Recent Reading …

This is the first in a regular series covering pieces I have been reading online that I think are worthy of further sharing. Followers on twitter, linkedin and to a lesser degree on Instgram will be aware that I regularly share items relating to sustainability, the built environment and our relationship with the outdoors and nature. However posts there can be flitting and often difficult to track down and return to. They will hopefully have a longer life here.

Articles, papers and images that catch my eye, or as a result of a search I move into my ever growing Instapaper (and occasionally Evernote) Library. This enables me to read offline, and importantly to keep and or return to for reference: here are a few recents:

Sustainability

Patagonia is in business to save our home planet  For the past 45 years, Patagonia has been a business at the cutting edge of environmental activism, sustainable supply chains, and advocacy for public lands and the outdoors. Its mission has long been “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”But for Yvon Chouinard, that’s not enough. So this week, the 80-year-old company founder and Marcario informed employees that the company’s mission statement has changed to something more direct, urgent, and crystal clear: “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.”

Chasing the Sun by Linda Geddes review – why we don’t get enough natural light. Guardian review of Linda Geddes book exploring the importance of sunlight and circadian rhythms for our wellbeing. Chasing the sun is an interesting insight to add to the current interest in biophilia thinking.

Ten lessons for embedding sustainability across the business Sue Garrard, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership Senior associate and Unilever’s former EVP Sustainable Business, was responsible for leading and embedding the company’s ambitious USLP (the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan) into the business and ensuring progress against its 70-plus time bound targets. Here she provides 10 lessons for embedding sustainability across the business.

To get to a circular economy we have to change not just the cup, but the culture. Lloyd Alter explores the circular economy in the ‘coffee delivery system’ from the CE 3 principles (to Design out waste and pollution, to Keep products and materials in use, and to Regenerate Natural Systems)


Image food for thought: Disturbing images like this emphasis the need for urgency in our sustainability actions. The Pastoruri glacier, part of the Cordillera Blanca.

Built Environment

Net Gain: A developer’s commitment to enhancing biodiversity. Natural England blog from Louise Clarke, Head of Sustainable Places at Berkeley Group, outlining the organisation’s approach to biodiversity net gain

Manchester commits to making all new buildings ‘net-zero’ by 2028. Edie Article: The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has pledged to ensure that all new buildings erected in the city region will be ‘net-zero’ carbon by 2028

Concrete responsible for 8 per cent of all CO2 emissions. Research by the think tank Chatham House underlines the need for drastic changes in the production and use of concrete, the world’s most used man-made material, because of the way in which cement is made.

Outdoors / Nature

Plantwatch: is sphagnum the most underrated plant on Earth? Sphagnum is probably the most underrated plant on Earth. This humble little moss makes up the bulk of our peat bogs and holds up to 20 times its weight in water. That makes boglands huge sponges that store water, slowing its flow and helping prevent flooding downstream.

What I’ve Been Reading Online Recently. Chris Townsend’s blog that inspired this approach to reshaping what I have been reading.

Image food for thought: Human Modification v Ecological Integrity. Shared at #Rewilding2019

The Search for England’s Forgotten Footpaths.  Article by Sam Knight in The New Yorker on our English footpaths “The Countryside and Rights of Way Act created a new “right to roam” on common land, opening up three million acres of mountains and moor, heath and down, to cyclists, climbers, and dog walkers. It also set an ambitious goal: to record every public path crisscrossing England and Wales by January 1, 2026”

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Into 2019 …

Business as Usual Sustainability (BAUS)

Business as Usual Sustainability may well prove to be our barrier in addressing the climate change issues we face. To only ‘sustain’ is no longer enough, we now have a real urgency to embrace regenerative sustainability, to thrive … and to enable thriving.

The last three decades have given us many opportunities to embrace sustainability, but have only done so reluctantly and given the worsening CO2, air quality and health issues associated with our buildings, inadequately. So now the options available to us are increasingly radical and of necessity transformative.

The recent 2018 IPCC report has given us 12 years to avoid a painful climate breakdown and the risk of irreversibly destabilising the Earth’s climate. If we are to meet the targets in front of us, related to the 2015 Paris Agreement, the SDG’s and here at home in the UK Built Environment with our CO2 reduction by 2025 targets, we need to move way beyond Business as Usual Sustainability …

The report confirmed that we must take widespread changes to design, construction, maintenance and re-use of buildings. It reinforces buildings account for 40% of CO2 emissions with building materials such as cement and concrete accounting for some 8% of the global figure.  In essence this would require no construction, building, industry, plant or vehicles using gas, oil, coal or fossil fuels; a building products sector converted to green natural products and / or non-toxic chemistry; and heavy industries like cement, steel and aluminum production either using carbon-free energy sources or not used in buildings.

