Tag Archives: Climate Emergency

For Peats Sake …

Notes and thoughts from attending the informative XR For Peats Sake hosted by XR Morecambe Bay via Zoom yesterday evening, leading the event, Si Thomas, Peatland Restoration Officer, Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

Key and important ‘peat’ messages from Si Thomas included

  • Over 40% of our green house gas emissions come from degraded peat
  • Restoring our peatland habitat would give 37% of the mitigation need to meet Paris Agreement by 2030

There were a number of Key Actions discussed, but the most important, in my opinion, was that of Education in respect of peat free compost, but perhaps more importantly awareness on peatlands negative and positive contribution to the carbon emergency we face.

When we think of carbon reduction (and we have to make some 10% reduction per annum to meet Paris Agreement) we think of using less fossil fuel, taking less plane based holidays, driving less, using less heating and offsetting through tree planting. We rarely think about improving the carbon capture of peatlands. This has to change.

Peatland plants and insects are as beautiful and important as the trees and biodiversity we find in forests and rewilded areas. And can be as vital to our own health and wellbeing, with the increasing biophilic recognition of the importance of fractals and natures patterns, even in miniature. (Ref Terrapin Bright Green forthcoming Biophilic Design & Complexity: A Toolkit for Working with Fractals)

During the writing FutuREstorative, I spent time walking and bothying in the Rannoch / Corrour Moor area in central Scotland, giving me time to appreciate both the beautiful and awesome landscapes of a healthy peat land area and the wonderful intricate detail of its biodiversity.

FutuREstorative extracts:

We will see protecting areas of wilderness and Habitat Exchange become part of the overall restorative sustainable development package, and a key element in our corporate social responsibilities. We now recognise and accept the significant and negative impact the built environment has placed on the natural environment over many decades; not only should we be addressing immediate impacts on a project by project basis, but we should also take positive action to protect other habitats in recognition of past damage and helping to heal the future. If we are serious about restorative sustainability, then habitat exchange – either physically, or through effective advocacy and/or offset programmes – should be seen as part of the cost of construction

As a recent Cambridge University shows, rewilding and restoration of land would create carbon sinks to sequester carbon – through, for example, an increase in forestry to 30% (closer to that of France and Germany) and restoration of 700,000 hectares of peatland – and in doing so make a significant contribution to the UK’s target of an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.

Unfortunately UK peatlands are in a bad state of health, but they can be restored relatively cheaply and easily. Once the dominant vegetation, sphagnum moss, is returned, peatlands quickly begin absorbing carbon once again. A healthy bog also functions as an excellent water filter – an important aspect of sustainable water programmes, since 75% of our water catchment is in peatland areas. Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s natural carbon capture scheme provides opportunity for offsetting built environment carbon while making a positive contribution to Peatlands habitat restoration.

And for the beauty of peatlands and amazing characteristics of Spagnum Moss listen to A Pocket of Wind Resistance by Karine Polwart & Pippa Murphy

Links and videos shared during the For Peats Sake

For Peats sake XR Film

Repairing Peat Hags

Visualisation of carbon sequestration in temperate peatlands

Let Nature Help (Wildlife Trusts) Nature Based Solutions: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/sites/default/files/2020-06/Let%20Nature%20Help.pdf

Flow Country: https://www.theflowcountry.org.uk

The Carbon Farmer: https://www.thetopofthetree.uk/the-carbon-farmer

Learning and Sharing in the Time of Corona

In these tough days of Covid-19, social distancing and isolation we can also look for the light of opportunity to share and to learn. We are hearing it is possible that physical, face to face events will not be happening for months, until the UK is clear enough for travel for home events, and until the EU is clear for EU events.

Not surprisingly then, we are seeing many events, workshops, exhibitions, film festivals, from book clubs to concerts to design shows, move into the online space.

