Tag Archives: CIRS

Seattle, Vancouver and Squamish: a sustainability visit.

Having just returned from a visit / tour of sustainability projects in the Cascadia, NW pacific area of Seattle, Vancouver and Squamish, combined with a outdoor vacation, I am now sorting copious notes, photos and observations from the trip that will form future blog posts and inclusion in my forthcoming book, FutuREstorative.

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There were so many ‘highlights’ of the trip that will feature in future articles, but, as a quick summary:

The lack of snow inhibited any real winter sports without really venturing deep into backcountry. I was later to learn that this year ‘pineapple express’ wind and low snowpack levels will have an adverse affect on water aquifers across the region.

Walking and biking in forests where bear, cougar and coyote roamed and (worryingly, so early in the year) had been spotted during our visit introduced a fission of alertness not known in the UK or Europe and made for interesting discussions on re-wilding the UK countryside!

A return visit to the Austrian House at Lost lake Whistler, a Passive House gift from Austria to the 2006 Olympics and Canada’s first PH registered project.

Understanding the distinctive heavy timber architecture of the Squamish area, and visits to buildings at the stunning location of Quest Campus, Squamish and the Environmental Learning Centre at the North Vancouver Outdoor School in Brackendale (winner of a Wood Design Award held in Vancouver that week)

Meeting with Sustainable Leadership Conversation co-host and friend Andrea Learned who took me on a great cycle tour through her ‘hood –  the Seattle Ballard area and along the Waterfront with stop offs at the Tractor Tavern (home of garage and grunge) Stone34 (Leed Platinum Brooks HQ) finishing with great social media / sustainability discussions over dinner.

Visits to Living Building Challenge projects, the CIRS building at University of British Columbia, the Bullet Centre in Seattle and the VanDusen visitor centre Vancouver as well as understanding other notable sustainability buildings such as the MEC HQ in Vancouver and Stone34 in Seattle.

Water featured in visits and discussions, in particular that we should start to address water in the same way we do for energy performance in buildings – from the impact on “fossil-water” through to buildings, like the Bullitt Centre acting like trees and returning 80% of water that falls on the building to the aquifer and in using the 20% many times in closed loop systems. And of course those waterless composting toilets …

Whilst in the Bullitt Centre it was fun to to provide a live update back to and converse with the Living Building Challenge UK Collaborative water petal workshop in Leeds.

But it wasn’t just the big restorative sustainability concepts that inspired, often it’s the small but awesome detail that is essential in reinforcing the messages, like the CIRS building on UBC where the solar aqua filter plant room is positioned at the entrance, viewed by all entering the building as a reminder. But perhaps the best message being in CIRS café area where two vegetarian meals are served for each meat meal, reinforcing the message of the resources in land and water to provide the meat meal compared to that of the vegetarian.

File 17-03-2015 09 03 34It was of course great to visit the Bullitt Centre and question behind the stories covered on the web and numerous articles; it really is an inspiring building and lives up to its green reputation. But now the real challenge starts – “to replicate the Bullitt Centre a thousand, a million times and fast” Over an iced tea with Denis Hayes we discussed the real possibility of a Bullitt Centre type project in Manchester as the hub for iDSP, the Institute for Design Space and Place.

Many inspiring chats and discussions gave insights into restorative sustainability for example with Tim Herrin at CIRS, with Brad Khan who really knows the Bullitt Centre inside out, with Denis Hayes, with the LBC team (great to meet and catch up with Amanda Sturgeon, Eric Corey Freed,  Hilary Mayhew, Stacia and Bonnie) and, completely by chance, at a Vancouver dinner party, a planner involved in the LBC certified Childcare facility at Simon Fraser University. An evening meal with Ken Carty, author and retired political scientist at UBC provided interesting insights into Canadian politics.