Further, the construction and use of buildings will by necessity need to be positive, not passive, neutral or negative – sequestering and capturing more carbon than emitted, generating more energy than used, improving air quality rather than polluting and improving inhabitants wellbeing rather than contributing to health problems.

The best time to start radically reducing carbon was 30 years ago, the second best time is to start today.

Its time to step up.

We can do this.

The Paris 1.5 aspiration is still within our reach – just! Thankfully the 2018 IPCC report does contain at least one positive, and that is anthropogenic emissions up now are unlikely to cause further warming of more than 0.5°C over the next two to three decades or on a century time scale.

This means that, if we stop using fossil fuels today, the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that have already been released into the atmosphere to date are not likely to warm the earth the additional 0.5°C, either by 2030, or 2050, or even by 2100.

No doubt you have read many end of 2018, start of 2019 sustainable lifestyle things we can do – from eating less meat, cycling not driving, avoiding fossil fuel energy – and these are all good, and things we should be doing. But we can do more, and in the built environment we can make significant and meaningful progress in, for example:

Educate and Advocate
As individuals, as organisations and as a sector we must educate and advocate. Many of those entering the design and construction sector over the next twelve years are still in education (many at primary school and have a whole secondary and university education in front of them)They need to be inspired and motivated for a built environment that will be radically different to the one we have today.

Reverse the Performance Gap
The performance gap between design and actual causes unnecessary co2 emissions. As with the Living Building Challenge, let’s make award of any sustainable standard only on achievement of or bettering of the agreed design intent. Perhaps planning should only be given, or priority given to buildings that positively make a contribution – on carbon, water, or air quality. A challenge for Building Regulations and Planning requirements to step up.

Grow from Thousands to Billions
Trees: “Our planet’s future climate is inextricably tied to the future of its forests,” states the 2018 IPCC report, calling for billions of trees to be planted and protected. We have the skills, materials and mindsets to design, construct and maintain buildings that function as trees. Perhaps the flagship here is the Bullitt centre, but we have thousands of buildings around the world that have regenerative attributes. Building on the title of the 2018 World Green Building Council report we can ramp this up from Thousands to Billions – to all buildings.

Monarch Butterfly (selected as cover image for FutuREstorative)

FutuREgenerative

In 2016, FutuREstorative sought to set out what a new sustainability could look like, moving thinking in the built environment from the ‘reducing harm’ sustainability business as usual approach to one that is restorative, regenerative with a connected worldview. working with natural systems, healing harm done in the past.

I must admit I shied away from using the word regenerative in the title of the 2016 edition. Within the UK regenerative has had an uncomfortable meaning, associated with ‘building schools for the future’ and other less successful programmes. As a Project Manager for a regeneration programme in East Lancashire, I saw first hand, just how uncomfortable the ‘regeneration’ label sat with local communities and the wider sustainability agendas.

I am delighted that FutuREstorative has been adopted by many practices (it has inspired at least two start-ups that I know of here in the UK), is being translated into Portuguese and has been adopted by academic organisations around the world. It has also provided the backbone for the EU COST RESTORE programme.

However, and thankfully, the world of sustainability has moved on a-pace, much has progressed from 2016, (Paris, SDG’s, IPCC and WWF reports) Increasingly we hear much more, and are seeing more examples of regenerative sustainability and ecologically principled design in relation to our buildings,  And this includes regenerative buildings that are designed to heal people and planet.  I see this as part of what Daniel Wahl refers to as ‘regeneration rising’ but are far from reaching a tipping point.

So, into 2019, my plans are to …

update FutuREstorative, reframing and possibly re-titling as FutuREgenerative to reflect current regenerative activities globally and pushing our thinking further. Over the coming weeks I will be collating regenerative stories and looking for blog style contributions from those at the sharp end of regenerative sustainability, within the built environment and beyond

further support and enable the communities of practice and discussion groups that have emerged and are growing around FutuREstorative 

If you would like to get involved in sharing your stories and experience through FutuREstorative communities of practice then please do reach out.

Together we can do this …

Construction Wellbeing: exploring the ‘underbelly’ of construction.

Mental health in construction is worsening. Suicide rates are over 3 times higher than other sectors. It is essential we understand and address contributing causes with some urgency.

