Wellness and Happiness: The Next Built Environment / CSR Frontier

Update 30/11/16  BREEAM and WELL Alignment review – more good or less bad?

Update 27/10/14:  The International WELL Building Institute launched the WELL Building Standard Version 1.0, as a publicly available standard 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.
  • Increasing the safety of buildings; promoting safe, careful use and management of toxic substances at home and in the workplace; and better water resource management are three of WHO’s 10 facts on preventing disease through healthy environments.
  • Nonprofit BSR argues in A New CSR Frontier: Business and Population Health that 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.

This article was originally written for CSRWire

Advertisements

A low carbon diet for construction boards

benchmark

Question for you:who on your board is really championing sustainability and the low carbon agenda?

Board members, as Lucy Marcus reminded us at construcTALKs, need to balance continuity with change, to embrace the changes in technology.

From my experience in (small-medium) construction organizations, boards are too focused on looking back at performance, rather than forward; and when looking forward, tend to do so with the risk-eye of past problems. And sustainability is often only discussed when necessary, as part of an ISO 14001 project or incident issue. Too often, as 14001 sits with Health and Safety, sustainability takes a back seat. Rarely do construction boards view sustainability as a critical strategic, opportunity issue, rather than simply one to be dealt with at project level.

Yet the world is moving forward, and increasingly so towards a low carbon environment and economy. Only those with proven performance and attitude of low carbon approaches may well survive—all the more reason to have board members champion change. Non-execs tend to provide the independent financial and governance role, but increasingly they should drive the organization towards change.

Perhaps it’s because construction boards are slow to embrace the communication power social media can bring that they remain out of touch. I do wonder whether we had the same issue when other, now well-established, means of communication emerged; did we resist telephones, faxes, conference calls and emails as we seem to be doing with social media?

If construction boards were more diverse and embraced a wider range of views and outlooks, through board composition and social media awareness, the transition to a low carbon construction economy would be more successful.

Construction boards really do need to embrace social media potential, not just as a tool for others in the organization, but for the board itself, tuning into discussions and commentaries on emerging standards and legislation and sharing what is working or not. The likes of Twitter, Linkedin groups, blogs, forums and news aggregators are abundantly rich with low carbon and sustainable construction information.

This is all vital client, competitor and industry intelligence that enables boards to move their organization forward – and, through embracing social media in this manner, become role models for its mature use.

To quote from Lucy, boards need to be both Grounded and Stargazers.Are construction boards so grounded they go underground? Or do they at least from time to time stand on a hill and gaze the stars to wonder, then to understand what is out there?

This post originally appeared on CSRWire in April 2011 and savedhere from now defunct Posterous blog 

Constructing CSR iTransparency

I have commented elsewhere on this blog that ‘transparency’, driven by the increasingly easy access to information and the seemingly ubiquitous use of social media, could well become a central theme and driver for sustainability and CSR during 2012 and beyond.

Last week Apple released their supplier responsibility audit report, see the excellent CSRWire article: itransparency: Is Apple Catching Up? by Elaine Cohen (also good reads are Will Apple Finally Embrace Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability and on Apples own the supplier responsibility web pages)

Like many users, whilst loving the Apple technology, design and ease of use, as a sustainability advocate, I have always felt uneasy about environmental and social aspects of the Apple organisation. However, with Apple having now set out their stall and commitment to improve, they will be watched closely by CSR observers and others who will undoubtedly use Apple devices and platforms to make any failings and achievements public, and transparent.

Constructing itransparency

I can’t help wondering:

How and when transparency within the built environment will have an impact.

If we were to undertake a ‘deep’ social responsibility audit throughout the sectors supply chain, just what would we find lurking under rocks?

We are starting to have the tools available to understand, for example, ConstructCO2 can measure the carbon and social impact of transport and delivery miles on a construction project, SourceMap can monitor material carbons, from raw material and transportation,  (see construction sourcemap for CITRIS building, Berkley USA), and Living Building Challenge is challenging responsible construction and increasingly we hear of construction organisations looking at or adopting ISO 26000, …. and so on …

So, it may or may not be 2012, but only is it just a matter of time before the sector, like Apple, is forced or nudged towards ‘iTransparency’.

Related reading:  Mapping Transparency – Why it pays to be open 

If you wish to engage in conservations on CSR in construction follow and join me on twitter @fairsnape, subscribe to or share this blog post, or get in touch.

Understanding CSR in Construction

Perhaps we need to clarify what we understand by CSR in Construction?

Whether we mean Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainable Responsibility or even Carbon Social Responsibility is somewhat irrelevant and I am comfortable with all definitions. What is important of course is how we approach, manage and embed CSR within the organisation.

Probably one of the least effective CSR approaches would be one that is scattergun, uncoordinated and of a tick box nature to enable us just to tick the CSR box for bids, company literature and websites.

CSR starts with understanding the organisations impact, on social, sustainability, education, employment, on the planet, on communities and more. Once that impact is understood, measures can be planned and implemented to minimise or eliminate those impacts. CSR needs real  commitment to integrate responsible practices into daily organisational  operations to address impact.

