Category Archives: comment

Thoughts on FutureBuild 2019 – 2030

Eco Build had been renamed as Future Build to focus on built environment innovation for the future, whilst retaining an eco, sustainability theme. From a brief attendance on the first day here are a few comments, the good the bad and the ugly.

Garden by the Bay, Singapore
Garden by the Bay, Singapore

Giving nature a home

More than one stand promoted their product or solution as ‘giving nature a home in construction, in buildings, in the built environment – the place for the home we are giving is interchangeable. We have to flip this – and quickly if we are to arrest the loss in biodiversity. Nature has a home, and without the built environment would be doing very nicely thank you. We need to see products and solutions that respect, and live within the space that nature can give us as a home … for construction, buildings, the built environment

Its not magic dust

Not knowing what the ingredients are in products – especially glues and binders in composite materials is not that surprising, but why does a manufacture send a sales representative to a green build show who isn’t clued up on what must be a common question. One representative I talked with described the binder in plastic ‘nurdles’ as magic dust

Will it hurt me or make me healthy

A similar question, given the increase in awareness of toxicity of materials through Well Build, BREEAM and a lesser degree LBC, that manufacture and suppliers should to be able to respond to is how the product will either hurt me or make me healthy. It’s an issue we often make as discerning shoppers when buying food – why not when buying construction products? (A point I made on my Building Hub presentation – that every product being promoted at FutureBuild had the potential to affect our health, for good or for worst, and that all too often we don’t know)

And you know what? – if this is not a common question then that raises a whole raft of other issues – not only do we not know what is in the products we promote, we don’t care enough to ask!

forest trees marked with question marks

Back to the future

It is increasingly recognised that our ancestors and indigenous people had, and in a few cases still have, the thinking and approaches that we know need tin this anthroprecene age to address climate change, biodiversity loss, skill loss. It was good there for to see rammed earth and clay blocks on display and in workshops. Although one can’t help wondering why this seemed to be hidden away behind timber panelling.

Why Waste?

I enjoyed the waste zone’s innovative and interactive approach. I only wish we could start calling it a material ‘conservation’ zone. Language is important, and whilst we continue to call materials waste, we will continue to see only their final destination as landfill or incineration.

SDG’s – the four year old with a bright future we are just getting know

It was extremely encouraging to hear Sustainable Development Goals and Circular Economy given a main stage platform for discussion. If Future Build is the show case for sustainability, innovation and future-proofing – then the SDG’s, now 4 years old, along with circular economy for that matter, are a vital ingredients. Yet in 2019 the SDG’s should be common place, not new.

Its worse, far worse …

Where then is the innovation, the next new sustainability? A few I talked with during the day, and a theme of our building hub session (What can international standards teach us?) is that sustainability is dead, it has been our engineering solution to resources, energy, climate change, carbon for 30 years (since the 1987 Brundtland definition) but the situation is now worse than then.

The climate change book of 2019 so far (Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells) starts with what must be one of the most brilliant and worryingly sentences for a while – It is worse, far worse that you think”

Image result for 2030
The 2030 Agenda: Our responsibility.

Regeneration and Regenerative are better describers for the sustainability we need. And given we only have another 11 FutureBuilds before we reach the IPCC impassion of irreversible climate breakdown, we have to move fast.

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Free Photo Book: NASA Celebrates Earth’s Incredible Natural Beauty

We chose these images because they inspire. They tell a story of a 4.5-billion-year-old planet where there is always something new to see. They tell a story of land, wind, water, ice, and air as they can only be viewed from above. They show us that no matter what the human mind can imagine, no matter what the artist can conceive, there are few things more fantastic and inspiring than the world as it already is. The truth of our planet is just as compelling as any fiction.

Earth,  a free photo book from NASA features stunning imagery captured over the years by various NASA satellites. There is a hardcover version for sale, but you can also download a free pdf, or e-version 

But, better than the free book is the online version that also offers interactive elements and image of the day for the four categories: atmosphere, water, land, and ice and snow.

Moose River, Ontario

Sixty years ago, with the launch of Explorer 1, NASA made its first observations of Earth from space. Fifty years ago, astronauts left Earth orbit for the first time and looked back at our “blue marble.” All of these years later, as we send spacecraft and point our telescopes past the outer edges of the solar system, as we study our planetary neighbors and our Sun in exquisite detail, there remains much to see and explore at home.

Every one of the images in this book is publicly available through the Internet, truly making science accessible to every citizen

Source: Digital Trends

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

pexels-photo-985287

… 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)

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 …

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