Ecologically Rethinking Construction

Jonathan Dawson, head of economics at Schumacher College, writing on Guardian Sustainable Business asked “How do we redesign a new economic theory framed by ecological systems?”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA question we need to ask and start addressing within the built environment.

We are seeing a new vocabulary emerging with concepts such as biomimicry, zero or net energy, water and environmental impact, Living Buildings, biophillia, circular economy … and more … As the interest and importance of these concepts influence in the way we design, build and use buildings, do we need a new paradigm?  Some 15 years after Egan, do we need to again rethink construction to address these emergent sustainability themes. approaches and skills that once again the sector is lacking, engaging the economists, surveyors and accountants? As Jonathan Dawson comments:

Ecology offers the insight that the economy is best understood as a complex adaptive system, more a garden to be lovingly observed and tended than a machine to be regulated by mathematically calculable formulae.

A comment that makes a nice resonance with the Living Building Challenge philosophy

And of course a key element in this new thinking is the internet, web 2.0 and the power of social media.

Enabled by the growing power of information technology, whole new ways of doing business and organising society are emerging, whose strength lies not in economies of scale but in economies of co-operation and symbiosis

Over the weekend , via twitter I caught a slide via Rachel Armstrong illustrating the difference and need to move from 20th century Cartesian or Newtonian thinking into 21st complexity, emergent thinking …

screenshot.32

Jonathan Dawson: “This moment of history calls on us to rewrite the dictionary and create new stories, much as the generations following on from Copernicus did to reflect the new world-view that emerged from his astronomical insights”

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The world may not be ending today, but does the construction industry continue to waste as though there is no tomorrow?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOK, not all construction and indeed we have many exemplar, near-zero-waste construction projects , yet the industry continues to be wasteful, locked into a Take, Make, Waste attitude that contributes 40% of all waste.

The last few weeks of Green Vision activity have highlighted the emerging circular economy, cradle to cradle, living building, healthy product philosophies that will move us away from our cornucopian approach.

The push for 2013 must be to ‘rethink the way we make things’ and aim for more near-zero- waste projects. (near-zero-waste as meaning waste generated on a project, not the percentage of waste diverted from landfill)

Related posts:

Cradle to Cradle Tweetchat Storify

3 R’s for rethinking built environment sustainability

Is Our Green Build Compass Broken?

Heros and Texts for a future Built Environment based on #CSR

“suddenly the air smells much greener now”

Listening to ‘These Streets’, lyrics by Paolo Nutini summed up the brilliant, inspiring Green Vision conference in Leeds – exploring CSR within the built environment.

A mix of talks, presentations, round table discussions and pecha kuchas from Mel Starrs, Eden Brukman, Tamara Bergkamp, Eddie Murphy, Martin Brown, Faye Jenkins, Claire Walker, Rick Hamilton, Mark Warner, Pedro Pablo Cardoso-Castro, Andy Ainsworth, Paula Widdowson and many others showed that there is real emergence and a future for a Built Environment founded on social responsibility principles.

The air smells much greener …

We heard of excellent progress being made by individuals, projects and organisations on the CSR journey, and how behind these are great influential thinkers, often outside of the sector, many, unsurprisingly, related to the ‘outdoor’ sector.

Many of the speakers were enthusiastic in sharing CSR heros and recommended CSR reading. So here, as a summary, or reading list are those mentioned during the day. I wonder how many of these are on the reading list within design, construction and fm education? (Book titles link to Amazon)

Yvon Chouinard

Rock climber, environmentalist and outdoor industry businessman, noted for his contributions to climbing, climbing equipment and the outdoor gear business. His company @Patagonia is widely acclaimed for its environmental and social focus. According to Fortune magazine, Chouinard is arguably the most successful outdoor industry businessman alive today.

The Responsible Company What we have learnt in the first 40 years at Patagonia by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley (see my blog)

Let My People Go Surfing Yvon Chouinard – Probably the ‘must read book’ to understand CSR in Business

(On my blog: How can construction learn from Patagonia?)

Ray Anderson

Founder of Interface Inc., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of modular carpet for commercial and residential applications and a leading producer of commercial broadloom and commercial fabrics. He was known in environmental circles for his advanced and progressive stance on industrial ecology and sustainability.

Ray was was posthumously awarded an Outstanding Achievement award at this year’s Guardian Sustainable Business Awards in 2012. (There is a related, must watch, video here: John Elkington describing the work and legacy of Ray Anderson)

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose: Doing Business by Respecting the Earth (2009) Later released in paperback as Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist in 2011.