CSR, as I recently quoted on twitter it is about striving for zero impact and a closed loop system that addresses resources used.

Sources of CSR inspiration I suggest delegates on my CSR events and workshops check out, as they  have significance within construction, include

Yvon Chouinard and the essential reading: Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman""  (http://amzn.to/otp3vT)  that includes a chapter on how Patagonia as client extends it’s CSR and  environmental values to construction projects.

Secondly the late Ray Anderson, (Interface Flooring) probably the most influential CSR and Sustainability thinker in the built environment. His Mount Sustainability and Zero Mission thinking has inspired many.   Check out Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: How Interface proved that you can build a successful business without destroying the planet""  (http://amzn.to/r00VAJ)

And  for current CSR thinking within the built environment and beyond, check out  the news feeds and articles from leading CSR thinkers on CSRWire.

A recent article written for CSRWire explored the link between CSR, carbon management and localism within construction and FM which fired an interesting debate on a possible new thinking for CSR – Carbon Social Resposnibility

I await to see who will be the first construction organisation in the UK to become members of what I view as the best commitment possible to CSR – the 1% for the Planet movement. That’s one percent of turnover going to offset the impact your organisation may have on the environment. Commitment yes, but perhaps just a fraction of the cost of really addressing construction impact.

(This post was written in connection with the linkedin CSR in Construction group)

Construction lacks green, key business and foresight skills

Construction lacks essential skills. A recent poll of 1,450 construction employers, conducted by Construction Industry Training Board and Sector Skills Council, CITB-ConstructionSkills, skills gaps such as understanding the implications of green issues (43%), identifying potential new business (39%) and not having sufficient IT skills (43%) were all areas picked out by industry managers and supervisors as lacking in their organisations.

In addition, a third (32%) of employers said that keeping up to date with the latest innovations, products and techniques was an important concern for their business. A further 32% also stated that their management team’s ability to identify the training needs of staff was an area that needed improvement.

Begs the question what have we been doing in the world of construction improvement over the last two decades since these skills were identified in seminal reports, eg Egan , Latham and others.

Importantly it also demonstrates a lack of awareness and vision at board, owner or senior management levels to identify, acknowledge and prepare for emerging trends, particularly in the sustainability, IT and social media arena.

Links:

A Low Carbon Diet For Construction Boards (CSRWire post by Martin Brown)

Future Proofing the Boardroom – Part One: Grounding and Stargazing (CSRWire post by Lucy Marcus)

Link to CITB 

social media in the workplace

Workplaces need social media. Martin Pickard @FMGuru posted a question on twitter this morning on (should we) use Social Media in the Workplace in preparation for a debate this week. These debates are happening across all sectors, particularly so within the built environment, but I find it odd that we are have these debates at all and wonder:

  • What do I tell my son who is learning how to use facebook and how to blog at school, with QR codes to promote school sports day results, that when he starts work he wont be allowed to use such skills?
  • Did we have these discussions when the telephone or fax was introduced. (Lets send a hand written note around, get people together to explore whether we should allow the telephone on to sites)
  • Or indeed when email was introduced. I work with construction contractors who still do not allow computers on site, emails are send to an info@ address, printed in the head office and taken to sites by the contracts manager. We laugh at this now, but are we doing the same on social media?

Lets think about social media as collaboration and communication. Do we really want to have a debate as to whether we need ‘communication’ in the work place? Or whether we want people to work together, to collaborate?

Increasingly we shore up our policies and employee guidelines preventing the use of social media rather then guidelines on responsible behaviour. Better to have a workforce of ambassadors across social media than a frustrated annoyed workforce who criticise or worse during their own time or in their lunch times?

If we start to use the expression of ‘Real Time Web’ rather than social media it opens the door to thinking about using it as a tool for learning, sharing, communicating and gathering the intelligence an organisation needs (market, client, comptetitors, innovations etc)

Google have enabled Real Time as part of their search options. Staff can now see who has tweeted, blogged or shared anything they search for. Should we hence prevent the use of Google.  We cannot stop the use of social media or real time web, are we (as employers, managers, directors etc) just trying to stick more and more fingers in the soon to break dam?

Reading the traits of successful collaborative leaders for a piece of work with an innovative construction organisation and I see time and time again that a collaborative leader, (to which most built environment leaders would profess to be) is one that is connected, internally and externally across many sectors, through, yes, social media as well as traditional media. (Blog post to come)

Increasingly I am working with organisations who are waking up to the use of social media applications to improve winning work potential, from gathering leads/market/client/competitor intelligence, to gathering evidence for PQQ’s (from eg project blogs) to collaborative writing of responses and much more. (Follow me on @fairsnape for more on this)

Related links:

Using social media can help boards be better on sustainability. (CSRWire Talkback Blogpost)

Why FM needs to go social (a @be2camp FMX Article with @EEPaul)

Top 10: uses of social media to win work (check back after 23rd June after my session with Lancs Construction Best Practice Club)