Base EU Cities – In The Presence of Greatness

post.inddI was fortunate to attend the conference session of BaseEUcities in Brussels late last month. Sandrine Dixson Decleve (chair BaseEUCities advisory board, and Director CISL)  introduced the day as being in ‘the presence of greatness’, and undoubtedly that was to be the case, not only from the speakers and panelists but in discussions throughout the networking sessions.

File 03-11-2015, 08 42 57Keynote for the morning was Jeremy Rifkin economic, social theorist and author (the Third Industrial Revolution and recently the Zero Marginal Cost Society amongst many). According to The “European Energy Review” “Perhaps no other author or thinker has had more influence on the EU’s ambitious climate and energy policy”

Key to Rifkin’s keynote is the emergence and then convergence of innovation in three key areas – communications, energy, and transportation. This led to the fist industrial revolution in the UK, driven by coal, printing and the railways, the second industrial revolution was based on centralised power, cheap oil, telecommunications and the combustion engine ….. and now we heading into a third industrial revolution as we see the internet, IOT and virtual collaboration converging with a shift in energy production, ownership and conservation along radical innovations in transportation – not only vehicle but digital transportation of materials. (think Amazon and iTunes)

Rifkin’s delivery at BaseEUCities was just under an hour of linked thoughts, without aids or slides, and this is his skill, to connect and articulate a number of seemingly disconnected concepts into economic theories.

“The digital economy will revolutionise every commercial sector, disrupt the workings of virtually every industry, bring with it unprecedented new economic opportunities, put millions of people back to work, democratise economic life and create a more sustainable low-carbon society to mitigate climate change”  Rifkin in Huffington Post

At a private conference dinner the evening before, where Rifkin also spoke, Jorgen Randers, (a distinguished Norwegian economist and author of 2052 A Global Forecast for the Next 40 years, a much acclaimed sustainability publication) wasn’t too happy with Rifkin’s delivery, comparing it to building blocks being throw at you, rather than carefully constructed into a solid wall of economic theory. Frank Schwallba-Hoth (Founder of Green Party, Germany) responded that whilst you may or may not agree with Rifkin, his delivery, thinking and conclusions were to be admired.

And I agree, it is necessary to move away from a limiting cause and effect approach, the world isn’t like that anymore, if it ever was. We need more of Rikfin’s style, more complexity theory thinking – of fractuals thinking  and emergence from simple rules.

File 03-11-2015, 09 25 48

Graeme Moxton Sec Gen Club of Rome, added to the debate at the conference, arguing for political change and leadership for redistribution of wealth, energy and that greening is not negative for GDP growth but vital.

John Elkington, the final speaker for the day, summed up the days debates identifying three themes,  a New Normal, Corporations are key to Cities and a move from Incremental to Exponential Solutions

Listening to and participating in the days debates (in particularly listening to and reading extracts from Rifkin) you cannot help but think of the emergence of BIM, (Building Information Management) and how it is now transforming the AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) sector.

Is BIM innovative and contributing to and shaping the third industrial revolution? or is it a consequence of the convergence of digital communications, new energy thinking and innovations in transportation? Which ever way it is, is BIM taking us towards a Rifkin future of Zero Marginal Costs?

Once we have, for eg, standard digital construction models, when each building is an energy production unit and we are 3D printing with local materials, the price of construction will tumble close to zero marginal cost, determined by the market, not by the cost of production. As has, music, books and other commodities following suit..

File 03-11-2015, 09 25 17And it isn’t all positive news. Rifkin talked of the dangers in externalising the nervous system of human race through Internet of Things , Alexander Der Croo Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, who kicked off the conference, championing the digital era, warned that the IoT has a 1984 dark side we must all guard against.

And the sustainability dimension? After two industrial revolutions and now seemingly unsolvable climate change, our eco systems just cannot keep up with our interference, and as Rifkin commented “there is no guarantee for our species” – making the ending of using fossil fuel and emergence of restorative and regenerative sustainability so utterly vital.

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For more on the BaseEUCities events see

#EUCities hashtagged feeds

BaseEUCities: the Conference storify

BaseEUCities: the Parallel sessions storify

BaseEUCities virtual exhibition continues for a few more weeks at http://virtualbasecities.com/

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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.