M2020 – The Carbon Tipping Point

The ambitious but achievable carbon M2020 initiative, launched by Christiana Figueres in London this week, sets out carbon emission reduction ‘pathways’ to meet the temperature goals agreed in Paris back in 2015

Bending the curve of emissions by 2020 is the only way to limit global warming and ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals remain within our reach. It will also pave the way to delivering a just transition to net zero emissions by 2050.

The year 2020 is seen as a critical turning point in expediting the least expensive transition to a safer fossil-free economy by 2050.

M2020

M2020 sets out 6 milestones for 2020, to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and to be Net Zero by 2050. With regards to the built environment, Milestone 2 for Infrastructure is clear:

(By 2020) … Cities and states have established plans and are implementing policies and regulations with the aim to fully decarbonise infrastructure by 2050. 

Whilst this aligns with our UK Construction 2025 Vision for 50% lower emissions  by 2025, the other milestones (Energy, Transport, Industry, Land Use and Finance) would have profound impacts on the design, construction and operation of our buildings and cities:

 

M2020 2

With carbon reduction now being recognised as one of todays most important public health interventions, it is now an imperative for built environment organisations to include carbon reduction commitments and ‘pathways’ within their sustainability, responsibility and health strategies. Indeed, as John Elkington wrote in a recent article, carbon management and carbon ‘productivity’ must become, and is becoming the centre of our sustainability world, but that we don’t have the time to delay waiting for a carbon mindset shift.

And, as we have discussed in recent sustainability workshops – its time to collaboratively rethink the construction process .. planning for construction without fossil fuels. 

 

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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.

From Greendeal to Mindfulness in Sustainability

My More than Just a Green Deal keynote to the Merseyside Construction Conference March 13th 2013, making the case to see Green Deal as part of the Green Build and Sustainability agenda, and the need for doing the right green thing every time.

Have we picked the low hanging fruit of Sustainable Construction?

low hanging fruitThe mid 90’s saw my first involvement with sustainable construction, as Business Improvement Manager, setting up strategy and awareness programmes for Mowlem Construction, driven it should be noted to address client bid requirements in PFI and Prime Contracting.

At that time Brundtland’s definition from 1987 was fresh and it made good sense to include it in strategies and as a definition.

In hindsight, one of the problems of this approach is that it reinforced the thinking of that time, that environmental management, and by default sustainable construction belonged firmly and squarely within the Health and Safety departments.  A misconception that many organisations still subscribe to, or struggle to move away from.

But, since then, sustainability thinking has moved on from environmental management as H&S add on, to a wider view of sustainability that includes social and business responsibility, ethical procurement and localism and is now heading for a challenging future greener and deeper agenda

It is encouraging to note the move away from what I have referred to as ‘accommodationalist‘ thinking – ie doing only what we are required to do by law, no more no less. In fact this  thinking is now being challenged by the Governments red tape initiative, proposing to remove certain sustainability related legislation

Over the last 7 years I have been supporting organisations map out and chart progress on their ‘Route to Zero‘, identifying actions necessary today, tomorrow and most likely into the future. We may be in the position of being able to say we have picked off the low hanging fruit from the sustainability tree.

Most construction companies now have a sustainability policy and project approaches that are ISO 14001 accredited, to deal with better management of waste,  recording transport construction miles, employing locally and so on.

But now the real work begins, reaching higher into the greener, more dense canopies of the tree, with a new, emerging set of challenging actions that will take us closer to our zero impact ambitions.

Amongst these new challenges we can see:

  • Collaborative and circular economy thinking. For example what if every building improved with age, improved in its function, its resilience, its performance.  Became more ‘durable‘?  Contracts would not only need to cover the design and construction of buildings, but a new form of collaboration between provider and user that included continuous improvement criteria.  Such Circular Economy thinking would force new collaborations across the supply chain, across discipline and with clients.
  • Convergence of data, information rich ICT environments, an Internet of Things linked to metering sensors that will provide real time feedback on performance of the buildings and of the construction process, driving improved and sustainable resource utilisation. Getting us closer to zero waste and  zero carbon emissions.
  • Responsible specification and procurement, that is not only local but considers ethical and most importantly the health impact of building product ingredients. (see the Healthy Product Declaration Standard)
  • Challenging standards, that bring new deep green philosophies and certifications for buildings and facilities, as we see with the Living Building Challenge
  • The inclusion of costing nature within construction projects. ‘Cheap’ buildings may only be cheap because the real social, environmental costs have been externalised for someone else, often society and the public purse to deal with. Time to bring those externalised costs back into the project costs?
  • A mindful built environment sector, or one that has mindfulness, ie ‘in the moment’ awareness of the impact the design, the construction, the maintenance, use and deconstruction of the building will have upon the environment and nature. Mindfulness is a huge and complex topic but an important sustainability concept we will hear far much more of in 2013.

The first Green Vision tweetchat for 2013 will explore some of these issues on the 28th January at 8pm using the hashtag #GVisChat, asking the question are we getting closer to ‘Zero’?

If you would like to know more on how the Fairsnape Route to Zero mapping and charting programme can help your business, please do make contact

Update – Presentation on this theme