Paul Hawken

An environmentalist, entrepreneur, and author. Ray Anderson of Interface credited The Ecology of Commerce with his environmental awakening. He described reading it as a “spear in the chest experience”, after which Anderson started crisscrossing the country with a near-evangelical fervor, telling fellow executives about the need to reduce waste and carbon emissions.

Hawken’s book, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (1999) coauthored with Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins, popularized the now-standard idea of natural capital and direct accounting for ecosystem services, a theme revisited by Rio +20 and likely to become more mainstream across the built environment.

Janine Benyus

Her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature defines Biomimry as a “new science that studies nature’s models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems”. Benyus suggests looking to Nature as a “Model, Measure, and Mentor” and emphasizes sustainability as an objective of biomimicry. Key thinking in the Living Building Challenge principles, as is

E O Wilson

Edward Osborne Wilson an American biologist, researcher, theorist, naturalist and author. In the mid 80’s developed the concept of Biophilia, the connection between humans and nature, which translates into architecture and the built environment as comfort, well being and productivity through exposure to natural light and natural surrondings or imagry.

Anita Roddick

Dame Anita Roddick, human rights activist and environmental campaigner, best known as the founder of The Body Shop, a cosmetics company producing and retailing beauty products that shaped ethical consumerism The company was one of the first to prohibit the use of ingredients tested on animals and one of the first to promote fair trade with third world countries. Roddick was involved in activism and campaigning for environmental and social issues, including involvement with Greenpeace andThe Big Issue.

John Elkington

John Elkington @volansjohn is a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development. He is currently the Founding Partner & Executive Chairman of Volans, a future-focused business working at the intersection of the sustainability, entrepreneurship and innovation movements

His latest book The Zeronauts, Breaking the Sustainability Barrier describes many of todays inspirational leaders : “Just as our species broke the Sound Barrier during the 1940s and 1950s, a new breed of innovator, entrepreneur, and investor is lining up to break the Sustainability Barrier”

Jorgen Randers

2052: What will the world look like in 2052

Jeff Hollender,

Jeffrey Hollender is an American businessperson, entrepreneur, author, and activist. He was well known for his roles as CEO, co-founder, and later Chief Inspired Protagonist and Executive Chairperson of Seventh Generation Inc., the country’s largest distributor of non-toxic, all-natural cleaning, paper and personal care products. www.jeffhollender.com/

Gary Hirshberg,

Gary Hirshberg is chairman and former president and CEO of Stonyfield Farm, an organic yogurt producer, based in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Now part of the Danone group.

Published in January 2008, Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World is a book about socially minded business that calls on individuals to realize their power to make a difference in the marketplace, while doing business in ways that adhere to a multiple bottom line – one that takes into consideration not only finance, but the environment and health as well.

Jeffrey Swartz,

Jeffrey Swartz is the former president and CEO of The Timberland Company an organization that believes that doing well and doing good are inextricably linked. Timberland’s commitment is to reducing global warming and preserving the outdoor environment.

David and Claire Hieatt,

Founders of Howies a clothing company based in Cardigan Bay, Wales produces eco-friendly T-shirts, jeans and sportswear, and aims to have ethically correct practices. Howies use natural fabrics as alternatives to petrochemical-derived modern fabrics. Examples include organic cotton, Merino wool and recycled cotton. Howies T-shirts often have images or slogans with political or environmental themes

Dee Hock

Dee Ward Hock is the founder and former CEO of VISA , described systems that are both chaotic and ordered, and used for the first time the term “chard” and chaordic,combining the words chaos and order.

More?

Over to you –

Follow the discussion on twitter with the #GVis2012 hashtag.

Who are your CSR Heros and CSR Texts to add to this Built Environment inspirers list?

What additions or comments would you make to the entries above?

A full record (video, blog, tweets, presentations, storify) of the Building CSR Event is being curated on the be2camp event page here.

Sustainability: Breaking on through to the other side

“Break on through to the Other Side”  sang Jim Morrison in the Doors way back in the 60s.

Listening again recently started me thinking of how ‘sustainability’ could be ‘breaking through to the other side’ … to a time / place where sustainability and CSR is the norm rather than something we strive for.

This, however, begs a number of tricky questions and answers

Just what does sustainability and social responsibility really look like? When or how will we know we have arrived? What exactly do we have to ‘break through’? What is the tipping point?

