Category Archives: comment

Bringing wellbeing to construction with Red List compliant, biophilic net-zero site accommodation.

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… making sure our employees in the field have the same wellbeing …

Readers of this blog, attendees at my presentations, and those I consult and audit with, will recognise my advocacy for implementing wellbeing aspects (that we increasingly build into our projects), for those who are constructing the projects – and into the site accommodation.

It is extremely encouraging to catch up with news from Chicago-based Pepper Construction who unveiled its Net Zero Jobsite Trailer in November at Greenbuild show at the end of last year.

The Net Zero Jobsite Traile is a 12×60-foot structure ‘designed to focus on the human experience, productivity, and quality from every aspect to make sure employees in the field have the same wellness features as those in a traditional office setting.

“Most people spend about 90% of their time indoors, and that environment has a significant impact on our health,” says Susan Heinking, AIA, LEED Fellow, Pepper’s VP of High Performance and Sustainable Construction, who led the project. “That philosophy also applies to the men and women working on our jobsites. We want our trailer to match our values.”

The ‘trailer’ is fitted out with RedList compliant furniture and materials, with recycled felt over the conference room providing sound absorption incorporating biophilic patterns through organic patterns.

Read more here.

If we in the construction sector are serious in delivering healthy buildings, then surely this approach must become commonplace on all projects – certainly those delivering to Well Build Standard, The Living Building Challenge or platinum LEED or BREEAM projects?  And of course should form a part of these standards itself, as a socially just approach.

I will be visiting Future Build in London in March, and look forward to seeing similar innovative approaches from construction organisations  (and by the way I am talking on the 5th)

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What can international standards teach us? FutureBuild

Delighted to be joining a Buildings Hub session at FutureBuild in March, along with Living Building colleagues and Elementa Consulting discussing international building standards and sharing insights from Cuerden Valley.

Buildings Hub, FutureBuild
5th March, London Excel.
13.30-14.40

This session with will draw on approaches taken from international standards, such as RELI, SITEs, Ecodistricts, EDGE, Powerhouse and, above all,  the Living Building Challenge. It will examine the framework tools used and discuss their relevance to the UK. The Living Building Challenge (LBC) describes itself as the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings. It is a framework to create spaces that, like a flower, give more than they take. Through its seven petals or performance areas – water, energy, materials, place, equity, beauty, health and happiness – the LBC tackles this ambitious goal: what if every single act of design and construction could make the world a better place? LBC focuses on regenerative design to restore our environment and rethinking buildings as biological organisms integrated into our ecosystem.

EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies) provides a quantitative, achievable and affordable standard with a path to net zero carbon. An innovation of IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, EDGE makes it faster, easier and more affordable than ever before to build and brand green in 144 countries.  Through the free online EDGE App, builders, owners, and financiers can identify the systems and solutions that work best in the local climate and context, and can calculate the return on investment from energy and water savings.

Chair: Nathan Millar, Associate Principal Sustainability, Elementa Consulting

Overview of international standards
Nathan Millar, Associate Principal Sustainability,Elementa Consulting

The Cuerden Valley Park Visitor Centre – the first building in the UK pursuing Living Building Challenge certification
Martin Brown, Sustainability Provocateur, Fairsnape, Living Building Ambassador, Strategic Advisor, Living Future Europe

Living Buildings exemplars from Seattle
Louise Hamot, Living Building Ambassador
Alkyoni Papasifaki, Living Building Ambassadors

EDGE Showcase: Case studies from around the world
Tom Saunders, EDGE Program Director, thinkstep-SGS

The conference and seminar programmes are now live on the FutureBuild website (https://www.futurebuild.co.uk/).

Consultation on Protecting and Enhancing England’s Street Trees and Woodlands

DEFRA currently have an open consultation that seeks views on the UK government’s proposals to introduce four new measures designed to increase transparency and accountability in the process of felling street trees and to strengthen the Forestry Commission’s power to tackle illegal tree felling.  

