Climate Emergency Score Card Report: UK Must do better, within 18 months

It’s taken a while to read through the latest report from Committee on Climate Change, the government’s official climate change advisers, which forms the most recent assessment of progress in preparing for climate change in England, but here is an overview from a built environment perspective.

The report warns of a failure in cutting emissions fast enough, and adapting to rising temperatures, recommending that the UK Government raise the profile, and strengthen the governance, of preparations for the impacts of climate change. Actions over the next 18 months will determine the success of climate change ambitions. (See infograph below)

It also comes after a raft of Climate Emergency declarations from the UK Government, over 100 councils, Architects, RIBA, Landscape Institute and others that acknowledge the climate and biodiversity emergency with pledges to act on a raft of regenerative approaches.

Key Findings

The priority given to adaptation, including through the institutional and support framework in England, has been eroded over the past ten years.

England is still not prepared for even a 2°C rise in global temperature, let alone more extreme levels of warming. Only a handful of sectors have plans that consider a minimum of 2°C global warming – water supply, road and rail, flood defences and fl­ood risk planning for infrastructure.

Many national plans and policies still lack a basic acknowledgement of long-term climate change, or make a passing mention but have no associated actions to reduce risk. This includes aspects of agriculture, the natural environment, health, other infrastructure sectors and business.

None of the sectors assessed has yet been given top scores for reducing the risks from climate change through appropriate action.

The UK Government must raise the profile, and strengthen the governance, of preparations for the impacts of climate change. It should ramp up resources and action on all of the urgent risks set out in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, continue to take appropriate action for those classed as less urgent (but still relevant), and monitor the effects on climate risk over the next five year period.

Headlines (relating to the built environment)

Built environment and health, in respect of homes and hospital overheating, flooding % water, impact on biodiversity and air quality are singled out for lack of progress,

New policies must be found to help people lead healthy lives without fuelling global warming.

The report gives a low score to planning …. “short-term plans exist to provide guidance during hot and cold weather. However, longer-term adaptation plans to mitigate the long- term risks of climate change are missing, despite CCRA2 highlighting the risks to health from heat as an urgent priority. Plans are in place to review the Building Regulations, but as yet, there are no significant shifts in policy to ensure that new buildings are being designed with the future climate in mind and no strategies exist to help to adapt existing buildings.

It warns that the UK is failing to insulate itself from the knock-on effects of climate change overseas, such as colonisations by new species, changes in the suitability of land for agriculture or forestry, and risks to health from changes in air quality driven by rising temperatures.

Green space in parks and gardens, cools cities and helps reduce flood risks. But as more homes are crammed into cities, green spaces had shrunk from 63% of urban area in 2001 to 55% in 2018.

Heat magnifies the production of pollutants, so more people are expected to suffer breathing problems. Meanwhile, the proportion of hard surfaces in towns has risen by 22% since 2001, even though they make floods worse.

Building Over Bluebells

Related image
Image Source

Jackie Morris in the latest episode of the excellent FolkonFoot podcast series mentioned that children in schools she had visited didn’t know what a wren or bluebell or dandelion was. This ‘revelation’ that led to the creation of The Lost Words with Robert Macfarlane and reinforced the importance of words, and reminded me, why in FutuREstorative, I referenced a passage from Robert Macfarlane.

In a recent revision to the Oxford Junior Dictionary, a number of entries no longer deemed appropriate to were deleted and replaced by more modern entries. As nature writer Robert Macfarlane noted: ‘The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow.’ These were replaced by block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail. As Macfarlane said: ‘For “blackberry”, read “Blackberry’’’. This emphasises the need to re-wild our language as a precursor to understanding the importance of connectivity.”

FutuREstorative

Imagine if those children, oblivious to what a bluebell was, move on to a career role in construction, or design or planning. Being unaware of the ecological importance and cultural history, would they be less likely to protect, and more likely to sanction development?

This is of course against backdrop of the UN biodiversity assessment that we will lose 1 million species over the next decade, due to amongst other factors, land development, and against the grain of the current biodiversity net-gain initiatives, and the signing of climate emergency declarations such as architects declaration that includes recognition of a biodiversity emergency.

The twin crises of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss are the most serious issue of our time. Buildings and construction play a major part, accounting for nearly 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions whilst also having a significant impact on our natural habitats.

Architects Declaration

Such a lack of knowledge reinforces the need for ecology, and or climate emergency however you wish to define it, be a taught not only in schools but also as an ecology 101 for all design, construction trade and management training programmes. As we move more and more towards natural solutions for our buildings and building services, understanding how natural ecological systems function is vital. Without such knowledge, we will not indeed be able to design buildings that function as trees, living buildings such as the Bullitt Center, still the greenest building in the world

(Buildings and Cities) behave so much like living organisms that it is time to begin thinking of them as such. They consume oxygen, water, fuel and other natural resources, and burp out the waste. They have circulatory systems and neural pathways and at least a reptilian sort of brain to provide governing impulses.

