Looking forward to attending the ILFI Living Future 19 Conference in Seattle at the end of the month. A chance to catch up with brilliant colleagues from around the word who are advocating and pushing for a regenerative and just future. A global community of changemakers.
With a theme of Collaboration and Abundance there are a number of workshops and keynotes that are on my to do list, including; the launch of the Living Building Challenge 4.0 and the Bill McKibben and Mary Robinson keynotes.
With colleagues from RESTORE, Carlo Battisti and Emanuele Naboni we will be sharing insights and the ground breaking work on regenerative sustainability, regenerative design and construction in Europe from the first two years of EU Cost Action – Rethinking Sustainability Towards a Regenerative Future
Against a backdrop of school climate activists,, Extinction Rebellion, warnings from the IPCC that give us just 12 years to avoid irreversible climate collapse, and the doomsday scenarios in Uninhabitable Earth, the need for swift progress to a regenerative future is vital.
Business as Usual Sustainability may well prove to be our barrier in addressing the climate change issues we face. To only ‘sustain’ is no longer enough, we now have a real urgency to embrace regenerative sustainability, to thrive … and to enable thriving.
The last three decades have given us many opportunities to embrace sustainability, but have only done so reluctantly and given the worsening CO2, air quality and health issues associated with our buildings, inadequately. So now the options available to us are increasingly radical and of necessity transformative.
The recent 2018 IPCC report has given us 12 years to avoid a painful climate breakdown and the risk of irreversibly destabilising the Earth’s climate. If we are to meet the targets in front of us, related to the 2015 Paris Agreement, the SDG’s and here at home in the UK Built Environment with our CO2 reduction by 2025 targets, we need to move way beyond Business as Usual Sustainability …
The report confirmed that we must take widespread changes to design, construction, maintenance and re-use of buildings. It reinforces buildings account for 40% of CO2 emissions with building materials such as cement and concrete accounting for some 8% of the global figure. In essence this would require no construction, building, industry, plant or vehicles using gas, oil, coal or fossil fuels; a building products sector converted to green natural products and / or non-toxic chemistry; and heavy industries like cement, steel and aluminum production either using carbon-free energy sources or not used in buildings.
Further, the construction and use of buildings will by necessity need to be positive, not passive, neutral or negative – sequestering and capturing more carbon than emitted, generating more energy than used, improving air quality rather than polluting and improving inhabitants wellbeing rather than contributing to health problems.
The best time to start radically reducing carbon was 30 years ago, the second best time is to start today.
Its time to step up.
We can do this.
The Paris 1.5 aspiration is still within our reach – just! Thankfully the 2018 IPCC report does contain at least one positive, and that is anthropogenic emissions up now are unlikely to cause further warming of more than 0.5°C over the next two to three decades or on a century time scale.
This means that, if we stop using fossil fuels today, the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that have already been released into the atmosphere to date are not likely to warm the earth the additional 0.5°C, either by 2030, or 2050, or even by 2100.
No doubt you have read many end of 2018, start of 2019 sustainable lifestyle things we can do – from eating less meat, cycling not driving, avoiding fossil fuel energy – and these are all good, and things we should be doing. But we can do more, and in the built environment we can make significant and meaningful progress in, for example:
Educate and Advocate As individuals, as organisations and as a sector we must educate and advocate. Many of those entering the design and construction sector over the next twelve years are still in education (many at primary school and have a whole secondary and university education in front of them)They need to be inspired and motivated for a built environment that will be radically different to the one we have today.
Reverse the Performance Gap The performance gap between design and actual causes unnecessary co2 emissions. As with the Living Building Challenge, let’s make award of any sustainable standard only on achievement of or bettering of the agreed design intent. Perhaps planning should only be given, or priority given to buildings that positively make a contribution – on carbon, water, or air quality. A challenge for Building Regulations and Planning requirements to step up.
Grow from Thousands to Billions Trees: “Our planet’s future climate is inextricably tied to the future of its forests,” states the 2018 IPCC report, calling for billions of trees to be planted and protected. We have the skills, materials and mindsets to design, construct and maintain buildings that function as trees. Perhaps the flagship here is the Bullitt centre, but we have thousands of buildings around the world that have regenerative attributes. Building on the title of the 2018 World Green Building Council report we can ramp this up from Thousands to Billions – to all buildings.
In 2016, FutuREstorative sought to set out what a new sustainability could look like, moving thinking in the built environment from the ‘reducing harm’ sustainability business as usual approach to one that is restorative, regenerative with a connected worldview. working with natural systems, healing harm done in the past.
I must admit I shied away from using the word regenerative in the title of the 2016 edition. Within the UK regenerative has had an uncomfortable meaning, associated with ‘building schools for the future’ and other less successful programmes. As a Project Manager for a regeneration programme in East Lancashire, I saw first hand, just how uncomfortable the ‘regeneration’ label sat with local communities and the wider sustainability agendas.
