“Let’s all become radical environmentalists” commented Patagonia chief executive Rose Marcario “As individual consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer. This simple act of extending the life of our (stuff) through proper care and repair reduces the need to buy more over time, thereby avoiding the CO2 emissions, waste output and water usage required to build it.”
This remains in my mind, one of the more useful of circular economy thinking approaches
Patagonia’s Worm Well bus will be setting up temporary workstations at venues across the UK to repair garments, free of charge.
The UK leg is part of a wider five-country mission across Europe to extend the life of outdoor enthusiasts’ clothing. It starts on 15 April in the UK and Germany before moving on to other European countries.
It would be great to see this extended into other areas, more built environment related areas, for example, FM organisations holding free equipment repair workshops in buildings they operate, construction and consultancy organisations returning to their buildings and providing free sustainability advice and repair service … The opportunities based on circular economy business models are huge.
Put simply, if it’s broke, fix it! Dont replace it
When we know what our buildings are made of, we can make informed choices by selecting materials that are healthier for occupants and have a lesser impact on our environment*
This blog regularly covers the intersection between sustainable, healthy products (for example the Living Building Challenge Red List) and BIM. Indeed the selection of materials and products based on biological health, as well as environmental impact and functional performance within ‘sustainable construction’ should be a no brainer.
We are not so good at using data in construction, and although this is improving as BIM becomes more established, there remains a gap in useful product health data sheets that carry material or product ingredients. Projects that use a rigorous material schedule such as the ILFI Red List often find themselves unpacking designs and material specification in order to understand product recipes and seek safe alternatives.
The Quartz Common Products Database, a collaborative initiative from Flux, HBN, thinkstep and Google was launched at VERGE 2015 at the end of October. Quartz is an open database of composition, health hazard and environmental impact data for building products. It looks a promising contribution to a greater understanding of material health impacts and, being open source, paves the way for inclusion and alignment with BIM’s and the Product Data Sheets currently being compiled by CIBSE, NBS and others.
“Quartz aims to bridge the gaps between information, knowledge, and action, leading to less toxic, lower-impact building materials”
The Quartz database (www.quartzproject.org) will provide a collection of product profiles for commonly used building materials. Specifically:
● Quartz is a free and open dataset, integrating both LCA and health-hazard data into a single information source using widely accepted and consistent methodologies, such as Pharos Project/GreenScreen hazard screening, TRACI 2.1, and ISO14044.
● Data is vendor-neutral and covers 100 building products across a range of categories, such as concrete, drywall and insulation. Products are compared by composition, health impacts, and environmental impacts.
● Data is licensed under Creative Commons BY 4.0, meaning there is no restriction on the use, redistribution, or modification of the data. This openness will enable the AEC community and the general public to become more educated about the potential
impacts of materials in buildings and communities, and to put this data to creative and productive use.
● Through consistent language and metrics, stakeholders will be empowered to have productive dialogue with building products manufacturers, driving the industry towards increased sustainability (From Quartz Press Release)
Here in the UK this could be seen as timely launch, with the Considerate Constructors Scheme promoting a Construction Occupational cancer awareness campaign on sites. A welcomed campaign and one that should start with product specification using data such as Quartz to remove such toxic materials from construction.
“Sites need to proactively eliminate harmful substances, when this isn’t achievable working methods and equipment must be substituted for safer alternatives (CCS)”
By focusing only on construction site, we are not learning from the past, and it is the same thinking as we were a few decades ago when the focus was on ‘safe’ handling of asbestos.
In todays climate of CSR, (Corporate Social Responsibility), where Do No Harm is a common-place construction value, specifying, procuring and installing products that cause ill health in production, in installation and in use should be deemed as socially irresponsible.
In 2015 we should have a much more mature approach to health – not to be content with one that seeks only to reduce impact on health but an approach that seeks to improve health, through biophilic material inclusion and a salutogenic approach.
No responsible organisation in construction would want any association with modern day construction slavery, forced employment, child or migrant exploitation as we read increasingly often in the mainstream news, for example Qatar construction or closer to home with construction gangmaster organisations. Hence the Modern Slavery Bill should be welcomed by the built environment sector.
Included within the Modern Slavery Bill introduced on 31 August 2015 (coming into affect on 31 October 2015) is a clause that has significance for most construction organisations – the Transparency in Supply Chains (TISC) clause.
We have introduced a transparency in supply chains clause to the Modern Slavery Bill. This will require businesses above a certain size threshold to disclose each year what they have done to ensure that there is no modern slavery in their supply chains and own business. This will be a truly world-leading measure. There are similar transparency requirements in California, but they only apply to businesses producing goods for sale, whereas this disclosure will apply regardless of what it supplies, whether goods or services.
Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime, Karen Bradley
What does the Bill and Transparency Clause mean for construction:
Chris Blythe, CE CIOB in Foreword to the CIOB Dark Side of Construction publication: The dark side – the systematic exploitation of millions of vulnerable migrants – is rarely acknowledged, even by the clients and multinationals that commission and create our shiny new cities. Our sector is rife with human rights abuses. Bonded labour, delayed wages, abysmal working and living conditions, withholding of passports and limitations of movement are all forms of modern slavery.
