Tag Archives: Climate Change

How significant was the first Buildings Day at COP21?

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In coming years, hopefully very significant. This was the first time that the built environment has been recognised as important in any global, United Nation climate change summit.

We now have the recognition that buildings and construction have a major impact and influence on climate changes, being part of the problem but also key to climate change solutions

My thoughts from following inspiring feeds from Paris and elsewhere, through the twitter hashtags of #COP21, #BuildingsDay #BuildBetterGreen #BackClimateAction and others:

I felt ashamed by the approach of our government in weakening and dismantling sustainability strategies for homes and buildings whilst others around the world are deepening their green building strategies

That the built environment players (leaders, companies, advocates, agencies, academics) all need to collaborate to ensure a sub 2 degrees warming path is central to sustainability strategies

Not once did I see BIM mentioned or cited as part of the building environment solution. BIM needs to engage with the leaders and decision makers who are shaping the design, construction and operation of buildings.

Encouraged to hear of net positive approaches, being restorative and regenerative in built environment sustainability approaches. Not only for carbon reduction but for social and health strategies to be ‘net-positive’

Encouragingly there have been many great pledges from GBC members around the world – including the UK.

Whilst major contractors and manufacturers were visible in making commitments or presenting the built environment world of contracting, of SME’s and supply chains right across the sector still needs to engage, and understand that business as usual may not be that usual in the coming year.

Finally – with the built environments impact on climate change, often quoted as 40% of the problem, making the real change to get on a sub 2 degree global warming path may seem impossible. Globally, through design and construction we need to reduce emissions by 84 GtCO2 by 2050 – thats taking over 22.000 coal fired power stations out of service.

Yet impossible is only a challenge – and as Steve Jobs said – its kind of fun to do the impossible.

What Is COP21?

Understand COP21 in these 7 graphics (via Green Biz)

France is chairing and hosting the 21 th Conference of Parties to the Framework UN Convention on Climate Change (COP21 / CMP11) from 30 November to 11 December 2015. This is a crucial conference since it must lead to a new international climate agreement, applicable to all, to keep global warming below 2 ° C.

18 countries (Austria, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Senegal, Singapore, Sweden, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America), and over 60 organisations launched an unprecedented Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction to speed up and scale up the sector’s huge potential to reduce its emissions and literally build greater climate resilience into future cities and infrastructure.

Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction to Combat Climate Change

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Mobilising the Construction Sector for Climate Action

We now know that buildings and the built environment are a key factor to our climate change problem, whilst at the same time, a vital part of climate change solutions.

2015 is seen by many as the turning point in the fight against climate change. In December, France hosts the 21st “Conference of the Parties”, or COP21, with a goal of reaching a binding agreement to limit global warning to between 1.5degC to 2degC.

Without significant action by the built environment sector, this target can not be met

December 2015 


The built environment sector’s crucial role in mitigating climate change is finally being recognised. For the first time in the history of climate negotiations, A ‘Buildings Day’ will be held December 3 at the COP21 UN conference on climate change in Paris.

  • Helping to put the buildings and construction sector on the below 2 °C path
  • Aligning existing initiatives, commitments and programmes to achieve greater scale and increase the pace of efficiency actions
  • Catalysing stronger collaboration and targeting sectoral and cross sectoral climate action and solutions for all

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Now then, is the time for every built environment organisation; funder; client; designer; constructor; and maintainer, to revisit and to recommit to sustainability goals that will not only seek to limit global warming through reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, but also seek to be net positive.

More than 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are buildings related, with emissions from buildings set to double by 2050 if we continue business as usual. Not addressing climate change will increase the risks and vulnerability of countries, regions and local communities. The forecast rapid urbanisation, without action will accelerate impacts.

Yet:

  • The built environment sector offers one of the most cost-effective and economically beneficial paths for reducing energy demand and associated emissions while at the same time supporting adaptation and resilience to climate change.
  • Many low-energy, renewable and deep renovation solutions are available. Proven policy, finance and technology actions exist.
  • The economic, health, and social benefits of sustainable buildings are significant. Buildings provide shelter, places to live, work, learn and socialise, directly affecting our daily lives. Providing more than 50 per cent of global wealth, and one of the largest employers at local level, the sector also offers a path to poverty alleviation.
  • Buildings are long-term ventures. Today’s new buildings are tomorrow’s existing stock. Failure to act now would lock in growth in GHG emissions for decades.