I am delighted that FutuREstorative has been adopted by many practices (it has inspired at least two start-ups that I know of here in the UK), is being translated into Portuguese and has been adopted by academic organisations around the world. It has also provided the backbone for the EU COST RESTORE programme.
However, and thankfully, the world of sustainability has moved on a-pace, much has progressed from 2016, (Paris, SDG’s, IPCC and WWF reports) Increasingly we hear much more, and are seeing more examples of regenerative sustainability and ecologically principled design in relation to our buildings, And this includes regenerative buildings that are designed to heal people and planet. I see this as part of what Daniel Wahl refers to as ‘regeneration rising’ but are far from reaching a tipping point.
So, into 2019, my plans are to …
update FutuREstorative, reframing and possibly re-titling as FutuREgenerative to reflect current regenerative activities globally and pushing our thinking further. Over the coming weeks I will be collating regenerative stories and looking for blog style contributions from those at the sharp end of regenerative sustainability, within the built environment and beyond
further support and enable the communities of practice and discussion groups that have emerged and are growing around FutuREstorative
If you would like to get involved in sharing your stories and experience through FutuREstorative communities of practice then please do reach out.
The UN Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) meets in San Francisco, California from 12-14 September 2018, and in addition to the physical meeting, actors around the world are invited to participate by demonstrating the depth and range of climate action in their sectors and geographies to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
This raises the question what have we done in the (business, regional, national and global) built environment to contribute to the Paris Change Agreement. The ILFI through Living Building Challenge is one of the few building standards that seek to meet the Paris Agreement, and One Planet Living through its alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals.
Yet we no longer have the luxury of only less bad is not good enough and as is becoming increasingly obvious, meeting the Paris targets may not be enough, and ‘good’ is now looking way beyond the 1.5 DegC aspirational targets.
The UK Construction 2025 Vision, launched in 2013, set a target of 50% reductions in built environment carbon emissions by 2025. Indications are that we are far from achieving this. (A 2015 BRE analysis showed that BREEAM assessed buildings achieve an average 22% reduction in CO2 emissions). We only have a handful of projects setting real carbon reduction targets. Yet we know we will have to improve on the 50% and get to 80 percent by 2033 if we are to meet the 1.5 degree target .
Better technology and design alone will not get us there without a shift towards a worldview thinking, that embraces regenerative system approaches, and sees the built environment within the context of wider ecological systems.
The California Summit is focused on taking ambition to the next level through five key issue areas: healthy energy systems, inclusive economic growth, sustainable communities, land and ocean stewardship and transformative climate investments.
All of the five key issues areas are built environment related, with the sector being a contributor to the problem, but can also deliver a significant solution, particular so on the sustainable communities challenge:
The sustainable communities challenge is an effort led by cities to create buildings, communities and infrastructure that are clean, healthy, and livable. Cities can encourage community driven climate projects, a transition to net zero carbon buildings through the World Green Buildings Council and a progression towards zero waste.
Healthy energy systems can prevent dangerous effects from climate change. They can be achieved through a shift toward clean and equitable energy in addition to building a decarbonized energy and transportation system aligned with scientifically founded action requirements.
Action you can take: Accelerate the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) and make electric transport the new normal by 2030 by joining the EV100 initiative.
Inclusive economic growth requires climate leadership in business, clean technology, and an energy transition that fosters good jobs while spurring inclusive global economic development.
Land and ocean stewardship focuses on the role that forests, food, lands and other ecosystems must play in mitigating climate change and making our world more resilient, while also ensuring sufficient food supplies for a growing population. This climate action pathway requires support of sustainable food systems, conservation of resilient landscapes that deliver climate solutions, technical and financial support for new stewardship projects, and transparency, engagement, and investment from industry actors.
Action you can take: Implementing climate friendly land use, conservation, and agriculture policies. The 30X30 Forests, Food and Land Challenge’s goals is to achieve 30% of climate solutions by 2030 through improved agricultural and land use practices.
Transformative climate investments will require the mobilization of investment on an unprecedented scale to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Investors, considering their financial duties to clients and beneficiaries, are encouraged to act in one or more of the following four areas: Investment, corporate engagement, investor disclosure, and policy advocacy.
Action you can take: Commit to the use of green bonds for infrastructure investment and ask investors to invest in them. The Green Bond Pledge coordinated in part by Ceres is an initiative you can join.
Lastly, if you wish to inspire others who may wish to participate in the Global Climate Action Summit challenges, you can:
Encourage your firm or community to find ways to take part in one of the five key climate action challenges.
Share this video with your colleagues and business network so that they can also join the movement in raising global climate ambition.