We have a range of communication platforms to help us do that, from basic to more elaborate and feature rich platforms. It is good to see the virtual world of Second Life being used for Billions of Us – “an (emerging) creative community and collective devoted to using virtual technologies to improve the real world in this time of vast systemic change.” (Thanks to Pam Broviak for sharing this through her Public Works blog. Pam and I met in Second life back in mid 2000’s and then with Paul Wilkinson and Jodie Miners formed Be2Camp – now dormant but Paul has an archive of posts on his ExtranetEvolution blog)

Indeed there is nothing new to online exhibitions and fairs – back in 2014 we used Hyperfair for a number of events, complete with in-world talks, exhibitors and social events a few years ago with (Construction21 and Others) see Sustainability made Cool? Day one at #EXPOC21

A New Normal Built Environment

For us in the built environment, we are starting see that the world of design, construction, supply chains and communications will not be the same post Covid19. We will cannot return to the normal we knew, for that normal is in too many ways responsible for the problems we have now.

Preparing for a new post Covid19 normal must be part of a ‘never waste this crisis’ approach that practices and companies need to take. And now is the time to take that development, when employees are home based, with more time to learn, develop and help shape a future business.

We cannot waste this crisis and we must emerge stronger, ready to address a different environment, when addressing the climate and ecological breakdown will be very high, if not top of the agenda. We have see, through remarkable images of how air quality dramatically improved as activity stopped in Wuhan and Italy. We have seen, after only a short time of ‘shut down’ how nature can thrive, here in the UK (shut down of modern life allows nature to thrive), in the canals of Venice and beyond.

To this end I am running in-house, online inter-active CPD style sessions through Zoom or Teams for a number of my clients, both here in the UK and overseas. (If you are interested in this for your organisation please get in touch)

Zoom Regenerative

A weekly 45 minute Zoom meet up for those interested in learning more or are practising regenerative approaches, in sustainability, in the built environment, in business etc. Each session will feature an introduction or presentation from a regenerative colleague from around the world, followed by a lightly facilitated discussion. Starting on April 7th, I plan Zoom Regenerative to be held Tuesdays at 8pm UK (but possibly shifting an hour or two to allow participation from Australia at a sensible hour)

Link for the Zoom session will be on my twitter feed under hashtags #ZoomRegen

RESTORE COST Newsletter

An extract from my Contribution the the RESTORE Cost Action ..

It is possible that every sustainability practitioner, academic and student globally is now home working. Through communication technologies we can share and discuss the work of RESTORE and regenerative sustainability. There are many working groups discussions taking place through Zoom, but we can do more. For example

LFE (Living Future Europe) has started a weekly Resilience Lounge hosted by Carlo Battisti. (Wednesdays 5pm UK Details)

Martin will be starting a weekly Zoom Regenerative series starting on the 7th April with guest from around the world sharing their regenerative voices, actions and approaches. (Tuesdays 8pm UK Details and #ZoomRegen)

There is a global Transition Town discussion group on Monday 30th hosted by founder Rob Hopkins

There are also many on line book clubs which have caught my eye, for example The Living Mountain as a twitter based book club – search #CoReadingVirus and a Nature Writing Course hosted by Emergence Magazine starting on 5th April 12.00 PST

Connectivity with Nature, its importance to mental and physical health is a key theme that runs through the work and outcomes of RESTORE. It is a sad consequence of housing design and construction over recent decades that many many families are now isolated in homes with no views, no access to nature, and in some cases in city centres with no windows. We will undoubtedly see a rise in mental health, anxiety and domestic violence. You may have noticed an increase in the sharing of nature based images, videos, art and music across social media. This in a small way, may give a little comfort to those without access or views.

Lets use our collective and individual social media accounts to share, and lets use the hashtags #NoticeNature and #CostRestore

Suggested reading In Times of Uncertainty, let nature be your refuge Lucy Jones – author Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need the Wild.

Monarch Butterfly (see Why is there a Monarch Butterfly on the cover of FutuREstorative …)

A Letter to the Earth

Reading the inspiring Letters to the Earth, I thought I would pen my own, in the runup to our election, when we have hope of a climate emergency facing government. The following, written on a recent train journey, influenced by (seasonal) tracks on the playlist and running around my head.

Letters to the Earth was an invitation early in 2019, open to all, to think beyond the human narrative and to bear witness to the scale and horror of the climate crisis, an opportunity to pause and reflect.

It’s late autumn, coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees, forecasting winter snows.

The days are contracting, COP25 debates commercial carbon against a backdrop of daily bad news records. Increasingly it feels we are driving towards a cliff edge, slower maybe, but with reluctance to change direction.