Over the last 6 months I have been delivering a series of one day workshops that focus on exploring construction’s ‘underbelly’ issues on sessions that included directors, managers and operatives. These are issues that are affect personal wellbeing, wellness (as in health and safety), quality, sustainability, productivity, and therefore financial performance.

Here is an overview and synopsis of the issues covered and discussed … 

Wellness or Wellbeing?
We need a clear understanding of the difference. Within construction we have, for many years, been successfully treating wellness as in physical health through health and safety approaches. However wellbeing is the much wider scenario of holistic mind health and happiness, requiring different skills and perspectives.

Health
The WHO definition of health as a “State of complete physical, mental, and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ should be a clear guide to addressing health in construction.

Causes
Distraction, mental health, exhaustion and suicide top the NBS TOP12 list of injury, illness and death in construction. These are issues that cannot be fixed with PPE, but require new thinking and new skills, for example we are seeing wellbeing first aiders and health & safety managers becoming wellbeing managers

Fit for Construction 
In any sport, warm up and recovery is recognised as an essential part of training and fitness. In construction, we rarely give space to or participate in stretching and recovery exercises, even where there is manual work or lifting involved.

Image
The public perception and image of construction is not good, weakened by Carilion, Grenfell. The workshops Construction 101 exercise nominates construction issues that are bad, ugly and unacceptable, but are common place across far too many sites

Well Construction
We are designing green buildings at highest levels of LEED and BREEAM, to Well Build standards, with biophilic approaches that have a design aspiration to address and improve the health and wellbeing of those who work live and play within our buildings. We have not applied the same ethos to the work environment or welfare facilities for those in the construction process.

Biophilic Construction
It is time to re-image project accommodation, canteen and toilet facilities. Within the workshop’s construction 101 exercise, toilet and welfare facilities are consistently nominated to room 101 as being ugly or unacceptable aspects of construction.

Senses
We know that workplaces that focus on intangibles, ie, sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch are workplaces better equipped to boost employee wellbeing. Unfortunately construction tends to mute our senses.

Outside
It is well documented that getting outside is key to sharpening our senses and mental wellbeing, Indeed it is now recognised to design a green healthy building on biophilic principles, a powerful first step is for the design team to go for a walk in a forest. Unfortunately for most working on construction projects the ability to get outside is very limited. 

Mindfulness
That, at each of these workshops, 25+ construction operatives, managers and directors were keen to learn and to practice their first mindfulness session was, I believe, indicative of the need for relief from stress through techniques such as mindfulness.

Modern Slavery
Whilst we continue to have elements of modern slavery in our industry we simply cannot call our sector sustainable. Before we award any project a sustainability standard or recognition award there needs to be a 100% guarantee that there are no incidents of modern slavery in the project supply chains.

Just Construction
Within the sessions, I included an overview of the ILFI Just programme, as a wonderful example of how we could bring construction social and human justice into sustainability certifications.

Fairness Inclusion and Respect
It is sad we need a FIR programme in today’s construction sector, yet a lack of Fairness, Inclusion and Respect lies at the root of our worsening wellbeing, modern slavery, stress and mental health situation.

Support
If you would like to discuss support for any or all of the issues covered above please do get in touch. Within the UK we may also be able to find funding for in-house workshops

References

Wilmott Dixon All Safe Minds Poster 

Carbon is not the enemy …

From my series of Specifi blog posts that pick up on discussions following my presentations there … 

At the Cardiff Design event, slides and comments on rethinking and reimagining carbon carbon prompted much conversation over the networking drinks. 

If we are to address climate change, avoid climate breakdown, cap global temperature increase to 1.5 and to face up to the IPCC 2018 Report warnings, then only reducing carbon from buildings and construction will not be enough, we need to think different think bigger, think regenerative.

Reimagining Carbon in the Built Environment

And, so, if we are to make sustainability really attractive we have to balance the challenge of reversing global warming and, simultaneously, deliver economic prosperity for our sector and those that use our buildings

We have the tools, thinking and approaches to create buildings that are regenerative, to function as trees, to function as energy generators, and as carbon sequesters. Buildings that are part of the solution not the problem.

Imagine our buildings self-generating heating and cooling, or create it using power from renewable sources that are connected to a smart grid to optimise energy use.

Our buildings themselves are constructed from materials that take carbon dioxide from the air and lock it up for decades, even centuries, (250 years in the case of the Bullitt Center that features in my presentations).