Follow the action on social media through the UNFCCC and the Global Climate Action Summit accounts:
Following the successful COST Restore Lancaster Training School in 2017, applications are invited for the second Training School to be held in Malaga, Spain in October 2018 offering a wonderful learning opportunity for students and practitioners looking to advance their skills at the interface of sustainability, #BIM, digital construction and regenerative design #CostRestore
Regenerative Design: from Theory to the Digital Practice
The aim of the conferences and the training school is the digital implementation of Regenerative Sustainable Design principles in the transformation of existing sites. Via the use of freeware digital parametric modelling, the challenges are to improve outdoor microclimate qualities and the indoor wellbeing, operating a transformation that responds to the criteria of Circular Economy.
The research and design project will represent, in this regard, an opportunity for enhancing life in all its manifestations. This presumes shifting the focus from a solely based human-centred design process into a nature-centred one, where “people and buildings can commit to a healthy relationship with the environment where they are placed”. Such approaches are discussed in morning conferences and in the afternoon scientific driven design developments.
The Barrio of La Luz, which was built after 1960 in Malaga is used as a reference. The site is a polluted heat-island, disconnected from sea breezes, with a spread hardscape, and with no presence of natural elements. Furthermore, the urban dwellers experience poor wellbeing due to the deprived quality of the units, being these modified by tenants often leading to obstructing natural ventilation and light. The projection of climate change will further exacerbate such outdoor and indoor conditions, and there is a need for an example of interventions that are scalable to the Spanish national level.
Trainees will form four groups that will develop four competing transformation design proposals. The design that shows a qualitative creative solution with the higher simulated performances will be awarded. Criteria for evaluation will also include the quality of the digital modelling phases and the dynamics of development of the integrated strategies. To assess the projects’ success, the jury is composed of a mix of international and local professionals and scientist, with experience in architecture, performance and modelling.
Our RESTORE Cost Action publication that records the outputs of the sustainability working group is now available to download from the RESTORE website. This publication, with contributions from over 20 EU countries is an exploration in progressing a paradigm shift in built environment thinking, from sustainability to restorative sustainability and on to regenerative sustainability.
It presents a reference document for future work of the RESTORE Action, for other Cost Actions and for built environment academia and industry organisations.
Within this publication we have sought to describe and reinforce a new era of sustainability, one that address the impacts, pressures and challenges of our anthropogenic age. Against the background of, and within the context of rapidly changing climate we no longer have the luxury not to seek a new sustainability.
It presents a new sustainability paradigm that moves away from just reducing impact to one that is committed to doing more good, through focused restorative and regenerative strategies and actions.
We have sought to establish a language of regenerative sustainability, one that includes love, place and participation in addition to regenerative approaches to energy, water and resources.
The rise in wellbeing as an element of sustainability is highly significant with many of the main stream standards now evolving to embrace wellbeing, aligning for example with the Well Build standard, or as in the case of the Living Building Challenge recognising the importance of buildings on the health and happiness of its inhabitants.
We can go much further however, though buildings that provide salotogenic co-benefits, improving the mental and physical health of those who work, play and live within our buildings, and in doing so making a significant contribution to wider health care economies.
Through the work on definitions, a worldview of sustainability, living buildings, heritage and economy, we have identified and explored a number of ‘triggers’ necessary to move us to a future built environment that is ecologically sound, culturally rich, socially just and economically viable:
››› Language – a language for sustainability that inspires, not confuses,
››› Education – inspiring the next generation,
››› Nature – reconnecting buildings with nature that in turn can reconnect people with nature,
››› Place – living buildings that contribute to and enhance stories and culture of the past and share lessons for the future,
››› Economy – moving from limited growth to Regenerative Economies.
The working group definitions, insights, visions and triggers to move us towards a regenerative economy now sets the foundations;
››› for future RESTORE working groups to build upon and to develop,
››› for education & academia to embrace and include within built environment curriculums.
The built environment is currently a major contribution to climate change, the task before us is to make the shift towards a future build environment that makes responsible contribution to climate solutions.
Three recent reports focus on the business case for sustainability, green buildings and human-centric buildings.
Are we now witnessing the new normal, where the question of sustainability cost is flipping from, how much extra will the sustainable building cost? to, what are the real costs in not providing sustainable buildings?
The report highlights how green buildings can be delivered at a price comparable to conventional buildings and investments can be recouped through operational cost savings. It also notes that with the right design features, green buildings can create a more productive workplace.
The report specifically focuses on the potential benefits of green buildings throughout the various stages of the building lifecycle, from reduced costs during the design and construction phases through to improved health and productivity of workers when a building is in use.