The scope of the TISC clause will cover construction products companies importing goods or components to the UK, as well as contractors and consultancies operating in the home markets and/or overseas.
The Modern Slavery Bill (with its Transparency in Supply Chains clause) will transform and elevate construction CSR and Supply Chain Management as important legislative responsibility processes.
Organisations with a turnover of £36 million will have to:
publish a “slavery and human trafficking statement” setting out the steps it has taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its supply chains and within its own business.
From October 2016, to publicly share their policies and strategies to tackle modern slavery in their supply chains.
Guidance on what might be included in such a statement:
Companies’ due diligence processes relating to slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains;
Reporting on the parts of companies’ supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and trafficking taking place, and how to assess and manage such a risk;
Reporting on staff training on slavery and human trafficking;
Reporting on companies’ effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and trafficking are not taking place in their businesses or supply chains.
“Implications of non-compliance with this reporting obligation in such a morally compelling context could leave a large dent in an otherwise sterling company reputation” Victoria Ball, projects & construction associate at law firm Trowers & Hamlins
“It will involve a deep dive into the supply chain to understand what’s really going on many tiers down – getting visibility of the many layers to truly see the conditions of workers at the bottom of the chain. The message to companies is clear – it is no longer an option to stay below the radar, refuse to take responsibility for problems in your supply chain and hope you won’t get exposed.”Cindy Berman, head of knowledge & learning ETI
What is not so clear is where the responsibility under the Bill rests for SME’s below the threshold that have organisations above the threshold within their supply chains. Most construction organisations procuring goods and services from large product distributors or manufacturers.
Actions construction and built environment organisations should take?
Embed Modern Slavery into CSR policies and statements, where, arguably there should be a statement anyway if base on a recognised CSR structures(eg ISO 26001, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), JUST, Global Compact or the Human Rights Charter)
Understand the concept of Transparency in Supply Chains (TISC)
Include questions statements in supplier procurement processes. (And probably best to do so for all suppliers who are close to or over the threshold)
Develop a PQQ and Project Bid standard text.
Understand what an annual“slavery and human trafficking statement” for your organisation could look like
And of course, these good practices should be adopted even if below the £36million turnover threshold as a matter of social responsible construction.
Whilst being honoured to be included within such a great community, I was particular interested in the fact that all three of the UK people listed (Jim McClelland @SustMeme, Mike Barry @planamikebarry and myself @Fairsnape) are all connected with the property or built environment sector.
Is this indicative of the change in construction, property and built environment approach to CSR, moving away from a ‘donate and volunteer’ context to one of addressing the real social and environmental responsibilities of an organisation and of the industry. Further that we can and indeed should learn from other organisations and thought leaders within other sectors.
It also illustrates the power of social media and of twitter in particular to learn and share. Within the triple pundit list there are a number of tweet chats (for example #CSRChat hosted by @susanmcp1 and our #sustldrconv Sustainable Leadership Conversation* that I co-host monthly with @AndreaLearnedwho is also listed)
I have commented often that I see tweet chats as the new benchmarking. No longer do we need to go through ‘benchmarking protocols’ to understand innovations and improvements elsewhere, we simply find the chat appropriate to our needs, join in engage and learn.
Update 27/10/14: The International WELL Building Institute launched the WELL Building Standard Version 1.0, as a publicly availablestandard which focuses on enhancing people’s health and well-being through the built environment, at the inaugural WELL Building Symposium in New Orleans. The WELL Building Standard v1.0 can be applied to new construction and major renovations of commercial and institutional buildings, tenant improvements, and core and shell developments.
Original post …
Salutogenesis – a term we should become familiar with.
It describes an approach that focuses on factors that promote human health and wellness, rather than on factors that prevent disease and ill health (I am indebted to my partner Prof. Soo Downe for introducing me to this concept from the world of childbirth and health, but that has profound implications for built environment sustainability)
And whilst wellness and health is a relatively new emergent for CSR – the built environment is now right at the center. Designing and constructing sustainable buildings isn’t rocket science, we have the methodology and technology, but designing and constructing buildings that improve wellness and health, not just reduce the negative impact on health, is the next frontier for the built environment sector.
It is one that requires different design thinking, requires collaboration with others in the health sector, and it appears to be rising rapidly on the CSR agenda. For example,
“Companies that ignore the environmental and social impacts of their buildings could risk miserable workers and low productivity,” Russ Blinch wrote in Guardian Sustainable Business
Scandinavian firm Sustainia has based its Guide to Co-Creating Health report on the correlation between what’s good for the planet is what’s good for you — and that healthy people are the single most important resource within the transition to a sustainable future.