Youth hope sails across oceans, raising many voices, as heat, ice, water, fire and carbon, our vital elements, move into interconnected feedback loops.

We now understand that in nature everything is connected and we have no free lunch. We are now paying for all the lunches we took without paying back, seeing ourselves apart from nature and not as a part of nature.

So, we now plant more trees, as it’s the thing to do, virtue signalling, for hope, for biodiversity, for futures, for carbon, if our trees reach maturity.

There is hope, in the days before our wet and dark winter election. Climate and biodiversity emergencies have been declared, manifestos outline promises, and we will vote. Our designers, builders, engineers, researchers, media communicators and others have declared, now called on to share actions of commitment.

And so, as we move into the time of red and green, through the dark of winter, what will birth of the new spring, new year and new decade bring? Will loud bells welcome in renewed hope, or foretell a silent spring?

We will move closer to our 2025, 2030, 2040, 2050 commitments, in time, although not so in progress. Yet. But we will.

Carbon: That was then, This is now.

The biggest contribution we can make to the climate crisis is to urgently deliver buildings that store carbon.. The zero-concrete, zero-cement Cuerden Valley Park Visitor Center, Lancashire,, designed and constructed to Living Building Challenge Standard, demonstrates that is possible.

The plethora of climate, carbon and biodiversity targets, visions and reports within, and beyond, the built environment, may seem to cause confusion, but there is a core, science based purpose. However, the explosion of focus on climate emergency, over the last six months or so, driven by IPCC, CCC, Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and others has changed the narrative … from why to how.

Reading the latest, Transforming Construction report published recently by the NFB, I realised we have many, perhaps too many, reports re-emphasising or regurgitating the why, we now need more how. The urgent how challenge of adapting existing and construction new in the climate emergency is to quickly reduce the upfront and operational carbon emissions from our buildings and infrastructure. Indeed the biggest contribution, and responsible contribution we can make is to deliver buildings that store carbon.

Our last 30 or 40 years of sustainability reports and events on why we need to understand and monitor carbon hasn’t shifted the sustainability needle. In fact on our watch, despite great sustainability initiatives, the situation has gotten worse and is escalating … in the wrong direction.

In 2012 the Construction Vision 2025 called for a 50% reduction in built environment carbon by 2025. It’s probably fair to say the bulk of the construction sector has done little towards this. Indeed when presented now the reaction from many contractors is ‘thats impossible’

That was then: this is now.

The climate crisis is a rapidly changing picture and as we have more understanding there is the recognition there is no time to lose. The recent paper published in the journal BioScience endorsed by over 11000 scientists emphasises “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”

For background see rethinking carbon posts here on Fairsnape blog.

How we address carbon management over the next 10 years is vital – if we haven’t moved significantly on the 1.5 deg warming Paris pathway we are stuffed. 2030 is far more important than 2050.

Having recognised an emergency exists, are we dialling 999 and requesting firefighting services in 20 years?

Caroline Lucas

The UK Green Party 2019 manifesto If Not Now, Then When, is based on the premise New green homes, new green transport and new green jobs will get us on track to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 and provide new opportunities for everyone to live happier and more secure lives.

One ‘how’ solution, for clients, designers, planners, contractors, manufacturers and facilities, that can move us forward rapidly as a visionary pathway to a regenerative future’ is the suite of standards and tools associated with the Living Building Challenge from the International’s Living Future Institute, (includes Living Building, Living Communities and Living Product Challenges, Declare and Just labels, Net Zero Energy and Net Zero Carbon tools)

Round up of Carbon Visions and Targets

IPCC 2018 if we want to hold the line to 1.5 degrees, we have to slash emissions by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030. Then we have to reach net-zero around 2050. Note Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report re-emphasizing the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for all sectors by 2020

Extinction Rebellion Net zero 2025

Cities, eg Glasgow – carbon neutral city by 2030

RIBA 2030 Challenge – Reduce embodied carbon by at least 50-70%, before offsetting. Target net zero whole life carbon for new and retrofitted buildings by 2030. And on embodied, up front carbon based on 1100 kgCO2e/m2 (M4i benchmark)
– 2020 < 800 kgCO2e/m2 30%
– 2025 < 650 kgCO2e/m2 40%
– 2030 < 500 kgCO2e/m2 60%

The NZGBC Zero Carbon Road Map proposes that
– building owners start certifying their existing buildings to zero carbon in 2020 and have all their buildings zero carbon by 2030
– building developers construct their new buildings to zero carbon, and 20 per cent less embodied carbon, by 2025.