What we should find really exciting is that we dont really know, we dont know where the boundary or tipping point is. Where, what or indeed how far we need to push.  Are we nearly there or light years away?  This makes sustainability an adventure and exploration.

And of course many argue, quite rightly, that sustainability is a journey not a destination or a state of business.

A tipping point may well come when organisations move across a rubicon, from trying to do good whilst making a profit, to making a profit from doing good.  (I am reminded here again of Yvon Chouinard at Patagoniaevery time we do the right thing for the environment we make a profit”)

Have we made sustainability and CSR too intellectual? I fear so. Is it now far too embedded in checklists, processes and systems. We have lost connection with the natural world, with planet earth, the very reason we need sustainability, resilience and CSR?

Perhaps the tipping point to breaking through to the other side is re-igniting this connection, where we dont need a tag, or a label, but doing the right thing as an organisation or individual is the norm and ‘feels’ right, rather than something we do because we are encouraged, nudged or told to do.

Through fairsnape, organisations are supported in understanding their Route to Zero, where zero is a target, the route the more important, and supported in breaking through barriers.

If you are interested in learning more, I invite you to join me in the sustainability and CSR conversations on twitter, to subscribe to this blog or to get in touch at fairsnape for more information

And a thought for the built environment in 2012… what do you see as the sustainability boundaries that we need to break through and move beyond?

Towards low carbon construction IGT Report: Government Response

Snippets from todays launch of the Governments Response to the  industry’s Innovation Growth Team Report:

Business Minister Mark Prisk said:

“An efficient, effective and profitable construction industry is at the heart of any growing economy.

“Meeting the UK’s commitment to reducing carbon will affect every aspect of the built environment and has the potential to provide the construction industry with a 40 year programme of work creating great opportunities for growth in the sector.

“Through this joint Government and industry action plan we are making a clear commitment to the low carbon transition which will create the certainty needed for construction companies to invest in essential new skills, processes and products.”

Climate Change and Energy Minister Greg Barker said:

“Improving the energy efficiency of the nation’s buildings is a win-win response to tackling emissions and spiralling fuel costs.

“The Government’s Green Deal will radically transform the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses, and presents a massive opportunity for Britain’s construction industry.

Government Chief Construction Advisor Paul Morrell said:

“I am delighted that the Government has taken on board so many of the recommendations from the IGT report which was developed with expertise from across industry.

“To ensure that construction rises to the low carbon challenge we need to continue this new level of cooperation so I am also pleased that a joint Government and industry board has been set up to ensure implementation of this plan.”

Influence of Construction 

A copy of the Government’s response to the Low Carbon Construction Innovation and Growth Team Report can be found at: http://www.bis.gov.uk/constructionigt

 

Info from the News Distribution Centre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CBI low-carbon economy roadmap to 2020

For the first time the UK’s leading business group has set out its vision for a low-carbon economy in a series of climate change roadmaps.  The roadmaps, called ‘Going the Distance’, set out a timetable of action to ensure carbon emissions targets are met, and the measures that will be needed to put the UK in pole position in the development of low-carbon technologies.

Comment: the roadmap could appear to be protecting industry (only a 6% reduction) and focuses heavily on nuclear and carbon capture (but not until 2013), sees the Severn Barrage as the way forward and wants a government led, rather than industry led  initiative.  (what happened to market led economies?)

CBI are proposing the following contributions per sector from 2006 

Industry 6%

Buildings 43%

Transport 29%

Energy 39%

(not sure how much the roadmap avoids double counting, particularly with energy reductions) 

 

In the buildings roadmap the CBI wants to see:
• Smart meters fitted in homes and businesses so users can see how much power they are using.
• Incentives to encourage consumers to buy more efficient washing machines, fridges and freezers.
• Loft insulation installed in three million homes.
• Agreement on a realistic definition of ‘zero-carbon’ for new homes and business premises.

  Download: Going the distance: the low-carbon buildings roadmap 

Forty percent of the UK’s carbon emissions come from energy consumed in buildings.1 To meet the UK’s 2020 CO₂ target, the CBI believes carbon savings of 43MtCO₂ should come from buildings, equivalent to a 20%reduction from 2006 levels.

Nearly two thirds of these savings can come from energy efficiency measures that will save money as well as carbon, while remaining savings will need to come from renewable and low carbon heat and micro-generation and zero-carbon new buildings. Progress made in decarbonising the UK’s electricity supply will also drive emissions reduction

Related:

Route to Zero

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.