fairs – back in 2014 we used Hyperfair for a number of events, complete with in-world talks, exhibitors and social events a few years ago with (Construction21 and Others) see Sustainability made Cool? Day one at #EXPOC21

A New Normal Built Environment

For us in the built environment, we are starting see that the world of design, construction, supply chains and communications will not be the same post Covid19. We will cannot return to the normal we knew, for that normal is in too many ways responsible for the problems we have now.

Preparing for a new post Covid19 normal must be part of a ‘never waste this crisis’ approach that practices and companies need to take. And now is the time to take that development, when employees are home based, with more time to learn, develop and help shape a future business.

We cannot waste this crisis and we must emerge stronger, ready to address a different environment, when addressing the climate and ecological breakdown will be very high, if not top of the agenda. We have see, through remarkable images of how air quality dramatically improved as activity stopped in Wuhan and Italy. We have seen, after only a short time of ‘shut down’ how nature can thrive, here in the UK (shut down of modern life allows nature to thrive), in the canals of Venice and beyond.

To this end I am running in-house, online inter-active CPD style sessions through Zoom or Teams for a number of my clients, both here in the UK and overseas. (If you are interested in this for your organisation please get in touch)

Zoom Regenerative

A weekly 45 minute Zoom meet up for those interested in learning more or are practising regenerative approaches, in sustainability, in the built environment, in business etc. Each session will feature an introduction or presentation from a regenerative colleague from around the world, followed by a lightly facilitated discussion. Starting on April 7th, I plan Zoom Regenerative to be held Tuesdays at 8pm UK (but possibly shifting an hour or two to allow participation from Australia at a sensible hour)

Link for the Zoom session will be on my twitter feed under hashtags #ZoomRegen

RESTORE COST Newsletter

An extract from my Contribution the the RESTORE Cost Action ..

It is possible that every sustainability practitioner, academic and student globally is now home working. Through communication technologies we can share and discuss the work of RESTORE and regenerative sustainability. There are many working groups discussions taking place through Zoom, but we can do more. For example

LFE (Living Future Europe) has started a weekly Resilience Lounge hosted by Carlo Battisti. (Wednesdays 5pm UK Details)

Martin will be starting a weekly Zoom Regenerative series starting on the 7th April with guest from around the world sharing their regenerative voices, actions and approaches. (Tuesdays 8pm UK Details and #ZoomRegen)

There is a global Transition Town discussion group on Monday 30th hosted by founder Rob Hopkins

There are also many on line book clubs which have caught my eye, for example The Living Mountain as a twitter based book club – search #CoReadingVirus and a Nature Writing Course hosted by Emergence Magazine starting on 5th April 12.00 PST

Connectivity with Nature, its importance to mental and physical health is a key theme that runs through the work and outcomes of RESTORE. It is a sad consequence of housing design and construction over recent decades that many many families are now isolated in homes with no views, no access to nature, and in some cases in city centres with no windows. We will undoubtedly see a rise in mental health, anxiety and domestic violence. You may have noticed an increase in the sharing of nature based images, videos, art and music across social media. This in a small way, may give a little comfort to those without access or views.

Lets use our collective and individual social media accounts to share, and lets use the hashtags #NoticeNature and #CostRestore

Suggested reading In Times of Uncertainty, let nature be your refuge Lucy Jones – author Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need the Wild.

Monarch Butterfly (see Why is there a Monarch Butterfly on the cover of FutuREstorative …)

“We Need Real Zero”

Once again Great Thunberg has shaken our thinking on carbon with her speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. With our focus on “net zero emissions” “low carbon economy” and “carbon neutrality” are we cheating and fiddling around with numbers? are we “offsetting emissions” by just paying someone else to plant trees whilst we carry on as normal?

Another wake up call. Here is the full transcript of her remarks, taken from the New York Times, host of the WEF in Davos

selective focus photography of hands

One year ago I came to Davos and told you that our house is on fire. I said I wanted you to panic. I’ve been warned that telling people to panic about the climate crisis is a very dangerous thing to do. But don’t worry. It’s fine. Trust me, I’ve done this before and I can assure you it doesn’t lead to anything.

And, for the record, when we children tell you to panic we’re not telling you to go on like before. We’re not telling you to rely on technologies that don’t even exist today at scale and that science says perhaps never will.

