Category Archives: ecological footprint

is ISO 14001 working?

I picked up a copy of the Patagonia outdoor apparel catalogue over the weekend.  In addition to the photos and products, these catalogue are always a good read to see how a leading organisation is approaching and communicating their environmental and ecological ethos.  A link to their website allows you to track the impact of specific Patagonia products from design through delivery, through interactive mini-site Footprint Chronicles™

What caught my eye was a comment on ISO14001, and on how Patagonia, to ensure that our (leather in footwear) leaves the smallest possible footprint, we only use (tanneries) with an ISO14001 registration. This strict set of environmental standards measures how efficiently a company uses natural resources, how its process impact on the environment and how closely it adheres to local and international environmental regulations.

Wow, if only this were the case in the built environment. Although I often make the link between effective ISO14001 application and reducing the carbon and ecological footprint but its not often I have seen others make the link.  Of course this needs much much more than just achieving and maintaining with a tick box mentality.  The concept of ISO 14001 remains good, but from experience of taking organisations through the assessment process it is far too easy to attain with tokenism and without really addressing real change on environmental and ecological issues.

As we are now head long into reducing the impact of the built environment may be its time to tighten up on ISO14001 accreditation and requirements.  What difference would a project with the entire supply chain working to ISO 14001 achieve?   I am aware that customers and clients believe this is what they get when in procurement they insist on ISO 14001 of the main or prime contractor.  In reality it may be just the main contractor who holds the standard, who conducts the impact assessment, who then takes the do-as-little-as-possible-in-the-hope-we-are-not-audited approach.

Or, as the example given for greenwash Sin of Fibbing -being certified ISO 14001 compliant (“ok, its our holding company actually, not our business unit”)

We have seen a number of fast track and 14001 made easy programmes for the sector recently – I question if this no more than a bandaid, get-the-badge to get through tenders approach, or a real contribution to improving environmental performance.  Often these are process based, web based, electronic approaches with pre-written templates that ignore the hearts and mind, people element so crucial to implementing the systemic change in ethos required.

Within the built environment we need, the strict set of environmental standards measures how efficiently a company uses natural resources, how its process impact on the environment and how closely it adheres to local and international environmental regulations. That covers ALL aspects of the sector and is continually improved.

Related isite links:

Responsible Sourcing to BS6000

isite’s Guide to Effective ISO 14001

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chicken in the blasket roof

From a non-conference on virtual worlds in Limerick – to the experience of reconnecting with nature, wildness and remoteness at the edge of Europe …

Last week I had the privilege of once again spending time on the Great Blasket Island, off the Dingle peninsular, Co Kerry Ireland.

This is always a highlight of our annual holiday in Ventry. The marine and bird life never ceases to amaze, this year ticking seals, basking sharks, minke whale, dolphin, gannets, puffins and much much more. The beach on the island is in my mind one of the best beaches in the world, and on a hot suny day the white bright sand can take you to the Caribbean. It really does feel like the end of the land out here, with the walk out over the highest point to the end of the island one of the most dramatic walks anywhere.

The island lies approximately 2 km from the mainland at Dunmore Head, and extends 6 km to the southwest, rising to 292 metres at its highest point (Croaghmore). Despite its close proximity to the mainland, visitors to the Dingle coast can often not see the island through the notorious sea mist.

The island was inhabited until 1953, when the Irish government decided that it could no longer guarantee the safety of the remaining population. It was the home of three noted Irish writers: Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Peig Sayers and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin. Their works were all written in Irish, and have all been translated into English, as well as other languages. The homes of Tomás Ó Criomhthain and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin are now in ruins but the house in which Sayers once lived has been restored, and used to form part of the hostel which previously functioned on the island.

Until 1953, the inhabitants of Great Blasket Island formed the most westerly settlement in Europe. The small fishing community (even at its peak the population was hardly more than 150) mostly lived in primitive cottages perched on the relatively sheltered north-east shore.

Over the ten years or so I have visited the island, the dispute on ownership and planning to restore and create tourist facilities has ebbed and flowed. Initially it seemed the vision was for a World Heritage listing which would mean no construction or restoration. Looking at planning minutes it seems the vision is now a somewhat less grand Irish National Historic Park which it would seem allow some facilities to be built.

This year though I was amazed to see, even upset to see, what was a poorly managed (ie untidy material storage) construction site to restore / extend self catering hostel. In stark comparison to the solid construction of existing buildings, made of solid and local stone, breeze blocks had been flown in, packs split and not restacked, timbers not stacked, (artificial?) slates from Northern Ireland awaited on pallets.

Earlier regulations would not allow any vehicles on to the island in an effort to preserve the pristine nature, now yellow diesel construction plant lay where it had been last used. Concrete and mortar spoils from the mixer hardened on the ground.

What a fantastic opportunity for alternative construction practices and designs – wasted. The creation of an alternative construction technology and education center here would have been a wonderful message, showing we can work within a sense of connectivity to nature and heritage. Instead we have taken the easy route and failed.

Read the account of Tomás Ó Criomhthain’s experiences

The roof of his home was made of a thatch of rushes or reeds and his sisters would climb up to collect eggs from under the hens nesting on top. One amusing episode in An tOileánach describes a neighbour’s family at supper when, to their bewilderment and consternation, young chickens began raining, one by one, onto the table and splashing into a mug of milk. “For God’s sake,” cried the woman of the house, “where are they coming from?” One of the children spied a hole scratched in the roof by a mother hen.

Ó Criomhthain lived in a cottage or stone cabin with a hearth at the kitchen end and sleeping quarters at the other. A feature of island life was the keeping of animals in kitchens at night, including cows, asses, sheep, dogs, cats and hens.

