building codes wanted for better future

Received the following from Architecture for Humanity …. a great opportunity to share knowledge and skills collaboratively on line for the greater good.

We love to build. Therefore we are obsessed with global and local building codes. A few years ago, 1760 BC to be exact, the Code of Hammurabi was the first set of written codes with a focus on the built environment. Luckily for architects, builders (and their sons) building codes have evolved. But smarter, more sustainable building is needed more than ever.

Know an interesting building code, send it our way. If you love building, get involved. We’ve got plenty of design opportunities this month for people with a range of experience all over the world. Be forewarned: These are green collar jobs without the collar.

There are plenty of other ways express your support for the right to shelter. In fact we’ve created a handy-dandy cheatsheet to help you get started.

now wash your hands …

I am always amazed at how a strategically important sector such as Facilities Management has somehow elevated the washroom, toilet maintenance sector to be of utmost strategic import.

Now I can already hear the moans from facilities managers, as this space may be invaded, at the excellent and innovative Welsh Assembly proposal for businesses to open their toilet facilities to the public. But this will surely reinforce the sense of place and community based facilities management, moving from contract-centric services to one of community-centric provision.

A new £385,000 public facilities scheme to encourage businesses to open their toilets to the general public has been announced by Minister for Social Justice and Local Government, Dr Brian Gibbons, today (Wednesday 20 August).

The public facilities scheme will encourage local authorities to work in partnership with businesses to improve the provision of safe, hygienic and accessible toilet facilities. More here

This story was picked up by twitter from @HMGOV the Unofficial service of official news feeds from UK Government

where is the service user innovation …

I attended the SCRI event on Service User Innovation in Salford Uni’s new Lady Hale Building yesterday, listened to four influential speakers and participated in thoughtful discussions and break outs.

POE (post occupancy evaluations) were mentioned too often – I have an issue with POE  as a means to evaluate performance, and as they have been referred to before are the wrong tool for the wrong job.  Yes there needs to be post project evaluation, for as Ian Cooper notes, every building project without a feedback loop is a prototype. But to measure people performance through their relationship with the building is the wrong starting point. After all its about the service users ‘experience’

The four key speakers were Prof Peter Barratt at BuHu Salford University – key message here for me was his comment that all the successful projects were led by Facilities Management, his case studies included the Sydney Opera House and Wm McCormack Place in Cairns as part of the Australian Facilities Management Action Agenda, the Trondhiem Hospital where the construction team were selected by psychologists to ensure they understood health issues, and John Zeisel‘s work in Boston USA with Alzheimer’s centers

Neil Sachdev, Sainsburys Commerical Director, illustrated how they engage with their customers on store design,

John Lorimer from Manchester City Council on testing furniture with pupils against a background of how the school environment shapes and influences education , and

Nigel Oseland on POE’s who also . Nigel also introduced the Dunbar’s number concept of 150 and talked on biophilia kinship, of our history of camp fires and story telling, of seeking nature and space and waymarking, but now confined into office cubicles.  (We need to get out more, tell stories have camp fire meetings and connect with nature – not surprising then the increase in barcamps and benchmarkwalks)

The investment in really engaging with and empowering end users is impressive. Five years in the case of John Zeisel in understanding Alzheimer’s needs in the USA , a huge investment from Sainsbury’ s and the patient work in understanding pupil and teacher needs from Manchester City Council.  None of these three examples start with the building, but with the users.  Why then as an industry do we fool ourselves we can do the engagement stuff with one or two value management exercises and a POE?

I was not alone in noting an under theme of web 2.0 in the presentations and discussions.  There was the mention of pupils using second life to determine space and colour requirements, of the use of Web2 (twitter maybe, blogs, or facebook groups) in getting real, unsolicited, feedback from facilities users. I sensed though it was something to put on the wish list and get on with the business in hand.

It is a pity this was an under theme as to me as is where the real service user innovation lies. Service users make use of web2 technology outside of the work place, ie in second life, in twittering, in facebook, in myspace … etc etc etc.  The innovation is in using this in design and facilities management.  We seem to be blind to or just awakening to its potential. The potential to allow continuous dialogue between service users and service providers / designers   This is not rocket science – those using twitter can contact the government on issues (and get a response) and be kept in touch with the Prime Ministers actions, speeches and even thoughts.

And then where – consumers constantly in dialogue with a supermarket on store layouts, on colour, on products and costs – office users ditto with the fm’s on suggestions and wc complaints –  pupils on school design, residents on city facilities and urban design – on eco town developments,  and all in real time as it happens.

Definitely a topic to be discussed at the be2camp event in October

UK’s first carbon neutral city

It was only a matter of time before the extension of eco homes, eco villages and eco towns was applied to eco cities in the UK, after all the rest of the world has eco-cities.

I should mention the great work being done at a community level over in Ashton Hayes – aiming to be England’s first carbon neutral village (which I believe is a great case study on Community based FM in practice)

But who would have thought Sterling would be the first city in the UK to be brave enough to go carbon neutral?

