Tag Archives: complexity theory

What does good ‘Facilities Management Sustainability’ look like? And why aren’t we doing it now?

I was honoured to be invited to the EuroFM ReseCGb8As1WsAA4i1varch Symposium as a guest of EuroFM, held at the recently completed Technology Innovation Centre at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

As promised, here are my thoughts from the day, and further links to the issues I raised during the day, in conversation or in the panel presentation/debate:

  • We do not have luxury to continue being incrementally less bad, and with the built environment’s 40% negative impact, the facilities Management sector, (led by the research community) has a huge opportunity and responsibility to flip to being more good.
  • We have been talking about Sustainable FM for at least a couple of decades, but still we haven’t made any real progress. The environmental impact of how we manage facilities is huge,FM Restorative Sustainability but remains something we struggle to fully understand, to measure and to address.
  • It was good to see Restorative Sustainability language within Keith Alexander’s opening presentation – laying down a challenge to the sector to adopt different thinking for sustainable FM
  • However it was disappointing to see FM research updates or proposals that start from a very dated perspective. Starting from Brundtland’s definition is last decades thinking – and has an odd message, perhaps giving licence to do nothing …. far better to adopt Yvon Chouinard’s (Patagonia) approach – ‘ Sustainability means we give back more than we take” – Restorative or Net Positive FM!
  • I did question the “in depth studies into sustainable building schemes” that have not picked up on the relatively new thinking standards such as Living Building Challenge, Well Building Standard, Cradle to Cradle, Circular Economy and so on. FM research has to be credible and leading edge for practice to listen and adopt.
  • Research proposals presented missed the huge opportunities for FM to engage with the wider sustainability agendas, in particular on people and health issues. (Note: the days theme being People Make FM)
  • Indeed the claim that FM contributes to the health and wellbeing of people needs to be backed up with evidence. Anecdotally, it is possible that FM ( and the wider built environment) could be putting people’s health at risk – through continued inclusion of toxic materials in buildings, (PVC? Formaldehyde glues?), a lack of biophilic thinking, promoting lifts over stairways, standing desks, poor air quality, lighting quality and so on. It is on these ‘health’ issues that the Well Building Standard should be a fundamental part of the sustainable FM agenda.
  • I did note that on the tour of the 3 month old BREEAM Excellent TIC Building, prior to the symposium, many of the FM delegates commented on the ‘new building smell’ – unfortunately now an indicator that chemicals may have been used in the finishes and adhesives.CGa3mDhWgAAPrZI
  • It was good to see the work in development on Smart Cities and Internet of Things from Prof Keith Jones at Ruskin University, showing the collaborative joined up research necessary to address complex (as in complexity theory) and wicked problems of sustainable smart cities.
  • Research to Practice was the theme for the end of day panel session where access to research by FM practice was discussed. I still wonder why research is blind to social media? As an example there were only two of us tweeting (myself @fairsnape and Iain @IainMurray) – but still our tweets reached approx 20k accounts, all researchers, would I am sure, like to have seen their research message reach 20k accounts.
  • It was, as ever, a real delight to introduce Living Building Challenge thinking and the Bullitt Centre to the EuroFM Research to Practice panel session. This is where sustainable EuroFM Sustainability FM thinking needs to be, driving a wedge into the future, demonstrating what is possible, not wrestling with a dated definition of sustainability.
  • the World FM Day on 10th June celebrates Building Resilience for the Future as an online debate throughout the day – a great opportunity for the FM Research community to engage and share their work.
  • Also on the 10th June the Brightest Greenest Buildings Europe virtual expo opens – again a free to attend event giving an opportunity to learn, share and engage with others across Europe.UK_collaborative_logo
  • And, also on 10th June, (a busy day!) our Living Building Challenge UK Collaborative meets at Leeds Beckett to explore the issue of healthy and materials.

If any of the above comments seem a little negative and critical, forgive me, but the intention is to be constructively so, and after all, one of the Living Building Challenge advocacy messages is to ‘stir the pot’, … o challenge current thinking.

Related Links:

Living Building Challenge

Well Building Standard (see also Vicki Lockhart Well Building presentation here)

Bullitt Centre  @bullittcentre  and (see also my interview with Denis Hayes)

Bullitt Centre added value report: Optimizing Urban Ecosystem Services: The Bullitt Center Case Study

Bullitt Centre – From Roots to Canopy

Cradle to Cradle

Circular Economy – Circulate

Responsible Business – Yvon Chouinard

Research and Social Media: Rethinking Sustainability Research: Eight Global Challenges and  my presentation to UCLan CSD 

Restorative Sustainability: Future Restorative

Living Building Challenge UK follow @livingbldgUK

Brightest Greenest Buildings EU  – the EU Virtual Expo for Built Environment (opens 10th June)

World FM Day – 10th June – Building Resilience for the Future

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Ash disease and the built environment

There has been a huge amount of coverage in the media, and indeed across social media on Ash dieback disease, but little as yet related to the built environment, and the role we may have played in the spread of the disease or the potential impact it may, no will, have on the built environment.

