Connecting with nature should be easy. It surrounds us, and we are ourselves part of nature. From early TQM and worship facilitation days, I used getting out of the classroom, hotel or business conference room for a walk as means of introducing more energy and creativity into the sessions. Indeed my approach to connecting, although not called that in the 1990’s (I referred to this as finding your site spot to think) was to
Find a nice spot
Today we may add do not share the experience through social media, its yours – something inconceivable back in those 1990’s business or university construction improvement modules.
Yet, as we spend 90%+ of our time indoors, getting out into green space to find that nice spot is not easy for all. We are greening our buildings and spaces with biophilic design, more green landscaping, and great initiatives:
The 10 minute initiative is a USA mayoral programme to ensure everyone in their cities has high-quality park or green space within 10-minute walk of their home or office. Whilst this sounds a great, just try walking in a city for 10, even 5 minutes, through our typical built environments, it is quite a stretch.
We have wonderful green community spaces emerging within our inner cities. I visited the Phoenix Community Garden in London recently as research for a possible community garden in our local Lancashire town. We need more of this.
London contractor Modus, encouraging project staff and operatives to eat lunch in green space through maps showing where they can find green space close to the project.
But connecting with nature is not just about health …
In FutuREstorative I referred to biophilia as the Secret Sauce for Sustainability. The more biophilic connectivity with nature we have within our built environment, the better the access to real nature connectivity, then the better our sustainability behaviour, and importantly the better our creativity and imagination for regenerative climate crisis solutions.
This is a great way to start 2020 … with the recognition of the regenerative sustainability work and influence through Fairsnape, my associates and those I work with and for …
Triodos UK Sustainability Influencers 100
Ranked 49/100 along with awesome influencers, TV personalities and experts on Triodos Sustainable Social Media 100. The listing is to provide inspiration about who to follow on Twitter, and grow connections between everyone who’s interested in sustainability issues in the UK.
…. and one of my recent (co-authored) publications included in …
50 Business & Technology Books from Thinkers360 Thought Leaders!
Sustainability Restorative to RegenerativeOur RESTORE Cost Action publication that records the outputs of the sustainability working group (1). This publication, with contributions from over 20 EU countries is an exploration in progressing a paradigm shift in built environment thinking, from sustainability to restorative sustainability and on to regenerative sustainability. It presents a reference document for future work of the RESTORE Action, for other Cost Actions and for built environment academia and industry organisations.www,eurestore.eu | May, 2018 | Book | Martin Brown
Originating in FutuREstorative and further developed in conjunction with COST RESTORE, this PQQ for Assessing Regenerative Sustainability Capability template details areas of regenerative sustainability that a client, the design team (or design and build contractor) should be considering, and seeking evidence of understanding, approach and experience from the potential supply chain in written responses and in interview
REGENERATIVE SUSTAINABLE PROCUREMENT
From COST Restore publication: Regenerative Construction and Operation Bridging the gap between design and construction, following a Life Cycle Approach consisting of practical approaches for procurement, construction, operation and future life.
RegenerativeSustainable procurement is the transition between the sustainable design vision and the realisation of that vision. Within the regenerative sustainability paradigm, it is vital that the construction process of the project along with the facilities management of the project is undertaken in a manner that is not only socially just and ecologically sound but is regenerative in enabling human and ecosystems to thrive.
The template should be tailored to meet project specifics.
Request a customisable copy of the Regenerative Sustainability PQQ
Writing in FutuREstorative back in 2016, I looked at what a construction project would look like in response to the Living Building Challenge‘s “what if every act of construction made the world a better place” …
Projects would be net positive in all aspects, on place, nature, water, health, even knowledge and of course carbon.
Construction projects are carbon-positive: Strict carbon planning and management is key. Remaining carbon emissions after all carbon management improvements have been made are addressed with restorative offset programmes.
For new buildings, it is critical to focus on reducing embodied emissions;
For existing buildings we need to focus on reducing operating emissions.
The largest reductions came from the use of high-mass and energy- intensive materials.
Carbon and Construction carbons are not understood.
Lloyd Alter writing in Treehugger established Upfront Carbon as a key concept term in addressing the ‘Climate Emergency’. ‘Embodied carbon is not a difficult concept at all, it is just a misleading term … I have concluded that it should be Upfront Carbon Emissions, or UCE”. (By the way, Lloyds articleLet’s rename “Embodied Carbon” to “Upfront Carbon Emissions” is a must read that also illustrates how twitter conversations, with Elrond Burrell, can lead to improved industry thinking)
ARRO: a project carbon hierarchy
To achieve a positive carbon project, focusing on the essential upfront carbons,. FutuREstorative proposed a robust carbon hierarchy approach. As the waste hierarchy of ‘recycle, reuse, dispose‘ has become part of our construction waste lexicon so ARRO – Avoid, Replace, Reduce and Offset.should become part of the carbon lexicon
Avoid: carbon through regenerative low carbon design, construction planning and sustainable facilities management …
Replace: high carbon techniques and activities with low carbon, regenerative solutions…
Reduce: seek to reduce carbon through local material and supplier procurement and a focus on construction travel and transport, carbon productivity and construction efficiency …
Offset emissions that cannot be managed out. But be aware you cannot offset the toxic greenhouse gas emissions eg NOX from use of diesel plant and transport.