Two of the measures introduce new duties on local authorities: a duty to consult on the felling of street trees; a duty to report on tree felling and replanting; while the third suggests the production of best practice guidance to support local authorities in drawing up, consulting on and publishing a Tree and Woodland Strategy. 

The duty to consult is intended to ensure that members of the public are appropriately consulted on the felling of street trees, which can contribute positively to the quality of life for people in urban areas. 

The duty to report would require local authorities to collate and report information on the felling and replanting of trees in a uniform way. This would increase transparency and allow the government to monitor tree felling at a national level, helping to make sure we maintain and enhance the natural capital benefits of trees. 

Tree and Woodland strategies would help local authorities to set out the principles that support their tree management activities, thus both increasing transparency and accountability and improving stakeholder and public engagement.  

The fourth measure is intended to give the Forestry Commission more powers to tackle illegal tree felling and strengthen protection of wooded landscapes. 

All of these proposals could contribute to the protection and enhancement of the natural environment, and help deliver the government’s ambitious 25 Year Environment Plan. This consultation seeks views on these measures and their implementation. 

The consultation (closes 28th Feb) can be found here: https://gov.smartwebportal.co.uk/defra/public/webform.asp?id=108&id2=1D06F7


Recent Reading Online

This is the first in a regular series covering pieces I have been reading online that I think are worthy of further sharing. Followers on twitter, linkedin and to a lesser degree on Instgram will be aware that I regularly share items relating to sustainability, the built environment and our relationship with the outdoors and nature. However posts there can be flitting and often difficult to track down and return to. They will hopefully have a longer life here.

Articles, papers and images that catch my eye, or as a result of a search I move into my ever growing Instapaper (and occasionally Evernote) Library. This enables me to read offline, and importantly to keep and or return to for reference: here are a few recents:

Sustainability

Patagonia is in business to save our home planet  For the past 45 years, Patagonia has been a business at the cutting edge of environmental activism, sustainable supply chains, and advocacy for public lands and the outdoors. Its mission has long been “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”But for Yvon Chouinard, that’s not enough. So this week, the 80-year-old company founder and Marcario informed employees that the company’s mission statement has changed to something more direct, urgent, and crystal clear: “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.”

Chasing the Sun by Linda Geddes review – why we don’t get enough natural light. Guardian review of Linda Geddes book exploring the importance of sunlight and circadian rhythms for our wellbeing. Chasing the sun is an interesting insight to add to the current interest in biophilia thinking.

Ten lessons for embedding sustainability across the business Sue Garrard, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership Senior associate and Unilever’s former EVP Sustainable Business, was responsible for leading and embedding the company’s ambitious USLP (the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan) into the business and ensuring progress against its 70-plus time bound targets. Here she provides 10 lessons for embedding sustainability across the business.

To get to a circular economy we have to change not just the cup, but the culture. Lloyd Alter explores the circular economy in the ‘coffee delivery system’ from the CE 3 principles (to Design out waste and pollution, to Keep products and materials in use, and to Regenerate Natural Systems)


Image food for thought: Disturbing images like this emphasis the need for urgency in our sustainability actions. The Pastoruri glacier, part of the Cordillera Blanca.

Built Environment

Net Gain: A developer’s commitment to enhancing biodiversity. Natural England blog from Louise Clarke, Head of Sustainable Places at Berkeley Group, outlining the organisation’s approach to biodiversity net gain

Manchester commits to making all new buildings ‘net-zero’ by 2028. Edie Article: The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has pledged to ensure that all new buildings erected in the city region will be ‘net-zero’ carbon by 2028

Concrete responsible for 8 per cent of all CO2 emissions. Research by the think tank Chatham House underlines the need for drastic changes in the production and use of concrete, the world’s most used man-made material, because of the way in which cement is made.

Outdoors / Nature

Plantwatch: is sphagnum the most underrated plant on Earth? Sphagnum is probably the most underrated plant on Earth. This humble little moss makes up the bulk of our peat bogs and holds up to 20 times its weight in water. That makes boglands huge sponges that store water, slowing its flow and helping prevent flooding downstream.