Seattle Times
Image result for Futurestorative

A Module Programme for students and professionals, based on FutuREstorative, takes participants from an understanding of culture and challenges, ecological and human health, through a new thinking to regenerative building standards and digital futures. For more information, just ask.

Sustainable Language

“As part of our sustainability journey, the language of construction also needs to evolve – from one that is perhaps too combative, technical and confrontational to one that is mindful, and embraces a language of collaboration, sharing, care and love. There are signs that the language of business is changing as it incorporates more diverse, open and inclusive approaches”

FutuREstorative 2016

EGO Our tyrannical dominion over nature

ECO Our earth friendly actions based on reducing impact

SEVA our actions based on being part of nature not apart from nature

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.

UK Declare Launch, 13th June

Products that are Safe for All Species Through Time: The materials we use within construction, the products we use within our buildings, are as vital as the food we eat, the water we drink and the air that we breathe if we are to maintain and improve the health of those who live work and play within our facilities.

Key to understanding the material and products we use is the transparency that enables us to make the correct specification, choice and procurement. Unfortunately, that transparency is not widespread across the UK manufacture and supply sector.

Indeed, as part of the (Living Building Challenge)Cuerden Valley Centre project in Lancashire, one of the biggest challenges was obtaining information on material ingredients to ensure compliance with the LBC Red List. There is currently a minimal number of Declare materials in the UK, which limited choice at our CVP. However, as the demand for transparency will inevitably grow, Declare will undoubtedly become a material sales differentiator. It will be an essential tool for example in meeting the pledges of the recent Architects Declaration of Climate and Biodiversity Emergency, currently signed by over 274 UK Architects

I am delighted, as part of the ILFI Europe team, that Declare will be launched into the UK market at our event, hosted by Fosters on the 13th June. where we will hear how major players in the UK Construction industry are addressing and setting standards for material transparency. Whether you are a client, manufacturer, architect, sustainability practitioner, contractor or you want to know more about Declare and healthy materials, you are very welcome to come and join us for an informal, fun evening in the Hub at Foster + Partners.

WHAT IS THE DECLARE LABEL? DECLARE is a transparency platform and product database established by the International Living Future Institute that is changing the materials marketplace. Where does a product come from? What is it made of? What is their end of life options? The answers to all these questions can be found at the DECLARE label for each of our certified products.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE. We want to minimize the apparent disconnect that exists between the manufacturer and the user. As many of the products have proprietary ingredients and a lot of secrecy, the end user never really gets to know what he purchases. The “ingredient list” is missing. The DECLARE label wants to break this disconnect and allow customers to make informed choices. It focuses mostly on Red List materials, which are all well-known environmental pollutants. These chemicals are bio-accumulation up the food chain so that nature and humans are harmed with their regular consumption. Such compounds also harm the lives of construction and factory workers due to constant exposure.

UK DECLARE LAUNCH PROGRAMME

18:00 WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION

Chris Trott: Head of Sustainability, Foster + Partners

18:15 BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE DECLARE LABEL AND THE INTERNATIONAL LIVING FUTURE INSTITUTE

Martin Brown: European Strategic Advisor, ILFI

James Connelly: Vice President, ILFI

18:30 KINGSPAN, ASPECTA FLOORING AND HUMANSCALE ARE MANUFACTURING PIONEERS WHO HAVE SUPPORTED DECLARE FROM THE BEGINNING AND THEY WILL SHARE THEIR JOURNEYS TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY.

Brent Trenga, Building Technology Director, Kingspan

Monique Vergouwen, Sustainability & Quality Assurance Manager, Aspecta Flooring

Hani Hatami; A&D Manager and Sustainability Champion – London, Humanscale

19:00 OUR DECLARE PANEL DISCUSSION

Chris Trott: Head of Sustainability, Foster+Partners

Davide Stronati: Global Sustainability Leader, Mott MacDonald

Divya Orbesen: Head of Materials Research, Foster+Partners

Martin Brown: European Strategic Advisor, ILFI

Anna Surgenor: Senior Technical Advisor, UKGBC

Catriona Brady: Head of Better Places for People, World GBC

19:30 DRINKS, CANAPES AND NETWORKING

CORE to Living Building Challenge 4.0

Against a backdrop of climate change activism, declarations of climate emergency, reports for zero carbon UK by 2050 and the UN dire report on biodiversity breakdown, the ILFI launched the latest version of the Living Building Challenge (4.0) and associated programmes at the Living Future conference 2019 in Seattle, ramping up the challenge’s leading edge position in philosophy, advocacy and certification for a regenerative future, whilst balancing effort and impact.

