They Paved Paradise: (How) Can Buildings Heal? … Regeneration Edition3

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The third edition of the Regeneration Design Competition concluded with its conference in the wonderful setting of the Riva Del Garda Museum.

“The biggest barrier to sustainable and living building is ourselves” Amanda Sturgeon 

Following presentations from the three Regeneration Teams, attendees from across the EU heard talks from Amanda Sturgeon (CEO International Living Futures Institute) Emanuelle Naboni (KADH, Copenhagen) Emmanuel Pauwels (Green Living, Spain) and myself.

It was a real delight to work with the three teams over the course of the design competition, sharing sustainability and experience of the Living Building Challenge. Congratulations to all the teams, and to the Yellow (Coltsfoot) Team for their winning presentation.

Based on the passion and integrity of the Regeneration students, the future of restorative design, construction and operation of buildings to the Living Building Challenge standard is in very good hands indeed.

‘They Paved Paradise: (How) Can Buildings Heal?’

My Riva Del Garda presentation introduced a number of themes, sharing insights from FutuREstorative and current research work on biophilia in relation to birth centers.

taking carbon out

Carbon reduction and its impact on health is now recognised as a major health imperative, and with the built environment responsible for 40% of carbon emissions measures to address zero carbon buildings and construction must be on all sustainability agendas

A green Built Environment supports the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDG’s are emerging as the vision for Built Environment sustainability, addressing the positive impact the sector can have, replacing the ‘doing nothing today’ Brundtland definition that hasn’t moved the sustainability needle fast enough.

solastalgia

Solastalgia – With the reduction of nature, access to nature, reduction of natural light within buildings and absence of dark skies we are starting to feel distress and nostalgic for the ‘natural’ environment we recall from our youth, or the innate relationship with nature that is part of our human psyche:

Biophilia, the secret sauce for sustainability

The rise of interest in biophilia and connectivity with nature is encouraging. Biophilia can offer so much more than just better healthier places to work and live. It is the secret sauce for sustainable behaviour, improving the way we respect and look after our environment, our buildings and our planet.

And a big thanks and congratulations to the students, teams, fellow tutors, organisers and trade presenters for a wonderfully inspiring Regeneration!

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Regeneration 2017 Ed3 … Students, Tutors and Organisers …
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Biophilic Design & Rewilding- the secret sauce of sustainability?

Biophilia is emerging as the secret sauce of sustainability. It is not just about being able to see trees and fields from our windows, or having green plants within rooms, but something deeper and more profound.

The Cuerdon Valley Park Visitor Centre in Lancashire, the first UK project to be registered for and working towards Living Building Challenge certification, recently staged a project team biophilic design workshop (1), led by Joe Clancy using the Terrapin Bright Green guide ’14 Patterns of Biophilic Design’ (Joe, as an intern with Terrapin Bright Green was part of the guide team and co-author)

The workshop reviewed the design, construction and operation of the building from a new perspective, through each of the 14 patterns, covering aspects from light through to the layout of chairs and food to be served in the cafe.

 

Biophilia translates as love of nature and in design terms the consideration of how our innate relationship with nature can be addressed within buildings. We have evolved as part of nature, and as such the human mind and body function with greater efficiency and performance when natural elements are present. Biophilic design is ensuring that these elements and patterns are present.

Biophilic elements enhance wellbeing, foster the feel good factor, reduce building related illness and even improve health. For example light as in daylight, circadian lighting, differing light spectrums is being considered as a form of medicine, not only to reduce illness, but to improve and maintain health.

ReWilding
There is much talk of rewilding at present, and as rewilding nature and environments is not just about reintroducing wolf, lynx or other top of the chain predators but more about restoring or regenerating the natural environment ‘creating conditions that allow the emergence of natural responsiveness and development’(2)

We should learn from and apply rewilding thinking to our built environment,and in doing so rewild people, those who inhabit buildings, creating the conditions, through for eg biomimicry and biophilic applications, that allow (new and existing) buildings to breathe and to respond to natural and bioclimatic cycles. We are losing or removing our natural barometers from buildings, increasingly replacing them with SMART technologies, to satisfy a blinked focus on energy performance. In turn, this has weakened our intrinsic relationship with nature.(3)

It is recognised that a lack of connection with nature reduces our tolerance to respect the environment. However, enabling biophilic conditions that ‘rewild’ our built environment will improve user behaviour and increase respect for the sustainable function of buildings.

Biophilia could, therefore be a root cause solution to addressing our buildings sustainability performance, closing performance gaps, providing salutogenetic improvement on the health & well-being of those using the building, and providing business benefits relating to people costs and productivity

And, biophilic workshops are not just for green building design, but should be part of the start-up activities for any project, considering in addition to the building in use, the biophilic aspects of the construction process. Biophilic thinking applied to construction environment can address the stress, mental health and safety, productivity, enthusiasm and wellbeing of those working on our construction projects. Therefore, biophilic thinking could be a key to improving construction quality, environmental and safety compliance, productivity and hence costs.

On two, very recent, project sustainability review/audits, it has been encouraging to hear of construction organisations increasing awareness of biophilia through training related to health, sustainability and design.

(1) Report available soon.

(2) George Monbiot in Feral

(2) extract from FutuREstorative

Lynx Kitten Image:   www.conservationjobs.co.uk

Rewilding Building Image: Cuerdon Valley Park Visitor Centre

Rewilding People image – see – Last Child in the Woods Richard Louv

Images from Sense of Urgency presentation available on Slideshare.

Where Greendeal should be …

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At many of the Green Deal workshops, roundtable discussions and presentations (eg More than Just a GreenDeal) I have led over the last year or so , I have challenged thinking with the question, how did we get to 2013 without a clear strategy in improving the efficiency of our existing buildings?

Its as though we waited for Green Deal then set about finding solutions. I know there has been masses of research and development in this area – but no clear agreed solution or strategy.

Many of the solutions are presenting themselves as technology or renewable solutions, rather than behavioural approaches. Have we put energy consumption behavioural science in the ‘too difficult’ or ‘not enough profit’  box?  The hottest new thing in energy efficiency may not be solar panels, wind turbines or eco bling — but computers. ( See Big data analytics and smart meters are allowing utilities to use more renewable power while reducing energy waste)

Encouraging then to see the Guardian Sustainability Business report “The power of behavioural design: looking beyond nudging” describing the powerful integration of big data, behaviour insight and mobile technology in pursuit of reducing energy consumption in homes and buildings.

The American energy software company, Opower, uses a powerful combination of big data and behavioural design to make consumers use less energy

The ambition of the collaborative project between Warwick Business School and Honeywell Building Solutions is to reduce the energy consumption of organisations by applying a combination of relevant technology and behavioural design

And this is just where Green Deal thinking needs to be thinking, on a hierarchy of behaviour, fabric and renewables – not the other way around as we appear to be at the moment – and quickly.