We are not telling you to keep talking about reaching “net zero emissions” or “carbon neutrality” by cheating and fiddling around with numbers. We are not telling you to “offset your emissions” by just paying someone else to plant trees in places like Africa while at the same time forests like the Amazon are being slaughtered at an infinitely higher rate.

Planting trees is good, of course, but it’s nowhere near enough of what is needed and it cannot replace real mitigation and rewilding nature.

Let’s be clear. We don’t need a “low carbon economy.” We don’t need to “lower emissions.” Our emissions have to stop if we are to have a chance to stay below the 1.5-degree target. And, until we have the technologies that at scale can put our emissions to minus, then we must forget about net zero. We need real zero.

Because distant net zero emission targets will mean absolutely nothing if we just continue to ignore the carbon dioxide budget — that applies for today, not distant future dates. If high emissions continue like now even for a few years, that remaining budget will soon be completely used up.

The fact that the U.S.A. is leaving the Paris accord seems to outrage and worry everyone, and it should. But the fact that we’re all about to fail the commitments you signed up for in the Paris Agreement doesn’t seem to bother the people in power even the least.

Any plan or policy of yours that doesn’t include radical emission cuts at the source, starting today, is completely insufficient for meeting the 1.5-degree or well-below-2-degrees commitments of the Paris Agreement.

And again, this is not about right or left. We couldn’t care less about your party politics. From a sustainability perspective, the right, the left as well as the center have all failed. No political ideology or economic structure has been able to tackle the climate and environmental emergency and create a cohesive and sustainable world. Because that world, in case you haven’t noticed, is currently on fire.

You say children shouldn’t worry. You say: “Just leave this to us. We will fix this, we promise we won’t let you down. Don’t be so pessimistic.”

And then, nothing. Silence. Or something worse than silence. Empty words and promises which give the impression that sufficient action is being taken.

All the solutions are obviously not available within today’s societies. Nor do we have the time to wait for new technological solutions to become available to start drastically reducing our emissions. So, of course the transition isn’t going to be easy. It will be hard. And unless we start facing this now together, with all cards on the table, we won’t be able to solve this in time.

In the days running up to the 50th anniversary of the World Economic Forum, I joined a group of climate activists demanding that you, the world’s most powerful and influential business and political leaders, begin to take the action needed.

We demand at this year’s World Economic Forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments:

Immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction.

Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies.

And immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels.

We don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021. We want this done now.

It may seem like we’re asking for a lot. And you will of course say that we are naïve. But this is just the very minimum amount of effort that is needed to start the rapid sustainable transition.

So either you do this or you’re going to have to explain to your children why you are giving up on the 1.5-degree target. Giving up without even trying. Well I’m here to tell you that, unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight.

The facts are clear, but they’re still too uncomfortable for you to address. You just leave it because you think it’s too depressing and people will give up. But people will not give up. You are the ones who are giving up.

Last week I met with Polish coal miners who lost their jobs because their mine was closed. And even they had not given up. On the contrary, they seem to understand the fact that we need to change more than you do.

I wonder, what will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing a climate chaos that you knowingly brought upon them? That it seemed so bad for the economy that we decided to resign the idea of securing future living conditions without even trying?

Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. And we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else. 

Thank you.

Carbon: That was then, This is now.

The biggest contribution we can make to the climate crisis is to urgently deliver buildings that store carbon.. The zero-concrete, zero-cement Cuerden Valley Park Visitor Center, Lancashire,, designed and constructed to Living Building Challenge Standard, demonstrates that is possible.

The plethora of climate, carbon and biodiversity targets, visions and reports within, and beyond, the built environment, may seem to cause confusion, but there is a core, science based purpose. However, the explosion of focus on climate emergency, over the last six months or so, driven by IPCC, CCC, Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and others has changed the narrative … from why to how.

Reading the latest, Transforming Construction report published recently by the NFB, I realised we have many, perhaps too many, reports re-emphasising or regurgitating the why, we now need more how. The urgent how challenge of adapting existing and construction new in the climate emergency is to quickly reduce the upfront and operational carbon emissions from our buildings and infrastructure. Indeed the biggest contribution, and responsible contribution we can make is to deliver buildings that store carbon.