One to watch … Carbon Neutral Stirling

This raises a number of questions, mainly though, in my mind, what requirements will there be on sustainability and carbon management of construction and of facilities management of buildings in the citiy?

Facilities Management now in Second Life

The inaugural Centre for Facilities Management Second Life (SL) seminar took place today, Wednesday April 2nd 2008. The seminar, facilitated by Martin Brown, (aka Brand Woodin in SL) focused on Sustainable FM, but also referred to the developing research area of Community-based FM which looks at FM outside of the traditional boundaries and organisational settings and suggests the FM has a role to play in community (in its broadest sense) settings also.

By putting FM into context the debate began to consider the effect FM has or could have on the environment. It led to debating issues such as transition towns (see Totnes as an example) – what role does FM have?; and building consumption -v- building production – to what extent is this about FM usability agenda or is it just an issue for the construction community?

The debate also led to discussion about developing a wider definition of FM which encompasses the sustainability agenda and could be accommodated by the wider construction community. Such a definition could look at how FM could be a means to facilitate understanding about the environment, about communities and about facilities. Debate then ensued as to what the tag line for this could be!

Wednesday April 9th 2008 was the second Centre for Facilities Management SL event. The seminar was delivered by Helsinki Institute of Technology by Nils Gersberg (aka Nils Lowenstark in SL) and looked at Pro-work research.

Pro-work is a relatively new research concept and focuses on how organisations and teams in organisations work together, and how they develop knowledge. The debate considered how different types of organisations – for example those that use hot-desking, those that employers freelancers / contract staff, those requiring staff to come to the office or work from home – develop their strategies for team collaboration. Additionally the effect dispersed working -v- office based working has on FM was also considered, and this debate connected back to the previous weeks debate on sustainability considerations as well as wider definition and working practices of FM.

Thanks to Eleanor Jackson for the above text ( aka Salfordfm Destiny in SL)

Centre for Facilities Management Second Life has a meeting place presence in Second Life on the Manchester UK sim.  Drop by and say hello and participate within our debates.

Email for further information on CFM in SL or future meetings.

News from the SD research network

News from the SD research network

CABE ‘Climate Change Festival’
31st May – 8th June 2008; Birmingham
CABE is joining forces with Birmingham City Council to host the world’s first climate change festival to link climate change with urban planning and design. The Festival aims to illustrate how a successful planning response to climate change can transform the quality of life for people working and living in the city, and to stimulate fresh thinking about low carbon cities. Events will include a range of community-based projects, a green day for schools, a hothouse event for professionals working in the built environment sector, and the launch of Birmingham’s first climate change strategy and action plan to coincide with World Environment Day. It is hoped this festival will become an annual event, involving at least eight cities in 2009, and going international in 2010. More…

ASO Conference – ‘Obesity and the Built Environment’
3rd June 2008: The Kennedy Lecture Theatre, Institute of Child Health, London
This one-day conference will discuss and review the role of the physical environment in providing opportunities for, and barriers against, the adoption of healthy lifestyle choices.  more

JRF Report – ‘Regeneration in European cities: making connections’
In this report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, case studies from a range of European cities are used to explore different approaches to tackling deep-seated urban problems, such as the regeneration of run-down industrial areas.  More…

BRASS Working Paper 45 – ‘Supporting skills and knowledge to deliver sustainable communities: an exploration of the conceptual and policy context’
Written by Julie Newton, Terry Marsden, Alex Franklin and Andrea Collins
Delivering ‘sustainable communities’ is increasingly being recognised as an implicit component of the wider goal of sustainable development. However, a lack of appropriate skills or sufficient understanding of which skills are necessary has remained a significant obstacle to attaining this goal. This paper responds to a growing academic and policy interest in the role of skills in delivering sustainable communities. I Download the paper…


are green buildings usable?

It seems we are becoming awash with green buildings, eco homes and eco towns.

There are some great sites out there with green architecture eye candy (check out Mad Architecture for example).

We have some major and significant conferences and events on the horizon – from the international Eco City 2008, Green Build 2008 and West Coast Green, here in the UK Think 08, and more locally the Elevate Exemplar event in September and the Lancs Best Practice Club July event.  All very different and important to their target audiences.

Even in Second Life there are great green and sustainable ‘built environment’ demonstration and education projects

And yet in all the design, conferences, events and working groups I see very little about the usability of green buildings – what is it like to work, live and play in them?  What does the comfort level  within (and around) green building do for health, for productivity and for well being?  What is it really like to be a citizen of a eco-city such as Auroville?

Once again I am convinced its not the building – green or other wise – but the way we use buildings that is paramount importance on the sustainability agenda – as Prof Keith Alexander down at the Center for Facilities Management comments – its about building consumption – not production. 

Time to turn the telescope around?  Is the green / sustainability movement in the built environment stuck in the building production with eye candy design, at the expense of the usability of the buildings?

As a Friday comment – I am throwing down a challenge for comments and evidence – are  Green Buildings usable?

I invite guest posts here and links to sites that discuss this issue.