World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) global Advancing Net Zero Campaign which has set targets for all buildings to be net zero carbon in operation by 2050 and all new buildings to meet this standard by 2030. Bringing embodied carbon upfront

UKGBC “We need to take urgent action to almost halve global emissions by 2030 and eliminate them completely by the middle of the century”

“By 2030, all buildings and infrastructure will, throughout their lifetime, be climate resilient and maximise environmental net gains, through the prioritisation of nature-based solutions.”

Committee on Climate Change
Using known technologies, the UK can end our contribution to global warming by reducing emissions to Net Zero by 2050. (Scotland a net-zero date of 2045, Wales, a 95% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050.)

Green Construction Board Buildings Mission 2030 report shows that net zero operational carbon is already possible.

Architects Declare Adopt more regenerative design principles in our studios, with the aim of designing architecture and urbanism that goes beyond the standard of net zero carbon in use.

Building Services Declare: Adopt more regenerative design principles in practice, with the aim of providing building services engineering design that achieves the standard of net zero carbon

Structural Eng Declare Adopt more regenerative design principles in practice, with the aim of providing structural engineering design that achieves the standard of net zero carbon.

UK – Parliament Declaration – all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

NFB Transforming Construction: zero carbon by 2050

Next: Part 2 An ABC Guide to Construction Carbon

Climate and Biodiversity Emergency commitment, expectations and actions: the new bidding and procurement criteria?

Are commitments and actions towards Climate and Biodiversity becoming procurement criteria for consultants, designers, contractors and building product manufacturers, and criteria for selecting which contracts to bid?

Practices and organisations who are making climate and biodiversity emergency Promise of Declarations are questioned on their actions, and outcomes on issues pledged within the declarations, for example:

  • Raising awareness,
  • Moving to regenerative design practices
  • Set mitigation as critical measures for awards, prizes and listings.
  • Sharing knowledge on open source basis
  • Evaluate all new projects against (climate declaration)
  • Going beyond net zero carbon
  • Collaborate (on climate / biodiversity emergencies)
  • Shift to low embodied carbon materials in all work

The pressure from investment organisations such as the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) in expecting material companies to make commitments on:

  • Accountability and oversight of climate change risk and opportunities.
  • Action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across their value chain consistent with the Paris Agreement’s goal
  • Provide corporate disclosure

Interesting the Creative Climate declaration contains the pledge to

  • Reveal income from fossil fuel and high carbon clients
  • Not work with fossil fuel client briefs’

Assessing Regenerative Sustainability Capacity

Although written before the current raft of declarations, the RESTORE WG3 Publication provides a Regenerative PQQ procurement guide. (Pages 41-45)

Header image by Mehmet Kürşat Değer on Unsplash

A Promise of Declarations

What is the collective noun for declarations? An argument, (used to describe architects and wizards) sounds a good fit. But I like a Promise of Declarations.

Coupled with recent findings from the IPCC, the UK’s CCC Net Zero Report and inspiration from Greta Thunberg and school strikers, over 100 local authorities, have declared a climate emergency and / or committed to net zero carbon by 2030 or 2050. And within the built environment we have declarations from Architects (now over 500 practice signatures), Landscape Architects, Structural Engineers, Service Engineers, Creative Communicators and even Construction Supply Chains. Check them out:

And this is not just a UK initiative, there is also an Australian Architects Declaration at https://au.architectsdeclare.com.

And, if anyone is setting up, or knows of a construction sector emergency declaration, I would be more than keen to assist/support

Tell the Truth: The first objective of call of extinction rebellion is to recognise that a climate emergency exists and to tell the truth. The second is to Act Now. Now that these groups, institutes, practices and individuals have recognised a climate emergency problem exists, we can act, and now is the time to turn these commitments into actions.

Act Now – All of these declarations have similar, reassuring, commitments for faster change in our industry towards regenerative approaches. And in doing so recognising that business as usual sustainability (BAUS) has not moved the needle on carbon, global climate temperatures or biodiversity.