Our last 30 or 40 years of sustainability reports and events on why we need to understand and monitor carbon hasn’t shifted the sustainability needle. In fact on our watch, despite great sustainability initiatives, the situation has gotten worse and is escalating … in the wrong direction.

In 2012 the Construction Vision 2025 called for a 50% reduction in built environment carbon by 2025. It’s probably fair to say the bulk of the construction sector has done little towards this. Indeed when presented now the reaction from many contractors is ‘thats impossible’

That was then: this is now.

The climate crisis is a rapidly changing picture and as we have more understanding there is the recognition there is no time to lose. The recent paper published in the journal BioScience endorsed by over 11000 scientists emphasises “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”

For background see rethinking carbon posts here on Fairsnape blog.

How we address carbon management over the next 10 years is vital – if we haven’t moved significantly on the 1.5 deg warming Paris pathway we are stuffed. 2030 is far more important than 2050.

Having recognised an emergency exists, are we dialling 999 and requesting firefighting services in 20 years?

Caroline Lucas

The UK Green Party 2019 manifesto If Not Now, Then When, is based on the premise New green homes, new green transport and new green jobs will get us on track to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 and provide new opportunities for everyone to live happier and more secure lives.

One ‘how’ solution, for clients, designers, planners, contractors, manufacturers and facilities, that can move us forward rapidly as a visionary pathway to a regenerative future’ is the suite of standards and tools associated with the Living Building Challenge from the International’s Living Future Institute, (includes Living Building, Living Communities and Living Product Challenges, Declare and Just labels, Net Zero Energy and Net Zero Carbon tools)

Round up of Carbon Visions and Targets

IPCC 2018 if we want to hold the line to 1.5 degrees, we have to slash emissions by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030. Then we have to reach net-zero around 2050. Note Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report re-emphasizing the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for all sectors by 2020

Extinction Rebellion Net zero 2025

Cities, eg Glasgow – carbon neutral city by 2030

RIBA 2030 Challenge – Reduce embodied carbon by at least 50-70%, before offsetting. Target net zero whole life carbon for new and retrofitted buildings by 2030. And on embodied, up front carbon based on 1100 kgCO2e/m2 (M4i benchmark)
– 2020 < 800 kgCO2e/m2 30%
– 2025 < 650 kgCO2e/m2 40%
– 2030 < 500 kgCO2e/m2 60%

The NZGBC Zero Carbon Road Map proposes that
– building owners start certifying their existing buildings to zero carbon in 2020 and have all their buildings zero carbon by 2030
– building developers construct their new buildings to zero carbon, and 20 per cent less embodied carbon, by 2025.

World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) global Advancing Net Zero Campaign which has set targets for all buildings to be net zero carbon in operation by 2050 and all new buildings to meet this standard by 2030. Bringing embodied carbon upfront

UKGBC “We need to take urgent action to almost halve global emissions by 2030 and eliminate them completely by the middle of the century”

“By 2030, all buildings and infrastructure will, throughout their lifetime, be climate resilient and maximise environmental net gains, through the prioritisation of nature-based solutions.”

Committee on Climate Change
Using known technologies, the UK can end our contribution to global warming by reducing emissions to Net Zero by 2050. (Scotland a net-zero date of 2045, Wales, a 95% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050.)

Green Construction Board Buildings Mission 2030 report shows that net zero operational carbon is already possible.

Architects Declare Adopt more regenerative design principles in our studios, with the aim of designing architecture and urbanism that goes beyond the standard of net zero carbon in use.

Building Services Declare: Adopt more regenerative design principles in practice, with the aim of providing building services engineering design that achieves the standard of net zero carbon

Structural Eng Declare Adopt more regenerative design principles in practice, with the aim of providing structural engineering design that achieves the standard of net zero carbon.

UK – Parliament Declaration – all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

NFB Transforming Construction: zero carbon by 2050

Next: Part 2 An ABC Guide to Construction Carbon

Climate and Biodiversity Emergency commitment, expectations and actions: the new bidding and procurement criteria?

Are commitments and actions towards Climate and Biodiversity becoming procurement criteria for consultants, designers, contractors and building product manufacturers, and criteria for selecting which contracts to bid?