In addition the ILFI launched Core Certification. A programme seeking “To rapidly diminish the gap between the highest levels of established green building certification programs and the aspirations of the Living Building Challenge”

The Backdrop: Over the last months and weeks we have seen an awakening of the urgency we face, with street, school and business activism alongside a number of key government and international reports, namely:
The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C (SR15) published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on 8 October 2018
UK Parliament climate change emergency declaration
UK CCC report: Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming calls for net zero carbon UK by 2050 (Scotland 2045, Wales 2055)
The UN Biodiversity Report, to be launched on Monday is seen as the ecological equivalent to the Paris 1.5 deg c and will sharpen up our responses to thinking as part of nature, rather than apart from nature. Report:

Are we now, at last, seeing the emergence of a woke built environment on the verge of responding to a climate emergency, truly acting on regenerative sustainability imperatives?

LBC 4.0

The revised version of the Living Building Challenge has been developed based on two goals: to simplify the program so the level of effort of teams is better aligned with their impacts, at both project and market scales; and to fill the gap between the highest levels of mainstream green building certifications, and the entry point to the living building challenge. 

The resulting standard is streamlined, eliminating time consuming requirements that were not directly influencing projects or markets. LBC 4.0 raises the bar by requiring that teams address basic issues in all petals, even if the project is primarily focused on a more limited scope of priorities. In addition, a number of new performance-based compliance paths have been added to increase flexibility for teams. These changes promise to relieve some of the frustrations of the previous versions, while maintaining the high standards and inspirational vision that the ILFI community expects from the Living Building Challenge

Key rivers for the update are reported as:
– Climate Change
– Social Inequality
– Water Scarcity
– Filling a gap in the certification market

The Living Building Challenge now has ten Core Imperatives that address the fundamental tenets of each Petal. All the Core Imperatives are required for Petal Certification, and together they constitute the requirements of the new Core Green Building Certification. Notable updates in LBC 4.0 by Imperative include:
I-01 Ecology of Place includes a performance-based approach to the project location and local ecology and community.
I-02 Urban Agriculture introduces a secondary path to improve the accessibility to fresh food in conjunction with on-site food production. Required percentages of site area have been simplified and are now based on Transect rather than Floor Area Ratio (FAR). Food storage requirements are modified.
The Water Petal has been divided into two Imperatives, Core and Living, and requires comparison to a baseline.
The Energy Petal: Separated in two Imperatives, Core and Living, and now incorporates an EUI minimum and embodied carbon.
I-09 Healthy Interior Environment is now a Core Imperative that outlines baseline requirements to achieve good indoor air quality.
I-10 HEALTHY INTERIOR PERFORMANCE includes some of the previous requirements of LBC 3.1 Civilized Environment and Healthy Interior Environment plus some expanded options for fresh air and controls.
I-11 Access to Nature is a new Imperative based on one of the previous requirements of the LBC 3.1 Biophilic Environment Imperative.
I-12 Responsible Materials is a new Core Imperative setting a materials baseline for all projects.
I-13 Red List has an updated list based on classes of chemicals, as a means to clarify the process for updating the Red List Chemical Abstract Services Registry Number list and avoid regrettable substitutions. The threshold for compliance has been set at 90%.. A realist Watchlist is introduced.
I-14 Responsible Sourcing added an FSC project certification pathway and the calculation to determine the number of required Declare labels has been changed.
I-18 Inclusion is a new Imperative addressing diversity in hiring and access to training. The Just label requirement has been changed and incorporated in this Imperative.
I-19 Biophilic Design includes most of the requirements of the LBC 3.1 Biophilic Environment Imperative integrated with the requirements from the LBC 3.1 Beauty + Spirit Imperative.
I-20 Education + Inspiration now requires one Living Future Accredited (LFA) professional on each project team.

Download the LBC4.0 Standard from here

CORE

The new CORE certification programme launched by ILFI, responds to climate change whilst demanding holistic high performance, seeking to rapidly diminish the gap between the highest levels of established green building certification programs and the aspirations of the Living Building Challenge.

Core is based on 10 best practice imperatives taken from the new LBC4.0 standard, positioned as being the stepping stone to full Living Certification, encouraging projects to progress from business as usual sustainability to regenerative sustainability. It puts the connection to nature, equity and the need for a building to be loved on even footing with the typical water, energy and materials concerns.
Ecology of Place
Human Scale Living
Responsible Water Use
Energy and Carbon Reduction
Healthy Interior Environment
Responsible Materials
Universal Access
Inclusion
Beauty and Biophilia
Education and Inspiration

Download the Core Standard from here

My Perspective …

We need to read more on the background detail when released, (Petal handbooks will be available later in 2019). One of my litmus tests over last months, forcing me to re-question most of our sustainability approaches, are the observations from Greta Thunberg and other activists, asking us not to be hopeful but to panic and act today. I am also haunted by the comments and thinking from Lloyd Alter that we don’t have the luxury of time for LCA – in that what we do over the next 12 years is more important than future years. If we don’t act and reverse carbon and global warming by 2030 then we will be in a whole new ball game.