Within this new built environment are living, biodiverse ecosystems, used for food production, recreation, water filtration, temperature control, and importantly our health, which draw carbon from the atmosphere down into the soil, and living eco systems.

Reimagining our sectors Carbon Footprint

Following the specify Cardiff event, I flew out to Vilnius in Lithuania to present a keynote at the Lithuanian Green Build Council Conference. It is extremely encouraging that the same conversations are taking place across Europe with built environment architects, contractors, engineers, facilities managers, product manufacturers and investors

We are starting to rethink sustainability, moving from just ‘sustaining’ to ‘thriving’ and embracing the new normal.

Reference Source: Carbon is Not the Enemy. 2016. Nature

BREEAM and LEED Partnership announced.

Over recent years the built environment sustainability agenda has shifted away from being primarily concerned with energy and resource efficiency, towards a sustainability that now firmly embraces people and planetary health. This was the core message behind the ‘working towards a new sustainability’ strap line to FutuREstorative

It isn’t completely surprising then, in breaking news at GreenBuild18 Chicago, BRE and USGBC have announced a partnership to ‘highlight the role that buildings can play in improving environmental, economic and health outcomes and positively impact the quality of life, ultimately leading to a higher standard of living for everyone on the planet’ and to ‘deliver a new industry approach to green building performance, solutions and benchmarking’  

It is possible that the combined power of the two leading green building certification programs – LEED and BREEAM – will help power a new way forward, yet the built environment will continue to need the collaboration with other schemes such as LBC, Well, Building with Nature, DNGB etc. 

Advocacy as important as Certification

For three decades we have hidden behind a sustainability definition of doing nothing today to compromise tomorrows generation. Had we remained true to that Brundtland vision from 1987, we would not be in the climate breakdown scenarios we now face. And whilst, arguably certification programmes have contributed to advancing built environment sustainability, this is only within a small percentage of the huge number of global buildings. It is the ‘other’ buildings (in what I called the long tail of construction in FutuREstorative) that for many reasons will or can not pursue certification, need to embrace the thinking, principles and approaches of sustainability programmes within the design and construction practice, irrespective of certification. 

USGBC / BRE Group Press Release:

USGBC and BRE partnership first of its kind for green building industry

CHICAGO – (Nov. 13, 2018) – The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the BRE Group (BRE) have announced a partnership that will promote the expertise of both organizations and harness their combined industry insights, to deliver a new industry approach to green building performance, solutions and benchmarking.

USGBC and BRE will highlight the role that buildings can play in improving environmental, economic and health outcomes and positively impact the quality of life, ultimately leading to a higher standard of living for everyone on the planet. Their joint vision is to create a better environment that’s cleaner, more efficient, more sustainable and fully meets the world’s current and future urbanization needs.

“USGBC and BRE have led the green building community for nearly two decades,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president & CEO, USGBC. “But there is still much work that needs to be done, and the stakes have never been higher. This collaboration allows us to further leverage our tools and resources to scale up reductions in carbon emissions associated with buildings and accelerate on all fronts.”

The objectives that USGBC and BRE will immediately pursue and explore are to:

  • Increase the level of engagement of existing buildings in the measurement, reporting and improvement of their environmental, social and wellbeing impact.
  • Embrace a digital strategy that will raise our combined technological capabilities and establish industry-wide common data standards and protocols, to make our platforms simpler, smarter and more intelligent.
  • Conduct research to identify future transformation opportunities to improve the sustainability credentials of the world’s buildings, communities and cities.

“BRE is the world’s leading building science center,” said Niall Trafford, CEO, BRE Group. “We have been at the forefront of developing knowledge and standards for almost 100 years. We sponsor and conduct research which continually improves productivity, quality, environmental performance, safety and well-being in the built environment. Our mission is to build a better world together and this partnership will enable us to substantially extend our reach and impact around the world. Now is a critical time to act. BRE and USGBC are building the future. What we can do together is truly strong than anything we do alone.”

Today, LEED and BREEAM are the two most widely used green building programs in the world. Collectively they have certified the assessments of over 640,000 buildings across more than 126,000 commercial, residential, infrastructure, community and city projects in 167 countries and territories. To-date there are more than 167,000 projects registered to LEED and BREEAM and collectively both programs help form one of the largest industry networks focused on delivering a better outcome for our built and natural environment.