The Blasket Community was in its way sustainable and resilient until moved from the land by the Irish Government, reading the literature really strikes a note of resourcefulness, of reusing and of recycling:

The islanders’ sometimes meagre existence was often supplemented by gifts from the sea when shipwrecks occurred. Timber, copper and brass were salvaged, as well as cargoes of food such as meal and wheat, which helped them to survive lean years. At one time tea was unknown on the island and when a cargo of the stuff floated ashore from a wreck it was used by one woman to dye her flannel petticoats (normally dyed with woad). She also used it to feed pigs.

(facts on Blasket taken from wikipedia)

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.

responsible sourcing accreditation to BS6001?

Will 6001 join the lexicon of standards for our sector, along with 9001, 14001, 18001 (with apologies to others missed!)

Understanding the ripple effect of a facility in use or in construction is increasingly important within both client and supply organisations reputation, ethical standing and overall CSR, (Corporate Social Responsibility). Industry investors are watching such organisational behaviours with increased interested as demonstrated on CSR Wire web pages and discussions.

BRE Global have recently launched a draft ‘framework’ standard BS6001 for responsible sourcing management (RSM) of construction products that intends to address the sustainability, ie social, economic and environmental aspects of materials, from raw source, through use and maintenance to recycling and disposal.

It will be a standard against which organisations or products would be certified.

Its purpose is to support the responsible sourcing management credits within BREEAM, as a stand alone standard or one would assume to assess any RSM requirements within Code for Sustainable Homes, I guess the Code for Non Domestic Buildings (when that emerges) and other sustainability codes and standards.

I would hope the final standard will get the nomenclature addressed and see this as a ‘built environment‘ standard and not just a ‘construction‘ one (even facilities management has an equal duty and obligation to source responsibly !)  I also hope that joined up thinking brings this into the new EU Facilities Management standards in development.

The draft standard contains a scoring system for assessment against the maturity of a number of sustainability themes. It could for example be used now, even in draft form, as a self assessment or supplier assessment to gauge an organisations position, as a snap shot,  on responsible sourcing. (Although some facilitated guidance or support to help understand and fully understand some of the concepts would probably be required)

A welcome addition to the standards family?  BS6001 is based as you would expect on ISO 14001, ISO 9001 and other existing standards.  I do question whether 9001 is still strong enough as the basis for such standards – given the cosmetic changes planned for this year.

On the social responsibility side – will the standard start to address the soil, soul and society elements of sustainability, and the wider ecological footprint?  Making reference to the UN Global Compact will certainly help address social justice.

The standard is open to public consultation until May 2nd.  I cannot see any dates for introduction of the standard.

An introduction and copy of the standard is available for download.

Responsible sourcing is an ethos of supply chain management and product stewardship and encompasses the social, economic and environmental impacts of construction products over their whole life. It is a holistic approach to managing the activities associated with the point at which a material is mined or harvested in its raw state, through manufacture and processing, through use, reuse and recycling, until its final disposal as waste with no further value.

sustainable connectivity

A new look for isite with a new image on the top banner(*). I like this design as it includes a RSS button – to get isite delivered to your desktop, and a search facility to search back through isite items.

But a little more too. After reflection on this blogs contents and direction, I have slightly amended the purpose of isite.

Yes it will continue to be a news views and comments blog for the built environment, poking here and there when things dont seem quite right or dubious, or indeed covered with greenwash. It will continue to be a voice to the online world for the Lancashire Best Practice Construction Club and to a lesser degree the CKE, and will continue to focus on collaborative working, integrated working, facilities management, futures and improvement towards excellence. The emerging web2.0 or even 3.0, and I include second life here, is an important theme that links and enables allot of what we, what I do, so will remain a key element of the posts and comments.

isite is also of course the outlet to the world for my business – fairsnape.  (the name was taken from the local hill in the Forest of Bowland visible from my base here)

However, more importantly I see isite starting to look at connectivity with the natural environment. A number of activities I have been involved with lately has made me realise we may be where we are today because we have lost, and struggling to regain connectivity with our impact on ecology in its widest sense.

What does this mean? – Ecological footprints more than carbon footprints – as John Muir said when we tug on a single thing in nature we find it attached to everything else . – natural materials rather than harmful – renewable energy rather than fossil fuels, community based FM rather than endless target driven fm, about responsible sourcing rather than supply chain bullying, all putting a new direction to CSR.

I have long used the triptych of fit for people purpose and planet (before it became enshrined into the triple bottom line concept I like to think) . It is what Patrick Geddes would call folk, work and place, nearly a century ago, and reading Satish Kumar over the weekend – he described our modern trinity as needing soil, soul and society. Soil for the environment. soul for a spiritual dimension and society for justice.

Kumar a great walker – now based at the Schumacher college in Dartmoor, that incidentally run courses on Zen and Construction, talks about never trusting ideas that you never worked through whilst walking. “when you walk you are connected with nature, when in a car or a building your are disconnected, you walk to connect yourself”.

A while ago I started a benchmark walking programme to do just this – getting workshops and learning sharing events out of a training room or hotel into the countryside. With a loose agenda that emerges to deal with peoples real improvement needs, benchmarkwalks allows real learning and sharing, I likened it to doing business on a golf course – but this is business improving on a walk.

So all this as a preamble to a new thread for isite – connectivity – one I hope that will give it more scope, depth and importance as we address the sustainability issues, the soil, soul and society issues facing the built environment.

(* taken at Beacon Fell, Forest of Bowland, Lancashire recently – a location for many benchmarkwalks)