“This is the first time all the credible evidence has been compiled into one collective resource”
Asset value: Emerging evidence in some markets of green buildings being able to more easily attract tenants and to command higher rents and sale prices
Design and construction costs: There has been an overall reduction in the costs associated with designing and constructing sustainable buildings
Operating costs: The direct benefits from green buildings in use (such as reduced energy and water use and lower long-term operations and maintenance costs) typically exceed any costs premiums associated with their design and construction within a reasonable payback period
Workplace productivity and health: The characteristics and indoor environments of green buildings can influence the productivity and health of workers who occupy them, resulting in bottom line benefits for businesses
… the purpose of this report is to empower businesses and individuals to make the business case for environmental and social impact activities and to enable them to measure and demonstrate the value their organisations derive from such practices.
Of particular note, relevant to my current work relating to FutuREstorative and with COST RESTORE in understanding the emergence of restorative and regenerative sustainability, this report notes we are seeing the rise of the restorative enterprise within the built environment
Much has been written on how businesses are moving towards doing more good rather than less bad. The phrases ‘net positive’ and ‘restorative enterprise’ are now appearing within sustainable business circles, with both referring to businesses that put back more than they take and restore social and natural capital whilst making a profit. Such businesses may be termed as using a ‘business with impact’ approach or being a ‘purpose driven’ organisation. In this context, ‘purpose’ may be de ned as ‘an aspirational reason for being which inspires and provides a call to action for an organisation, its partners and stakeholders, and provides bene t to local and global society’.
The broad alignment of environmental and health agendas presents an opportunity to not only invest in better performing buildings, but also to improve the quality of life for people using these buildings. Enhancing the health and comfort of people in buildings has a huge potential for economic and societal benefits such as better health, increased productivity, reduced sick leave and a decrease in associated medical costs We call this approach “Building 4 People.”
The first RESTORE Training School took place in Lancaster, UK between 14th and 17th November 2017 organised and facilitated by Martin Brown, Fairsnape. Over 40 trainees and RESTORE core group members attended, representing a great spectrum of sustainability disciplines, experience and EU countries. The four days were lead by trainers and guest lectures from the UK, EU and USA, but with a distinct Lancashire focus!.
The focus was firmly on Regenerative Sustainability, Biophilia, and Sustainability Education, in four days trainees gained a deep understanding of Restorative and Regenerative Sustainability and the key topics from RESTORE working groups.
“The week was very busy and very interesting, with topics and activities that went well beyond my initial scope and expectations” Trainee Report Feedback
Training school designed to progress the RESTORE Cost Actions purpose.
“I believe this was the beginning of something bigger and totally revolutionary” Trainee Report Feedback
Discussions and agreement on sustainability definitions was a crucial start to the four day training school
“I received clear definitions and deep understanding of three basic, but important words: sustainability, restoration and regeneration. I think that this precise explanation will allow me to direct my research toward more “green direction” Trainee Report Feedback
“So one of the key insights to me was to understand sustainable design as a philosophy. It’s not a list of do’s and don’ts about materials, site development, and building systems. It’s a holistic ethic that includes all the stakeholders in the dialogue, encouraging feedback for continuous refinement and improvement. It seeks to imitate the efficiency and diversity of nature and create design solutions that are responsive, self-regulating, and full of spirit” Trainee Report Feedback
“Working with experts from different fields, discussing different ideas, learning about others and about their expereinces, their work, education, their side of the story – that is how you can learn so much in just few days, something that you can not learn by reading only books. I am so very glad that I was part of this Training School and I can surely say that I had a great time, but at the same time learnt a lot” Trainee Report Feedback
“Do nothing today to compromise tomorrows generation” Also, the concepts of salutogenesis and healthy materials were introduced. These were completely new expressions to me, so besides trying to process all the information I had great times in the debate parts, where discussions among a completely heterogeneous group lead to a perfect understanding. Trainee Report Feedback
State of the Art and Visions from the working group subgroups central to the training school content
“Newly learned term: salutogenesis. The “sustainability” of the people living/working inside a building could be more important than the sustainability of the building itself” Trainee Report Feedback
Quotes and comments shared through social media during the four days made for a good number of Regenerative Sustainability Takeaways …
“The Living Building Challenge presented itself as one of the most holistic sustainable building standards I have come across and I would really hope to get the LFA certification and aim for a LBC building in one of my future projects. I also thought the 20 LBC imperatives provide a great lens in which to scrutinise projects”. Trainee Report Feedback
Project visits to Brockholes and CVP enabled the students to witness the application of the topics covered during the training school. Planting trees at the Living Building Challenge Project ( in part to offset carbon from travel, but also to provide locally available Larch timber for any future cladding replacement of the Visitor Centre)
“New approaches were given, new ideas were born and this was only possible due to amazing hosts and organizers which knew how to keep us motivated and focused all day long… hard work was done, and great results were attained” Trainee Report Feedback