Better Build Green is the World Green Building Council’s new campaign which focuses on the UN climate change negotiations – COP21 in Paris. The campaign aims to show the world that green buildings offer one of the best and most cost-effective ways to tackle climate change and help keep global temperature rises within the two degrees limit. The message is simple: not only had we better build green if we are to reach a two-degree world tomorrow, but we are better off today if we do.

Sources:

UN Environment Programme Buildings Day 

Friends of Europe

Better Build Green

The New Economy – Why Buildings Matter in Fights Against Climate Change

Fairsnape iSite: Beyond Sustainability

Beyond sustainability: Buildings are a climate change problem … and also part of the solution.

Buildings are a climate change problem … and also part of the solution. With buildings responsible for an estimated 40% of all carbon emissions and having a huge influence of lifestyle, commerce and industry carbon reduction efforts, we can now longer afford to incrementally be less bad. And this year, 2015, being a significant year for climate change action, with the COP21 in Paris in December and the imminent release of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, it is time to recognise the role of buildings as a climate change solution.

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Beyond Sustainability, as you may have seen in the media, via social media or by invite, is our significant event in London on the 5th Oct. The event highlight will be Jason McLennan’s (CEO International Living Futures Institute) first UK keynote, which promises to be an inspiring call to do more good, as being less bad is not just enough anymore

The event will also include an overview of Living Building Challenge and Well Building Standard activity in the UK from Martin Brown, Fairsnape, and Ann Marie Aguilar, Arup Associates.  Hattie Hartman (Sustainability Editor at AJ) will chair a panel debate, featuring regenerative and well being sustainability activity in the UK from a range of presenters.  In addition John Alker UKGBC will introduce the UKGBC’s new campaign ‘Better Places for People‘ 

There will, of course, be opportunity for Q and A panel debates with speakers.

Please take this as your invite to attend. The event will held appropriately, in the wonderful Royal College of Physicians building on Regents Park. More details and how you can you can still register here.

Jason F. McLennan Keynote speaker:

Considered one of the most influential individuals in the green building movement today and the recipient of prestigious Buckminster Fuller Prize (the planet’s top prize for socially responsible design), Jason F. McLennan’s work has made a pivotal impact on the shape and direction of green building in the United States and Canada and he is a much sought after designer, presenter and consultant on a wide variety of green building and sustainability topics around the world.

Is Building as Usual still a sustainable, responsible option?

Buildings represent a critical piece of any global low-carbon future.

Within the buildings sector, both residential and commercial, early movers towards efficiency can reap multiple benefits. These include more valuable, resilient buildings that offer better living and working conditions for owners and tenants, associated improvements in health and productivity, and higher occupancy rates.

Business Briefings on the Latest Climate Science is a highly readable series of briefings from CISL* at University of Cambridge, born of the belief that many sectors, including the building sector, could make more use of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)**, which is long and  highly technical, if it were distilled into an accurate, accessible, timely, relevant and readable summary.

The briefing can be downloaded here, and of particular interest is the warning of doing nothing, too little or too late that will severely impact and comprise future generations for decades, locking in many of problems we are seeking to eradicate.

  • The longevity of buildings presents the risk of energy performance ‘lock-in’ whereby today’s sluggish ambition confers a legacy of less than optimal buildings to future generations.
  • Avoiding lock-in requires the urgent adoption of state-of-the-art
    performance standards in all buildings.
  • Radical change within the building sector requires aggressive and sustained policies and actions across the design, construction, and operation of buildings and their equipment.
Building as Usual v Building for the Future Infographic

Building as Usual v Building for the Future Infographic

CISL, together with the Cambridge Judge Business School and the support of the European Climate Foundation  a series of documents synthesising the most pertinent findings of AR5 for specific economic and business sectors

** The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) concluded that climate change is unequivocal, and that human activities, particularly emissions of carbon dioxide, are very likely to be the dominant cause.