Practices and organisations who are making climate and biodiversity emergency Promise of Declarations are questioned on their actions, and outcomes on issues pledged within the declarations, for example:

  • Raising awareness,
  • Moving to regenerative design practices
  • Set mitigation as critical measures for awards, prizes and listings.
  • Sharing knowledge on open source basis
  • Evaluate all new projects against (climate declaration)
  • Going beyond net zero carbon
  • Collaborate (on climate / biodiversity emergencies)
  • Shift to low embodied carbon materials in all work

The pressure from investment organisations such as the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) in expecting material companies to make commitments on:

  • Accountability and oversight of climate change risk and opportunities.
  • Action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across their value chain consistent with the Paris Agreement’s goal
  • Provide corporate disclosure

Interesting the Creative Climate declaration contains the pledge to

  • Reveal income from fossil fuel and high carbon clients
  • Not work with fossil fuel client briefs’

Assessing Regenerative Sustainability Capacity

Although written before the current raft of declarations, the RESTORE WG3 Publication provides a Regenerative PQQ procurement guide. (Pages 41-45)

Header image by Mehmet Kürşat Değer on Unsplash

An Emergency Declaration

long exposure photography of white smoke

At the time of writing some 370 UK architect practices have signed up to Architects Declare, a declaration that acknowledges we are in a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency. Founded by 17 Stirling Prize winners, Architects Declare makes an unprecedented statement with pledges for action on the twin crises of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss.

This diverse group make the point that buildings and construction account for approximately 40% of carbon dioxide emissions, with more action done to tackle the’ most pressing issue of our time’.

  • Raise awareness of the climate and biodiversity emergencies and the urgent need for action among our clients and supply chains.
  • Advocate for faster change in our industry towards regenerative design practices and a higher Governmental funding priority to support this.
  • Establish climate and biodiversity mitigation principles as the key measure of our industry’s success: demonstrated through awards, prizes and listings.
  • Share knowledge and research to that end on an open-source basis.
  • Evaluate all new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown, and encourage our clients to adopt this approach.
  • Upgrade existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build whenever there is a viable choice.
  • Include life-cycle costing, whole-life carbon modelling and post-occupancy evaluation as part of our necessary scope of work, to reduce both embodied and operational resource use.
  • Adopt more regenerative design principles in our studios, to design architecture and urbanism that goes beyond the standard of net zero carbon in use.
  • Collaborate with engineers, contractors and clients to further reduce construction waste.
  • Accelerate the shift to low embodied carbon materials in all our work.
  • Minimise wasteful use of resources in architecture and urban planning, both in quantum and in detail.

In May when the UK parliament declared a climate emergency, I was attending author and environmentalist Bill McKibben’s keynote at the ILFI conference in Seattle. Bill McKibben praised the action from the UK, to the applause and cheers of the 1500 or so delegates. Also on the stage, that evening was 17 year old Jamie Margolin from Zero Hour (an intersectional movement of youth fighting for a livable planet for all) who commenced her talk with the words, “I am here tonight because our lives depend on it” Such is the feeling and passion of today’s young generation

We no longer have the luxury of being less harmful. Over the last thirty years or so, in what we could call our eco era, with a focus on reducing impact and taking actions not to compromise tomorrows generation, we have seen increases in C02 and global warming. We have not moved the needle; instead, we have watched the needle move in the wrong direction

Now then is the time for these 370+, and other practices, to put these pledges into action. Attendees at my talks and presentations over the last few months would have heard me mention of Greta Thunberg, who asked us not only to be hopeful but to panic. And by panic, we are talking about moving out of our comfort zone to take action.

Materials that are safe for all species, through time

As an advocate for regenerative approaches through programmes such as the Living Building Challenge, the Living Product Challenge and the COST Restore network, I am convinced we have the built environment tools, methods and technologies to address the pledges, and the climate emergency. What we lack is the mindset to act and transition towards regenerative designs, buildings and economies.

One of the vital tools in addressing the health aspects of climate emergency and biodiversity loss, is the ILFI Declare Label, that we are launching in the UK on 13th June in London at Fosters and Partners. Created in 2012, Declare, rather like food ingredients labelling, provides architects, clients and specifiers with the necessary transparency to ensure we do not include toxic materials or chemicals of concern into our buildings.

Only with such material and product transparency can we fully address the Architects Declare pledges and the climate and biodiversity emergency that we face. And we have no time to loose, with the recent IPCC Report stating we have until 2030 to avoid an irreversible climate catastrophe.