I guess no visit to the Pacific NW could be complete without getting to understanding some of the environmental politics – particularly to the north of British Columbia where the TNG and the proposed Northern Gateway oil sands bitumen pipeline is being fought to prevent environmental damage to an awesome wilderness areas. A visit to the newly opened, community located, Patagonia store in Vancouver provided further insights to Patagonia’s environmental and responsibility activity in the area via their excellent ‘zine booklet published for the stores opening ‘In the Land of the Misty Giants’ (issuu version here)

I should of course mention the reason d’etre for the trip was triggered by my partner, Soo Downe and her midwifery week at UBC with the highlight of her public lecture at the Inaugural Elaine Carty Midwifery Programme (Storify here)

But who would of thought that Cows would feature in my tour. Denis Hayes kindly gifted me a copy of his new book Cowed co-written with his wife Gail Boyer Hayes. Cowed provides a fascinating insight to how Cows impact so much both on our lives and the environment and was a great read on the long flight back from Vancouver.

So, many people to thank for such a great vacation and study tour, from Brett at the awesome Squamish airBNB, Andrea Learned, the ILFI team, our friends and hosts in Vancouver, those who gave time to talk or provide tours, Denis Hayes, Tim Herring, Brad Kahn and many more. And of course great company, thanks Soo, Chris and Emma

Future posts will use the hashtags #futurestorative and/or #VanSea2015

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Water Energy Nexus – a built environment mindfulness

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As a lead-up to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, January 13-17, Masdar is sponsoring a blogging contest called “Engage: The Water-Energy Nexus.”

The winner will be invited to Abu Dhabi as VIP media to cover the week’s high-profile events.

The following is my entry. Please vote for me here

Water Energy Nexus – a built environment mindfulness

Could we be facing a near perfect storm within the built environment, as our sustainability efforts, our energy and water performance efforts, or perhaps lack of effort hit an environmental cliff.

Consider:

  • 85% of buildings that will be in use in 2050 are already standing today, and many many of them, commercial, leisure and domestic were designed and constructed prior to any meaningful sustainability guidelines. Buildings that are water energy cavelier, designed and managed with a cornucopia view of resources
  • The built environment sector is often called the 40% sector on account of using 40% of the worlds resources, energy and water whilst generating 40% of the worlds waste.
  • Increasingly our lifestyles, workstyles and infrastructure styles are demand evermore energy and water.
  • We are making poor, behind target progress on energy reduction, water conservation and carbon reduction through our design, construction and use of buildings
  • Even today in 2012 water lacks behind energy in performance import for new build and refurbishment
  • We have a facilities management profession that adopts a status quo maintainence basis, often with low level SLA’s demanding same focus as water and in some cases energy performance
  • We are entering a future of big data, where rational, cold evidence based approaches will dominate, driven by Building Information Management. Whilst a very welcomed performance improvement for the sector we may be in danger of loosing the experience intuitive.
  • The dominating sustainable construction codes such as BREEAM and LEED are in danger of becoming corporate checklists, often criticised for the ability to trade water performance points against cycle travel provision points.

Addressing a Water / Energy Nexus

Looking forward the built environment should be looking for both strategic data-driven leaders and managers balanced with strategic creative leaders. This is particularly the case in facilities management sector, where the intuition that comes from deep knowledge of how buildings use water and energy, once a key skill of the building facilities manager that we are sadly loosing and one of the key green skills to rekindle.

We have a need for ‘Mindfulness’ in the built environment. A deep green understanding of the buildings relationship with nature, guided by building codes and green sustainability standards. And as a designer, as a builder as an inhabitant, develop an in-the-moment awareness connectivity or dis-connectivity with the nature and water / energy resources.

We need a move away from assessments looking at impact on the environment, but rather turning tables to look at how the facility connects with nature and its environment.

We can see standards such as the Living Building Challenge as a way forward with each building regarded as a flower, using only the water and energy that falls on the building.