Sustainable Construction 10 years on – plus ca change?

Sorting through old papers over the holiday break, I came across this call to action from 2004

So why is the construction industry so slow in adopting sustainability principles?  There is more than enough sustainability knowledge in the marketplace to help organisations become more innovative, save costs and deliver a better product for their customers.

Business leaders and individuals are just not sufficiently engaged or enthused.

New entrants to our industry are beginning to expect high levels of ethical environmental and social performance. Clients are also beginning to expect higher standards and suppliers too are waking up to a better way of working. Organisations that do not adopt a sustainable approach will find it increasingly difficult to attract employees, clients and suppliers.

Now is the time to make the change and become more sustainable in everything we do.

The 2004 drivers for sustainability were based on risk management, driven in the main from client requirements (recall for example the influential MaSC – Managing Sustainable Construction programme launched that year) and we still ask the question if Business leaders and individuals are sufficiently engaged or enthused.

We have seen many strategies, targets and new drivers in the world of sustainable construction, the significance and danger of carbon wasn’t on the agenda back in 2004, the climate change wasn’t the issue as it is now, we barely understood CSR and social sustainability and we didn’t have social media as the powerful communication, learning and sharing tool.

And yet the approach to sustainable construction from contracting organisations remains the same. All too often I hear that “we only do it when the client or project demands it” And I notice increasingly that BREEAM (Very Good) projects seem to be losing the drive to change the way we sustainably construct – its business as usual for many working on such projects.

Going into 2014  we need to remain optimistic. Over the holiday period I have also been browsing some of the works of Richard Buckminster Fuller and struck by his quote

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

we need that new model now in construction, not one that challenges the existing – but makes a new way of doing things far more attractive and compelling on all counts. We can see a hint of this new model within the Living Building Challenge, Circular Economy and Restorative Sustainability thinking. For many reasons the built environment is known as the 40% sector, consuming 40% raw materials, producing 40% of total waste, contributing 40% traffic on roads, using 40% energy generated and so on.

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Lets flip these negatives into positives and heal the future.

We can only describe what we do as sustainable when we take less from the environment and when we contribute more to society than we take.

(We will be discussing this theme in our monthly Sustainable Leadership Conversation tweetchat on Tuesday 7th Jan at 7pm UK / 11am PST – follow the #sustldrconv hashtag on twitter)

Construction CSR – A Clients View

At the launch of the British Land Corporate Responsibility Report 2013,  Head of Planning and Corporate Responsibility, Adrian Penfold, gave people the chance to quiz him on our approach to corporate responsibility and on our plans for the future.

Here are Adrian’s responses to the questions we received via Twitter@BritishLandCR (original wording kept for all questions, including abbreviations).

Of course, I was particularly interested in my question:

Adrian, What do you see as key drivers for Corp Responsibility in built environ. over next 5 yrs? By Martin Brown @fairsnape

At a corporate level, we have identified three key drivers for corporate responsibility in general over the next five years:

  • Resource shortages and unpredictable climate patterns posing ever-greater risks to wellbeing and economic stability in developed and developing nations.
  • Public concern about how businesses operate leading people to ask questions about the role of business in shifting to more sustainable models of consumption and supporting wider societal needs.
  • Local, national and global issues stemming from low economic growth, challenges in accessing employment and skills shortages.

For the built environment, I think regulation will play an important part, particularly Minimum Energy Performance Standards and Building Regulations. But I believe the real changes are coming through in the attitudes of our customers. In our recent experience, Marks & Spencer and UBS are for example both very challenging in the environmental criteria that they require, particularly on new buildings. We welcome this, as we are well positioned to work with them in this area, and we expect to see more of this kind of requirement from other businesses.

Do read the whole article for similar comments on the built environment current challenges of wellbeing, energy, co2, green leases and green deal.

In addition to the comments this is another brilliant example illustrating the maturity of twitter in the built environment / corporate social responsibility sector, and why it should be a key tool for construction boards strategy planning.