“As the world’s global green building leaders, USGBC and BRE share not only a common vision, but also a responsibility to keep moving the market forward,” added Ramanujam. “The amount of work we need to mitigate climate change and realize a sustainable future for all cannot be done by any single organization. In order to truly make an impact, we need all hands on deck and the combined power of the two leading green building certification programs – LEED and BREEAM – to help power a new way forward.”

The collaboration will also leverage USGBC and BRE’s combined market knowledge, partnerships and collective tools through LEED, BREEAM and other rating systems to address all sectors: new and existing commercial buildings, new and existing homes, infrastructure, landscape, power, waste and finance.

Rethinking Carbon: its not the enemy

William McDonough proposes a new thinking and new language for the manner in which we approach our relationship with carbon. His article in Nature makes for essential reading. 

Building on carbon thinking in FutuREstorative, ConstructCO2 and Cost Restore, I have been advocating for a rethinking of carbon, particularly in the construction phase of projects. I have used the two following slides in just about every presentation I have made this year, under the banner of #ImagineBetter, whether it be to the excellent Specifi series of events, COST Restore dissemination presentations, most recently in Malaga (RESTORE Training School), Eindhoven (Dutch Design Week) and Vilnius (Lithuanian GBC Conference)

Within design, construction and building operation the concepts of durable carbon and living carbon are not on our carbon agenda.

In addition to reducing fugitive carbon, we need to turn our attention to the value of construction we are achieving through units of carbon emitted, we can see this as Construction Carbon Productivity.

Yet, even if we were to remove all carbon from buildings construction and in use, we would not make any significant contribution to meet the Paris Agreement 1.5 degC target. We need to include Durable and Living Carbon within our carbon thinking.

Indeed as the recent IPCC October 2018 Report suggests, we need billions of trees to assist in our carbon reduction targets. And it strikes me, as the World GBC report advocates, we have thousands of green buildings – lets roll that up to billions – to all existing and new buildings, where buildings can function like trees in respect of carbon, energy and water for that matter.

A New Language

Source: Carbon is not the Enemy. in Nature November 2016

Regenerative sustainability: enabling people and planet to thrive.

The Lithuanian Green Build Council conference in Vilnius, attracting over 100 from the world built environment Real Estate, Design, Contruction, Product Manufacturers, Facilities Managers and Investors, asked the question ‘Sustainability what is it’?

It was a privilege to kick-off presentations, following an opening address from the Republic of Lithuania’s Ministry of Environment, sharing insights from FutuREstorative and Cost RESTORE. It was pleasing to see that key messages of my keynote resonated throughout the day’s presentations and case studies from inspiring speakers from Europe and the USA.

The key message was that we no longer have a luxury only to be less bad but that we need to seek different approaches to sustainability that enable us to do more good. Thats more good for people health, for planet health and importantly for financial health. Only reducing impact can be seen as the foolish act of driving ever slower towards a cliff edge we know is there.

The impact we have within the built environment sector on the health of those who work live and play in our buildings is huge, and a responsibility we need to face up to, not just to ‘sustain’ but to enable people and planet to thrive.

The LTGBC event included presentations with wonderful insights into regenerative design from Emanuele Naboni KADK / RESTORE, on circular economy from Kestutis Sadauskas, European Commission on healthy materials and LCA (from Camille FABRE, Sant-Goban, into green bonds for regenerative projects from Katya Nolvall atSwedbank) and BIPV – Building Integrated PV’s from Julija Kaladžinskaitė, alongside certification schemes that push the regenerative and health concept from David Hubka and Levan Ekhvaia (DGNB)

It was also a privilege to meet with and share insights with staff and students from VGTU (Vilnius Gedimino Technical University) School of Architecture the following day.  Once again discussions and questions related to the need for collaboration with health practitioners in project design and construction. My thanks to Dr Gintaras Stauskis for the guided tour of Vilnius with insights into the city’s history and soviet architecture, and to his team at VGTU for hosting me for the day.

There were many takeaway’s over the two days and I learnt much from presentations and discussions. Conferences such as this may well be seen as a sustainability bubble of like-minded thinkers, but it is heartening to hear of the wonderful innovations and passions that are enabling us in the built environment to become key climate change solution providers, and not just part of the climate change problem.

We are learning to design and build for people and planet health, not just for function retaliation or image. And given the 12 years timeframe the IPCC October 2018 Report has given us … we need more of this.

Congratulations to Eugenis Sapel and team at LTGBC and Vesta for moderating and delivering a great event, and for keeping us speakers focused on financial aspects of regenerative sustainability.