We need to address (and remove) upfront carbons that we will pump into buildings over the next 12 years. And this is going to be tough, as the UK CCC report hints – it will mean remove carbon heavy materials from buildings – eg concrete, starting from today. In addition we need to ramp up and reverse biodiversity loss- we will only do this with a new Seva mindset view, as detailed within COST Restore, where we see ourselves a part of nature, not apart from nature

Whilst representing a huge step forward, urgency in adoption and implementation is vital, as the IPCC and UN reports clearly demonstrate and a message that resonated throughout the Living Future Conference. And a key acid test for regenerative plans, such as LBC4.0 is to invite scrutiny from youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg and Jamie Margolin (who spoke with passion for action at LF19 in Seattle) and the XR movement.

Updates, Introduction Sessions and Workshops for LBC4.0 and Related Programmes

There will be introduction roll out sessions to LBC4.0 in the UK and across Europe within the coming months. Watch for details.

XR: The Extinction Symbol, Business and the Built Environment

The current use of the extinction symbol by Extinction Rebellion, is establishing the symbol as the image of climate breakdown akin to the (CND) peace symbol. In addition, the vision, messages and demands from Extinction Rebellion, (echoed by Greta Thunberg, the SchoolsStrike4Climate and David Attenborough’s BBC Climate Change: The Facts) is resonating with business and the built environment sector. And as I mentioned in a tweet this morning – XR has done more for climate change, climate breakdown awareness than the sustainability movement has done, with (as the Guardian reported) Support for Extinction Rebellion in the UK has quadrupled in the past nine days as public concern about the scale of the ecological crisis grows.

The symbol represents extinction. The circle signifies the planet, while the hourglass inside serves as a warning that time is rapidly running out for many species. The world is currently undergoing a mass extinction event, and this symbol is intended to help raise awareness of the urgent need for change in order to address this crisis. Estimates are that somewhere between 30,000 and 140,000 species are becoming extinct every year in what scientists have named the Holocene, or Sixth Mass Extinction. This ongoing process of destruction is being caused by the impact of human activity. Within the next few decades approximately 50% of all species that now exist will have become extinct. Such a catastrophic loss of biodiversity is highly likely to cause widespread ecosystem collapse and consequently render the planet uninhabitable for humans.

https://www.extinctionsymbol.info

Although aimed at the Government, we can learn from XR – their demands are very closely aligned to those seeking a regenerative built environment

Extinction Rebellion ‘Demands’:

1 ACKNOWLEDGE: tell the truth by acknowledging and declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with others to communicate the urgency for change

2 ACT: Act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025

3 COLLABORATE: create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

The recognition that the XR movement is ‘on to something’ is being recognised by business and the built environment – see for example An Open Letter to Business Supporters of Extinction Rebellion by Jim Bendell and It’s time to dump Earth Day and join the Extinction Rebellion by Lloyd Alter

We believed that we had time and techniques to reform this capitalist system towards something sustainable. It was a wonderful idea at the time, and even got its swansong with international agreement of sustainable development goals

Jem Bendell

Decarbonization by 2025 is a very tough goal, but …we have met tough goals before. We won’t get there by looking at bird photos and picking up litter on Earth Day once a year

Lloyd Alter

This mornings twitter conversation …

Neil Swift @NeilGSwift  Construction one of the biggest emitters XRconstruction could do good business?@invisiblstudio @FCBStudios @ArchitypeUK @fairsnape interested in your thoughts?

Martin Brown @fairsnape Indeed @NeilGSwift current activity @GretaThunberg @ExtinctionR #DavidAttenborough has done more to raise #ClimateBreakdown awareness than built environment sector has ever done, despite our products being (40%) of problem. We need a #XConstruction mindset urgently

Where to start? … ‘tell the truth’, … acknowledge a #ClimateEmergency exists and our built environment role .. and set zero carbon targets for 2025,

Martin Brown @fairsnape At the moment we are on track to fail our own industry strategy target carbon reduction 50% by 2025 … how will we explain that to next gen? #XConstruction

Whether you agree with Extinction Rebellion approach, or not, we need all means, advocates, media and approaches to raise awareness, tell the truth and starting acting.

USE OF EXTINCTION SYMBOL: No extinction symbol merchandise exists, and it never will do. The free use of the extinction symbol by individuals in their personal artwork or other forms of expression is strongly welcomed and encouraged, but any form of commercial use of the symbol is completely against its ethos and should therefore be refrained from. To reiterate, please do not use the symbol on any items that will be sold, or for any other fundraising purposes. There are no exceptions to this policy.