“faster change in our industry towards regenerative design practices”

Reducing Impact no longer cuts it
We need to move positive good of Regenerative Sustainability

Act NowReimagine carbon – the greatest contribution we can make in the built environment, given that we emit 40% of emissions, is to design, deliver buildings that store carbon.

Reimagine Carbon, Carbon is not the Enemy

Act NowDeclare: Only with greater transparency in respect of the products we use, can we address impacts our buildings have on human, biodiversity and planetary health. Declare is focused on taking toxic materials out of the Built Environment through fostering a transparent materials economy free of toxins and harmful chemicals.

3 Collaborate and going beyond silos, we cannot do this alone and will need the might of all good collaborative working approaches from the last 30 years. One powerful benefit of Living Building Challenge accreditation, in not awarding certification until design intent is proven over a 12 months continuous period, is the way in which design, construction, facilities managers and those using the building have to collaborate for sustainable success

RE:Sources

An Emergency Declaration

long exposure photography of white smoke

At the time of writing some 370 UK architect practices have signed up to Architects Declare, a declaration that acknowledges we are in a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency. Founded by 17 Stirling Prize winners, Architects Declare makes an unprecedented statement with pledges for action on the twin crises of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss.

This diverse group make the point that buildings and construction account for approximately 40% of carbon dioxide emissions, with more action done to tackle the’ most pressing issue of our time’.

  • Raise awareness of the climate and biodiversity emergencies and the urgent need for action among our clients and supply chains.
  • Advocate for faster change in our industry towards regenerative design practices and a higher Governmental funding priority to support this.
  • Establish climate and biodiversity mitigation principles as the key measure of our industry’s success: demonstrated through awards, prizes and listings.
  • Share knowledge and research to that end on an open-source basis.
  • Evaluate all new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown, and encourage our clients to adopt this approach.
  • Upgrade existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build whenever there is a viable choice.
  • Include life-cycle costing, whole-life carbon modelling and post-occupancy evaluation as part of our necessary scope of work, to reduce both embodied and operational resource use.
  • Adopt more regenerative design principles in our studios, to design architecture and urbanism that goes beyond the standard of net zero carbon in use.
  • Collaborate with engineers, contractors and clients to further reduce construction waste.
  • Accelerate the shift to low embodied carbon materials in all our work.
  • Minimise wasteful use of resources in architecture and urban planning, both in quantum and in detail.

In May when the UK parliament declared a climate emergency, I was attending author and environmentalist Bill McKibben’s keynote at the ILFI conference in Seattle. Bill McKibben praised the action from the UK, to the applause and cheers of the 1500 or so delegates. Also on the stage, that evening was 17 year old Jamie Margolin from Zero Hour (an intersectional movement of youth fighting for a livable planet for all) who commenced her talk with the words, “I am here tonight because our lives depend on it” Such is the feeling and passion of today’s young generation

We no longer have the luxury of being less harmful. Over the last thirty years or so, in what we could call our eco era, with a focus on reducing impact and taking actions not to compromise tomorrows generation, we have seen increases in C02 and global warming. We have not moved the needle; instead, we have watched the needle move in the wrong direction

Now then is the time for these 370+, and other practices, to put these pledges into action. Attendees at my talks and presentations over the last few months would have heard me mention of Greta Thunberg, who asked us not only to be hopeful but to panic. And by panic, we are talking about moving out of our comfort zone to take action.

Materials that are safe for all species, through time

As an advocate for regenerative approaches through programmes such as the Living Building Challenge, the Living Product Challenge and the COST Restore network, I am convinced we have the built environment tools, methods and technologies to address the pledges, and the climate emergency. What we lack is the mindset to act and transition towards regenerative designs, buildings and economies.

One of the vital tools in addressing the health aspects of climate emergency and biodiversity loss, is the ILFI Declare Label, that we are launching in the UK on 13th June in London at Fosters and Partners. Created in 2012, Declare, rather like food ingredients labelling, provides architects, clients and specifiers with the necessary transparency to ensure we do not include toxic materials or chemicals of concern into our buildings.

Only with such material and product transparency can we fully address the Architects Declare pledges and the climate and biodiversity emergency that we face. And we have no time to loose, with the recent IPCC Report stating we have until 2030 to avoid an irreversible climate catastrophe.