It is worth noting that the RIBA 2030 Challenge calls for a reduction in embodied (upfront carbon) … rising incrementally from 50 in 2020 to 75% over the next decade before offsetting become acceptable
Asked recently at the end of a keynote zero carbon talk for three actions that we should be doing today, I responded with firstly to Take Back, secondly to Stop and thirdly to Think like a Tree. Admitedly, his was on the spot thinking, but based on a decade or so of engagement with sustainability thinkers, researchers, scientists, practitioners, it makes the basis for a good strategy
Take Back – On our watch , over the last 30 years , of urging sustainable construction, carbon in the atmosphere has increased from 320 to 415ppm. And we in the built environment are responsible for 40% of that increase. To get back to the science based safe target of 350 we need to be taking carbon out of the atmosphere. Therefore, the most responsible thing we can do is to design and construct buildings that are carbon sinks. Buildings that lock carbon away.
Stop – or at least severely reduce putting pollutants and carbon, into the atmosphere.
Think Like a Tree – carbon is an essential building block within nature. We need to rethink and understand carbon cycles, acknowledge that carbon is not the enemy. We need a better construction carbon and eco – literacy so we fully understand carbon as a natural currency cycle, evaluating carbon efficiency (carbon productivity) as we do financial efficiency.
Once we see carbon as a ‘currency’ then we can understand carbon productivity – how much value of building are we delivering for each unit of carbon emitted. This should become the KPI for projects, alongside or even replacing the measure of productivity in labour terms. It is one of the most simple of KPI’s., or could be, construction cost divided by upfront carbon. We tightly monitor and measure construction value, and we measure construction carbon, albeit unevenly.
In conclusion then …
An ABC for (Net) Zero Carbon Construction
Adopt a carbon strategy: of take back, of stopping emissions and of rethinking carbon as natural cycles,
Build robust carbon ARRO hierarchy strategies that Avoid, Reduce and Repair and Offset into every project
Carbon productivity monitored as a core KPI, with strong carbon leadership and literacy, that matches the level of focus we have on financial and safety performance within the industry
Next: Part 3 – Just What is Construction Carbon and Ecological Literacy
At the start of each year there is a searching for new, we feel we need something new, a new tool, a new message, a new tagline to recharge our sustainability approaches.
Over recent years I have loosely used hashtags to define my approaches, consulting, keynotes and thinking, for example #ImagineBetter and #EgoEcoSeva in 2018, 2019.
For 2020, I return to, and incorporate a tagline I first used way back in 2009 through keynotes and work associated with Green Vision at Leeds Beckett and then incorporated into FutuREstorative in 2016 … #HealingTheFuture
“Recharging nature recharges the human spirit. In 2020, we could all do with some of that” @GeorgeMonbiot
Through climate & ecology emergency declarations and increased climate justice awareness we now have a sense for the urgency in not only reducing our impact, (being less bad) in being regenerative (doing more good) but also in repairing damage done, on our watch over the last 30 years or so. I feel Healing the Future sums this well, whether it be carbon, climate justice or ecological healing.
My 2019 twitter profile image took the warming stripes from Ed Hawkins and reversed them, showing the journey we have in front of us to reduce carbon back to 350ppm, to keep global temp increases below 1.5 … and maintain climate justice. My 2020 profile image is from a slide used in 2011, for a Green Vision presentation, entitled Time to Heal the Future.
Standing one day in winter, by the side of a pond near a row of tall elms watching boys sliding, I heard a few short twittering notes of a Nuthatch overhead. It occurred to me how I should describe the note in such a way that it should be infallibly recognised. It is precisely like the sound made by a pebble thrown so as to bounce along ice. This is the winter note.
British Birds in their Haunts 21st edition 1947
There is much in this passage from 70 years ago that illustrates how our relationship with nature is changing. The Nuthatch is a regular visitor to our nut feeders, yet try as I might I cannot distinguish its twittering notes. (Described elsewhere as a rapid trilling ‘chiriririri‘)
We can probably hear, in our inner ear, the sound of a pebble bouncing along ice. On a New Years Eve, on a walk over Cauldale Moor in Cumbria I had the opportunity to bounce pebbles along frozen mini tarns. The sound was more thud-like rather then the chiriririri trill I had been hoping for.