What I’ve Been Reading Online Recently. Chris Townsend’s blog that inspired this approach to reshaping what I have been reading.

Image food for thought: Human Modification v Ecological Integrity. Shared at #Rewilding2019

The Search for England’s Forgotten Footpaths.  Article by Sam Knight in The New Yorker on our English footpaths “The Countryside and Rights of Way Act created a new “right to roam” on common land, opening up three million acres of mountains and moor, heath and down, to cyclists, climbers, and dog walkers. It also set an ambitious goal: to record every public path crisscrossing England and Wales by January 1, 2026”

Construction Wellbeing: exploring the ‘underbelly’ of construction.

Mental health in construction is worsening. Suicide rates are over 3 times higher than other sectors. It is essential we understand and address contributing causes with some urgency.

Over the last 6 months I have been delivering a series of one day workshops that focus on exploring construction’s ‘underbelly’ issues on sessions that included directors, managers and operatives. These are issues that are affect personal wellbeing, wellness (as in health and safety), quality, sustainability, productivity, and therefore financial performance.

Here is an overview and synopsis of the issues covered and discussed … 

Wellness or Wellbeing?
We need a clear understanding of the difference. Within construction we have, for many years, been successfully treating wellness as in physical health through health and safety approaches. However wellbeing is the much wider scenario of holistic mind health and happiness, requiring different skills and perspectives.

Health
The WHO definition of health as a “State of complete physical, mental, and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ should be a clear guide to addressing health in construction.

Causes
Distraction, mental health, exhaustion and suicide top the NBS TOP12 list of injury, illness and death in construction. These are issues that cannot be fixed with PPE, but require new thinking and new skills, for example we are seeing wellbeing first aiders and health & safety managers becoming wellbeing managers

Fit for Construction 
In any sport, warm up and recovery is recognised as an essential part of training and fitness. In construction, we rarely give space to or participate in stretching and recovery exercises, even where there is manual work or lifting involved.

Image
The public perception and image of construction is not good, weakened by Carilion, Grenfell. The workshops Construction 101 exercise nominates construction issues that are bad, ugly and unacceptable, but are common place across far too many sites

Well Construction
We are designing green buildings at highest levels of LEED and BREEAM, to Well Build standards, with biophilic approaches that have a design aspiration to address and improve the health and wellbeing of those who work live and play within our buildings. We have not applied the same ethos to the work environment or welfare facilities for those in the construction process.

Biophilic Construction
It is time to re-image project accommodation, canteen and toilet facilities. Within the workshop’s construction 101 exercise, toilet and welfare facilities are consistently nominated to room 101 as being ugly or unacceptable aspects of construction.

Senses
We know that workplaces that focus on intangibles, ie, sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch are workplaces better equipped to boost employee wellbeing. Unfortunately construction tends to mute our senses.

Outside
It is well documented that getting outside is key to sharpening our senses and mental wellbeing, Indeed it is now recognised to design a green healthy building on biophilic principles, a powerful first step is for the design team to go for a walk in a forest. Unfortunately for most working on construction projects the ability to get outside is very limited. 

Mindfulness
That, at each of these workshops, 25+ construction operatives, managers and directors were keen to learn and to practice their first mindfulness session was, I believe, indicative of the need for relief from stress through techniques such as mindfulness.

Modern Slavery
Whilst we continue to have elements of modern slavery in our industry we simply cannot call our sector sustainable. Before we award any project a sustainability standard or recognition award there needs to be a 100% guarantee that there are no incidents of modern slavery in the project supply chains.

Just Construction
Within the sessions, I included an overview of the ILFI Just programme, as a wonderful example of how we could bring construction social and human justice into sustainability certifications.

Fairness Inclusion and Respect
It is sad we need a FIR programme in today’s construction sector, yet a lack of Fairness, Inclusion and Respect lies at the root of our worsening wellbeing, modern slavery, stress and mental health situation.

