Time to rethink (not re-tinker with) sustainability #BAD09

Oh what a web we have weaved on our route to sustainability. And while we seek sustainable construction and head towards zero carbon homes, are we not in real danger of creating an industry that is in itself not sustainable or resilient?

We have spent a huge amount on sustainability technology, on green marketing, of time and energy in defining zero this or that, sustainable ‘everything’, and yet carbon emissions from buildings have increased, we do not have a workable definition or solution to existing bldgs, and despite site waste management plans DEFRA recently claimed that one third of solid materials arriving at the site gate are not used for the ordered purpose.

Given the opportunity  to blog for Blogging Action Day (BAD09) on climate change, we need raise the call to rethink construction, rethink facilities management and rethink design. Not in the now overused and redundant ‘rethinking’ as in tinkering with, hiding behind a thin veneer, but as in the Einstein “we can not solve todays problems with the thinking that got us here in the first place.”

25 years ago the Brundtland Commision definition of sustainable development called for actions that would not compromise future generations. Here we are a generation or so on, and I would bet that nearly every sustainable policy or statement echos or repeats the Brundtland definition. And yet we have compromised todays generation and continue in our actions that will compromise future generations.

Many sources have stated that our built environment sector consumes 40% of materials and contributes 40% of carbon emissions and waste. Not a record to be proud of.

Worst: we think we are addressing sustainability because we have greenwashed our products, our services and our actions.

We are on the cusp of needing radical actions to met forecast climate changes, being neutral may no longer be acceptable,. We may look back and regret the investments and industry we set up to manage and recycle waste, rather than investing in eliminating waste. We will regret our inactions on really moving the sustainability agenda forward since Brundtland.

Positive development, not neutral or zero, needs to surface as the new mantra on our sustainability agenda.

And stealing the words from construction excellence blog yesterday.

“If current leaders are not up to the task, they should as a minimum support the next generation who appear to understand the issues”

Links:

Be2camp Manifesto: Towards an open resilient sustainable and collaborative built environment

Positive Development

Understand and Preventing Greenwash

defining zero carbon – more clarifications (for homes at least)

On Wednesday I sat in on a Zero Carbon Hub consultation event relating to the defining-zero-carbon-homes-presentation2zero carbon definition  for buildings. I did manage to send some tweets via twitter during the session, and here, I have pulled these together to give a view on the consultation paper.

The event was not quite what I was expecting, as confusingly although the document out or consultation is entitled Definition of Zero Carbon Homes and Non Domestic Buildings, it doesn’t, Neil Jefferson head of the Hub informed us, cover Non Domestics – a separate consultation is expected soon.

Key to the proposal and principles are three elements expressed in the pyramid:

zero-carbon-hier

There is so much thinking, science , technology and even politics behind this hierarchy that isn’t (imho) expressed in the paper, but was covered in the slides from the session, handed out on USB drive and from here : defining-zero-carbon-homes-presentation2

Some interesting thoughts:

As to the rate of homes being built to CSH 6 (zero carbon) the following profile helps to explain the anticipated progress to 100% post 2016:

of-homes-to-zero-carbon

The aspirational target is a UK version of the German PassivHaus concept.  (as Denise Chevin mentions in Building Its principles are simple – the best way to go low carbon is to build a well-insulated, airtight envelope that is nice to live in. It also comes with a copper-bottomed pedigree, with thousands of completed buildings over its 17-year history.)

Nearly 50% present at event were developers and contractor and saw the on site achieving of standards as most demanding aspect of zero carbon. (Cost and quality) 

Will allowable solutions be just another complex carbon off-setting scheme? Could offsite allowances mean business as usual for designers / developers / builders ?  although 2/3 of those present thought that offsite renewables should n0t be included within carbon compliance.

New build house projects to (could?) decarbonise existing housing stock – this is an exciting new idea but received low interest in terms of potential (votes) from those present 

And as to who should monitor and police zero carbon?  Given three options ( Local Planning Authority/ Building Control Bodies/New form of accredited body) those present opted for c, New form of accredited body.

from brightgreen: how to use environmental leaders

Last Friday Bright Green Talent posted this excellent five point guide:

Dreadlocks, demonstrations and duck ponds – What does today’s environmentalist look like?

What are the characteristics of these environmental leaders and how can you use them to drive your business forward?

1. Big minds: Environmental leaders have a history of excellence in everything they do. Graduating from the top universities, they are aspirational, yet practical. They are naturally drawn to complex problems that span science, economics and society.

2. Learners, not cogs: Don’t expect an environmental leader to become another cog in an organisational machine. They are here to learn and to make a difference. They flourish in small organisations, visionary
consultancies and larger organisations with a big mandate for change.

Continue reading “from brightgreen: how to use environmental leaders”

bloggers greenwash kit

Thanks to Mel over at Elemental for pointing out the Greenwash Guide (pdf) at Futerra – very timely as I prepare for a workshop today. 

Three even easier steps for
communications agenci

Now we have the 10 signs of greenwash, Six Steps to avoid Greenwash, a Greenwash Healthcheck  and 3 even easier steps for communication agencies, the original  six greenwash sins,  and greenwash misleading adverts regulations.

bloggers uncover greenwash

A new Nielsen Online report, Sustainability through the Eyes and Megaphones of the Blogosphere, argues that firms that are guilty of overstating their green credentials are being routinely uncovered by bloggers.

Bloggerskepticism is the cost of entry to play the green game

Bloggers are a new form of investigative reporter who doggedly pursue the facts

See also greenwash sins and greenwash index

a real school for the future – without eco-bling

Education Guardian reports today on the development of Acharacle School on the Ardnamurchan peninsula in Scotland.  The report by Tariq Tahir, should make ‘essential ‘ reading for those involved in school design, construction and in community assets. In addition the school childrens blog ‘they are building outside our class‘ illustrates how construction can be a real educational benefit.  One to RSS and watch develop.

And with no eco-bling, no greenwash, this is sustainable development…

The design, illustrating a sustainable future, for two or three generations is based on the use of mass-timber.  Architect Howard Liddel from Gaia comments … “the modern school does what it says on the tin but what it has on the tin is a skull and crossbones, and these are toxic fumes. Modern buildings have huge amounts of formaldehyde coming out of the floor coverings, seat coverings, the walls run with condensation.”

“What this project is doing is ticking a lot of boxes in a very subtle manner. There’s no covering the building in ‘eco-bling’ – the gimmicks people put on to make buildings green. It’s really quite liberating for an architect.”

He promised that the new building would provide a much healthier working environment for the staff and 50-odd pupils. “We have an immense problem with toxic materials in buildings – we have 55,000 chemicals we use in building and only 3% of them have been tested for their effects on humans.

“The timber is very good at dealing with indoor moisture passively. In other words, you don’t need a ventilation system when you’ve actually got a material that’s dealing with the moisture. Continue reading “a real school for the future – without eco-bling”

Arup pick up greenwasher of the year award

Arup and the Dongtan project has received much ranting on the Ethical Corporation (EC) website over the year so no surprises that they pick up the EC Greenwasher of the Year award .  This for the ... long announced, but never started, ‘eco-city’ in Dongtan, an island of pristine wetlands just outside the teeming city of Shanghai … more

Another EC award – which I would call the No Giraffes Killed This Year award goes to the Mercedes ….

The company’s “head of motorsport”, which provides engines to the Formula One McLaren team, told various news websites that the sport could be defended on the basis that the millions of people watching Formula One races on television were therefore not using their cars while the race was under way.

Now, looking at the greenwash sins checklist ….. Sins of Vagueness and Irrelevance nicely covered there

Any nominations closer to home?