Despite the UK Government (DEFRA) slow response, not to mention odd instructions to wash boots dogs and children after visits to the countryside, the causes of Ash Dieback seems to be emerging as:

  • Climate Change
  • Bio Security, or lack of
  • Demand for instant landscaping

The built environment is accountable for around 40% of climate change issues (waste, transport, carbon, energy etc) but its the increase in demand for instant green that may be our biggest contribution.  Odd isn’t it that efforts to plant trees and plants to provide green landscapes and green roofs in response to CO2 and biodiversity issues may have opened the door to yet bigger problems.

There is of course a great example of complexity theory at play here, we can no longer rely on cause effect thinking, but need to consider wider, biodiversity consequences. As Muir is quoted as saying ” when we tug at one part of nature we tug at the whole of nature”

  • We face a tidal wave of diseases with over 30 damaging pathogens identified poised, ready to threaten UK trees and plants. See Guardian article.
  • We face movement and transport restriction on timbers from Ash, Scots Pine and other plants, both in landscaping and use in construction, finishes and furniture.
  • We need to rethink, and fast

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I am reminded of my visit to UBC CIRS building in Vancouver last year and the gorgeous timbers in the atrium and main hall, timbers ‘salvaged’ from local forests affected by pine beetle disease and closely monitored by the Living Building Challenge.

As we launch Living Building in the UK with a UK collaborative, it may well be that the certification of future green buildings in the UK is through standards such as the Living Building Challenge, that give hard earned recognition to buildings and facilities that, like plants, contribute to making the world a better place.

The CIRS Building was recently profiled in our CKE Green Vision series with a presentation from Max Richter at Perkin+Will.

Green Vision is a key driver in launching Living Building thinking into the UK. Look out for more announcements at the next Green Vision conference event on the 12th Dec in Leeds and across the web. (Hashtag #GVis2012)

For more information on the Living Building collaborative in the UK, leave a comment, get in touch or pop over to our Living Building UK Collaborative page on Facebook and say hello.

twittering on the edge of chaos?

It seems everyone is trying to understand and analyse  twitter at the moment, so after nearly a year of twittering , here are my thoughts:

Perhaps it is a little more than coincidence that Twitter has been named after our feathered friends,  as it is very close, in my mind, to the classic edge of chaos example of how birds flock.  

Birds flock  through following a set of unwritten, uncommunicated simple  rules.  Flocking birds have no manual, no procedures to follow, no dos and do nots, no bird etiquette, they just do it , and do it by instinct and in spectacular fashion. 

And they all do it. (Have you ever seen one bird turn the wrong way at the wrong time to create a mangle of free-fall bird feathers – no, never).  

And so it is, could, should? be with Twitter

It works at so many different levels for so many different purposes, and here is its power, it is all things to all people and brilliant for it, and we twitters like them boids, don’t need lists of dos and donts, guidance, rules or twitterquette, we just do it,  we just twitter.  (Maybe this is why many say they just ‘dont get it’ – there is a sense of jumping in and using twitter and see what emerges, rather than a calculated action plan) 

Indeed it is the relationships between the agents (us as twitters, or the birds) and the scope for emergence are is so important in keeping twitter at the edge of chaos.

Chaos theory is often illustrated through the butterfly affect ( a butterflies wings flapping in Chile can cause storms in Europe, a concept I have called small in large out – SILO)   Again Twitter demonstrates this concept incredibly well – one tweet  can spread through the global twitter community probably faster than any other form of communication known. (eg news stories broken through twitter) 

So is twitter really an application of complexity theory in practice, a demonstration of the ‘edge of chaos’ paradigm?   I think so, and  having long used the concepts of complexity theory (simple rules, agents, relationships, SILO and emergence) to allow management system processes and procedures to become so much more effective and efficient, (eg where many ‘control’ procedures can be replaced with a few simple rules)  I see twitter applications having a future within management systems, just not sure exactly how yet!

But … others more learned in the complexity / chaos theory may like to comment, agree  or correct me ?

Oh, and since tweeting I have, through twitter,  purchased a chicken coop, won and let work contracts, helped others win work,  learnt so much, made new friends and contacts, been inspired and shocked, eaten humble pie once or twice and hopefully shared something of use in return.  Fellow twitters have shared births, deaths, job losses and job finds, sadness, anger and great happiness ….. Brilliant.