If zero carbon is the answer then just what was the question?

If zero carbon is the answer then just what was the question

Is it ‘just because’ I am currently  seeing things from a different perspective as I re-read Cradle to Cradle, (which I feel  has more resonance with where we are now)  but a number of recent issues and events  have left me questioning our approach to zero, and that going to zero is not enough.   Indeed it may even be dangerous ‘just’ going to zero.

Lets consider the built environment in its widest sense, not just from design to FM but from wining raw materials through construction to end users, and consider the opening premise from Cradle to Cradle, and ask who today would allow a sector to :

Put billions of pounds of toxic materials in the air water and ground every year

Produces materials so dangerous they require constant vigilance by future generations

Results in gigantic volume of waste

Puts valuable materials in holes all over the planet

Requires thousands of complex regulations – not to keep people and nature safe, but to keep them from being poisoned too quickly

Measures productivity based on how few people are working?

Creates prosperity by digging up or cutting down natural resources and then burning or burying them

Erodes the diversity of species and cultural practices.

McDonough and Braunghart were referring to the industrial revolution in these ‘consequences’, but they do describe the construction sector oh so well.  OK so no-one today would allow such a sector which exhibited these ‘by- products’ a licence to trade, so why then do we allow the ‘built environment’ to continue doing so but at a reduced rate?  As McDonough and Braunghart comment – doing only a little good may well be doing no good.

Indeed Janis Birkeland comments in her argument for Positive Development – if we build all new buildings to the highest, greenest standards, then the net contribution to carbon reductions would be only 0.04%.

And with this in mind, the questions that kept forming last week included:

How much do we spend within the global built environment on waste management, (disposal, recycling, regulation, etc) in comparison to the amount spent on eliminating waste full stop, through for example cradle-to-cradle paradigm thinking?

A rule of thumb is that the built environment uses 40% materials, creates 40% waste and generates 40% emissions. Ed Mazria from Architecture 2030 puts this figure higher at 48.5%.  We need to monitor and watch these figures reduce, but at the moment the production of cement remains responsible for about 7% of all carbon dioxide emissions.  Am I the only one who feels guilty with these?

Indeed another rule of thumb puts the quarrying sector at a third contribution – but what proportion from this sector is used to derive materials for construction? If the Cradle to Cradle authors are correct then the consumer (end user) only deals with 5% of the total waste of a product, the remainder 95% is waste created in manufacture.

So why are zero carbon definitions largely ignoring embodied energy and putting them in the ‘too difficult to deal with box’ ?  Dealing only or mainly with a carbon zero definition for buildings in use?

Passivhaus is emerging as the aspirational darling or solution. But what is the true embodied energy of passivhaus, in particular the massive amounts of insulation, sheeting and duct tape?  Passivhaus will reduce energy requirements and costs. Excellent. But I would love to see the payback time on the total and higher than normal embodied energies and waste.

Why are plastic, polyurethane and uvpc now considered green (such products now abound at eco exhibitions and within green guides) based it would seem solely on their performance, not on the harm done during production.

Why doesn’t BREEAM and LEED make more of a  focus on embodied energy  in its scoring?

Oh and why isn’t responsible sourcing to BS6000 more widely known or enforced?

Are we trying to solve the built environment environmental problems with the same mode of thinking that created them in the first place? I have always accepted that within sustainability we will make mistakes, take dead ends and end up in cul de sacs, and that this is all part of the learning and moving forward. But is time running our too quickly, to be so ‘narrow’ and we are just storing another problem for future generations to deal with?

Are we looking down the telescope the wrong way?  Turn it around and we may see the scale and maybe solutions to our problems.

We are in a period of developing strategies, codes and defining zero carbon itself.  Now is the time for that debate to be wider, for a collaborative debate across the sectors that make up the built environment, from raw materials to end users. And here  is where I mention be2camp, as it is through web technologies (in both the widest and most specific aspects) that will allow and enable such debate and dialogue to take place.

And as the Cradle-to-Cradle sub heading says – its time to remake the way we make things

(This is a rewitten and shortened and hopefully bettered reasoned version of the rant I started at the end of last week)