We need new levels of engagement and relationship between building and user. For example the CIRS Vancouver UBC building, itself a LBC accredited building, refers to its users as inhabitants – requiring each to sign a charter that recognises the engagement expected

As I wrote in an earlier blog we need 3 New ‘R’s for built environment sustainability, and its impact on the water energy nexus

Re-Design. No longer are transactional efforts in conserving water and energy enough. Radical revolution in design thinking needed that encompasses Cradle to Cradle thinking, Circular Economy,

Re-Connect. Time to rethink our relationship with nature, a relationship that is deeper, that is deep green mindfulness. A direction that Living Building Challenge promotes – every building contributing to, not taking from its environment.

Re-Kindle. Time to rekindle the sustainability water / energy debate – moving away from the negative, harassment to doing less bad, to encouraging a move towards a positive new world of doing more good, better. Fostering Resilience.

Read Later Connections: from green deal to stargazing and sustainability

A collection of articles saved to Instapaper this last week (mostly from Flipboard)

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Inspiring landlords to take part in the Green Deal 

The UK Government are in the final planning stages of the Green Deal launch, their biggest home improvement scheme since the Second World War. The problems they face, however, are trying to get people involved and inspired enough to invest in the Green Deal.

‘Green’ solar cell made from plants news.cnet.com

A paper published in Scientific Reports today describes an improved method for making electricity-producing “biophotovoltaics” without the sophisticated laboratory equipment previously needed. Researchers said custom-designed chemicals could be mixed with green plants, even grass clippings, to create a photovoltaic material by harnessing photosynthesis.

Four hidden tricks for taking stellar iPhone photos by 

I hate to admit it, but my iPhone is always the first thing I reach for when I spot a photo-worthy scene. Sure, I own a digital camera, but my iPhone is always with me, packs an excellent camera, plus I have the option to edit and share photos instantly.

Why I’ve Stopped Pitching the Business Case for Sustainability By Jennifer Woofter

One of the most frequent questions that I get when I talk to people about my job as a sustainability consultant is this: How can I convince [my boss, my company, my crazy aunt, etc.] that sustainability makes good business sense?

Britain’s best stargazing locations telegraph.co.uk

One of the most ravishing sights on Earth should be the night sky – the brightest stars from the billions in our Milky Way, the streak of meteors, planetary neighbours such as Venus and Jupiter, the glow of other galaxies such as Andromeda.

Light pollution, however, means few experience this free glory.

AASHE Interview Series: John Robinson, Executive Director, UBC Sustainability Initiative

a detailed look into the making of a regenerative building, and what makes CIRS a new kind of “green” building.

John Robinson, the Executive Director of the University of British Columbia’s Sustainability Initiative sat down with AASHE to discuss the recently opened Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) building.

Stunning Timelapse Video Shows the True Beauty of Yosemite treehugger.com

There’s nothing like a good timelapse video to showcase the beauty of a place or an event. When that place is Yosemite National Park, it’s a recipe for an especially jaw-dropping few minutes. This video, called “Yosemite HD,” is the product of Project Yosemite, a collaborative project by Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty to capture the true beauty of the national park.

Building the Sustainability Brand Within

When we think about sustainability strategy we typically think about a series of initiatives around energy efficiency, waste reduction, and product redesign. But our traditional focus on carbon audits and generating Corporate Sustainability Reports (CSR), while important, emphasizes data collection and does not necessarily engage people in ways that generate synergy and build scale. Few companies capitalize on the opportunities sustainability provides for widespread employee engagement and improving the company culture – in effect, “building the brand within.”

‘Microplastic’ threat to shores bbc.co.uk

Microscopic plastic debris from washing clothes is accumulating in the marine environment and could be entering the food chain, a study has warned. Researchers traced the “microplastic” back to synthetic clothes, which released up to 1,900 tiny fibres per garment every time they were washed. Earlier research showed plastic smaller than 1mm were being eaten by animals and getting into the food chain.