The imaginary of winter, of children sliding on ice is one now deep in memories for many – if it is a memory at all. And as for a row of tall Elms …
And, today in 2020, it is hard to pinpoint just what we would describe as a natural ‘note’ of winter.
The plethora of climate, carbon and biodiversity targets, visions and reports within, and beyond, the built environment, may seem to cause confusion, but there is a core, science based purpose. However, the explosion of focus on climate emergency, over the last six months or so, driven by IPCC, CCC, Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and others has changed the narrative … from why to how.
Reading the latest, Transforming Construction report published recently by the NFB, I realised we have many, perhaps too many, reports re-emphasising or regurgitating the why, we now need more how. The urgent how challenge of adapting existing and construction new in the climate emergency is to quickly reduce the upfront and operational carbon emissions from our buildings and infrastructure. Indeed the biggest contribution, and responsible contribution we can make is to deliver buildings that store carbon.
Our last 30 or 40 years of sustainability reports and events on why we need to understand and monitor carbon hasn’t shifted the sustainability needle. In fact on our watch, despite great sustainability initiatives, the situation has gotten worse and is escalating … in the wrong direction.
In 2012 the Construction Vision 2025 called for a 50% reduction in built environment carbon by 2025. It’s probably fair to say the bulk of the construction sector has done little towards this. Indeed when presented now the reaction from many contractors is ‘thats impossible’
That was then: this is now.
The climate crisis is a rapidly changing picture and as we have more understanding there is the recognition there is no time to lose. The recent paper published in the journal BioScience endorsed by over 11000 scientists emphasises “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”
How we address carbon management over the next 10 years is vital – if we haven’t moved significantly on the 1.5 deg warming Paris pathway we are stuffed. 2030 is far more important than 2050.
Having recognised an emergency exists, are we dialling 999 and requesting firefighting services in 20 years?
The UK Green Party 2019 manifesto If Not Now, Then When, is based on the premise New green homes, new green transport and new green jobs will get us on track to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 and provide new opportunities for everyone to live happier and more secure lives.
One ‘how’ solution, for clients, designers, planners, contractors, manufacturers and facilities, that can move us forward rapidly as ‘a visionary pathway to a regenerative future’ is the suite of standards and tools associated with the Living Building Challenge from the International’s Living Future Institute, (includes Living Building, Living Communities and Living Product Challenges, Declare and Just labels, Net Zero Energy and Net Zero Carbon tools)
Round up of Carbon Visions and Targets
IPCC 2018 if we want to hold the line to 1.5 degrees, we have to slash emissions by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030. Then we have to reach net-zero around 2050. Note Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report re-emphasizing the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for all sectors by 2020
RIBA 2030 Challenge – Reduce embodied carbon by at least 50-70%, before offsetting. Target net zero whole life carbon for new and retrofitted buildings by 2030. And on embodied, up front carbon based on 1100 kgCO2e/m2 (M4i benchmark) – 2020 < 800 kgCO2e/m2 30% – 2025 < 650 kgCO2e/m2 40% – 2030 < 500 kgCO2e/m2 60%
The NZGBC Zero Carbon Road Map proposes that – building owners start certifying their existing buildings to zero carbon in 2020 and have all their buildings zero carbon by 2030 – building developers construct their new buildings to zero carbon, and 20 per cent less embodied carbon, by 2025.
World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) global Advancing Net Zero Campaign which has set targets for all buildings to be net zero carbon in operation by 2050 and all new buildings to meet this standard by 2030.Bringing embodied carbon upfront
UKGBC“We need to take urgent action to almost halve global emissions by 2030 and eliminate them completely by the middle of the century”
“By 2030, all buildings and infrastructure will, throughout their lifetime, be climate resilient and maximise environmental net gains, through the prioritisation of nature-based solutions.”
Committee on Climate Change Using known technologies, the UK can end our contribution to global warming by reducing emissions to Net Zero by 2050. (Scotland a net-zero date of 2045, Wales, a 95% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050.)
Green Construction Board Buildings Mission 2030 report shows that net zero operational carbon is already possible.
Architects Declare Adopt more regenerative design principles in our studios, with the aim of designing architecture and urbanism that goes beyond the standard of net zero carbon in use.
Building Services Declare: Adopt more regenerative design principles in practice, with the aim of providing building services engineering design that achieves the standard of net zero carbon
Structural Eng Declare Adopt more regenerative design principles in practice, with the aim of providing structural engineering design that achieves the standard of net zero carbon.
UK – Parliament Declaration – all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.