Support
If you would like to discuss support for any or all of the issues covered above please do get in touch. Within the UK we may also be able to find funding for in-house workshops

References

Wilmott Dixon All Safe Minds Poster 

Rethinking Carbon: its not the enemy

William McDonough proposes a new thinking and new language for the manner in which we approach our relationship with carbon. His article in Nature makes for essential reading. 

Building on carbon thinking in FutuREstorative, ConstructCO2 and Cost Restore, I have been advocating for a rethinking of carbon, particularly in the construction phase of projects. I have used the two following slides in just about every presentation I have made this year, under the banner of #ImagineBetter, whether it be to the excellent Specifi series of events, COST Restore dissemination presentations, most recently in Malaga (RESTORE Training School), Eindhoven (Dutch Design Week) and Vilnius (Lithuanian GBC Conference)

Within design, construction and building operation the concepts of durable carbon and living carbon are not on our carbon agenda.

In addition to reducing fugitive carbon, we need to turn our attention to the value of construction we are achieving through units of carbon emitted, we can see this as Construction Carbon Productivity.

Yet, even if we were to remove all carbon from buildings construction and in use, we would not make any significant contribution to meet the Paris Agreement 1.5 degC target. We need to include Durable and Living Carbon within our carbon thinking.

Indeed as the recent IPCC October 2018 Report suggests, we need billions of trees to assist in our carbon reduction targets. And it strikes me, as the World GBC report advocates, we have thousands of green buildings – lets roll that up to billions – to all existing and new buildings, where buildings can function like trees in respect of carbon, energy and water for that matter.

A New Language

Source: Carbon is not the Enemy. in Nature November 2016

Regenerative sustainability: enabling people and planet to thrive.

The Lithuanian Green Build Council conference in Vilnius, attracting over 100 from the world built environment Real Estate, Design, Contruction, Product Manufacturers, Facilities Managers and Investors, asked the question ‘Sustainability what is it’?

It was a privilege to kick-off presentations, following an opening address from the Republic of Lithuania’s Ministry of Environment, sharing insights from FutuREstorative and Cost RESTORE. It was pleasing to see that key messages of my keynote resonated throughout the day’s presentations and case studies from inspiring speakers from Europe and the USA.

The key message was that we no longer have a luxury only to be less bad but that we need to seek different approaches to sustainability that enable us to do more good. Thats more good for people health, for planet health and importantly for financial health. Only reducing impact can be seen as the foolish act of driving ever slower towards a cliff edge we know is there.

The impact we have within the built environment sector on the health of those who work live and play in our buildings is huge, and a responsibility we need to face up to, not just to ‘sustain’ but to enable people and planet to thrive.

The LTGBC event included presentations with wonderful insights into regenerative design from Emanuele Naboni KADK / RESTORE, on circular economy from Kestutis Sadauskas, European Commission on healthy materials and LCA (from Camille FABRE, Sant-Goban, into green bonds for regenerative projects from Katya Nolvall atSwedbank) and BIPV – Building Integrated PV’s from Julija Kaladžinskaitė, alongside certification schemes that push the regenerative and health concept from David Hubka and Levan Ekhvaia (DGNB)

It was also a privilege to meet with and share insights with staff and students from VGTU (Vilnius Gedimino Technical University) School of Architecture the following day.  Once again discussions and questions related to the need for collaboration with health practitioners in project design and construction. My thanks to Dr Gintaras Stauskis for the guided tour of Vilnius with insights into the city’s history and soviet architecture, and to his team at VGTU for hosting me for the day.

There were many takeaway’s over the two days and I learnt much from presentations and discussions. Conferences such as this may well be seen as a sustainability bubble of like-minded thinkers, but it is heartening to hear of the wonderful innovations and passions that are enabling us in the built environment to become key climate change solution providers, and not just part of the climate change problem.

We are learning to design and build for people and planet health, not just for function retaliation or image. And given the 12 years timeframe the IPCC October 2018 Report has given us … we need more of this.

Congratulations to Eugenis Sapel and team at LTGBC and Vesta for moderating and delivering a great event, and for keeping us speakers focused on financial aspects of regenerative sustainability.