Nonprofit BSR argues in A New CSR Frontier: Business and Population Healththat companies have yet to realise the full potential of extending health and sustainability initiatives across their entire value chains to include suppliers, local communities and the general public
The Built Environment Sector
And there is encouraging and inspiring approaches emerging from within the built environment sector itself, for example:
The WELL Building Standard is the first protocol of its kind to focus on “improving human wellness within the built environment by identifying specific conditions that, when holistically integrated into building interiors, enhance the health and wellbeing of the occupants.” The WELL Building Standard is a performance-focused system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing including air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and importantly mind.
Workplace Productivity and Health from the World Green Build Council reports on the emerging body of evidence suggesting that the physical characteristics of buildings and indoor environments can influence worker productivity and occupant health and well-being, making a robust business case for health, wellbeing and productivity improvements in green buildings.
While these are welcome signs, we need to be cautious of building approaches that focus solely on energy performance without considering occupant long term health.
Setting it apart from the more established building certification schemes, the Living Building Challenge from the International Living Futures Institute, a regenerative sustainability approach that falls in line with my definition of salutogenesis – focusing on doing more good, not ‘just’ less bad – majors on health across its petals and imperatives.
For example, the Red List of Materials, (within the LBC) takes a precautionary principle approach, (if there is any doubt a material or design may have any negative impact on health we should not be using it), It encourages biophilia thinking in design, (ie the health benefits arising from association with nature), along with air quality, natural daylight and more
Greening the Construction Office
And it’s not just a design issue for the built environment, but one that construction organisations are in need of addressing. For example temporary office and working accommodation for construction projects can benefit greatly from a health and wellness approach. Recently U.K. Building Editor Sarah Richardson discussed the problems of stress and ill health in construction workplaces, not a new issue as The Health and Safety Executive found in 2007. With 88 percent of those working in U.K. construction experiencing some kind of work-related stress, perhaps it’s not surprising considering the often-dire site office accommodations.
In fact, when was the last time we saw any thought given to health issues, effective daylight and fresh air or greenery within the office?
Martin, through Fairsnape is a built environment consultant, strategist and advocate for sustainability, CSR, social media and collaboration. He provides commentary on the sector at http://www.fairnsape.com.
Why I became dis-enchanted with facilities management a decade ago was brought back to me this morning. On the doors to the public toilets at Kendal Hospital was a sign, in bold on a yellow background, warning users that ‘air fresheners used in these toilets may cause discomfort to asthma sufferers’ ( I didn’t have a camera or phone with me at the time unfortunately)
So why continue to use? Even more so why continue to use in a hospital? So where do sufferers go?
I used to joke that a facilities management gut response was to put up a sign, I recall a presentation of mine way back, in 2004, titled “FM- Now Wash Your Hands” (Must find it!)
Surely if there is any hint that a material or product is harmful or cause discomfort, it should not be used it, full stop – ie the precautionary principle, core to for example the Living Building Challenge Materials red list.
The world of corporate social responsibility is moving on from do no harm, to positively do more good to improve health. Wouldn’t it be great it that sign read ‘air fresheners used in these toilets will enhance your health’. Instead the FM team know it may irritate asthma suffers, so do nothing, other than put up a sign and wash hands of responsibility?
Cutting my teeth on construction sites as a green horn QS back in the 70’s was an introduction to the frozen feet, sweating head, un-insulated site cabins, with their austere, bleak and unwelcoming work environment.
Fast forward and today, yes we have insulated cabins with PIR sensors, and occasionally you come across plants in the site cabin, windows providing decent daylight or sparks of innovation, like the free fresh fruit for site personal provided daily, but generally the internal working environment hasn’t changed much since the 70;s. Even co-location spaces on large projects are often tucked away in the bowels of a building with no daylight. We tend to think of these offices as temporary, but temporary can be anything up to a few years, and many site personnel spend careers in temporary, accommodation
“Incorporating green space into our site offices is part of our broader plan to create high performance workspaces. International research shows developing green space within office environments not only significantly boosts the health and wellbeing of staff, but also increases productivity,” says Lauren Haas, Brookfield’s Australian sustainability manager, and 202020 Vision advocate.
“Through introducing a Plant Plan, we envisage seeing the same or better improvements in our own staff that is integral to delivering high performance buildings for our clients as well as being an employer of choice.”
The 202020Vision programme is also conducting pre and post occupancy tests on the site team to see if their ‘green environment’ improves health and wellbeing.
We know from (eg the latest World Green Building Council’s Business Case for Green Buildingreport) that biophilia, greenery, views to nature through windows, can improve worker well-being by reducing stress levels, less frustration, increased patience and improved overall satisfaction. The Living Building Challenge, Health Imperative, founded on biophilia principles requires daylight to all working spaces … And all this should apply to construction offices not just the buildings we design and construct.
Hopefully as contractors develop in line with Sustainability, CSR and HR best practice we will see more attention to biophilic thinking, creating green healthy inspiring places to work, enabling construction of green buildings. And, coupled with the rise in interest of mindfulness thinking for site staff, are we heading into a new era of contracting?
Healthy building concepts should apply to construction site offices as well as buildings we construct.