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.
Construction ‘localism’ is currently high on the agenda. And set to grow in importance.
There is, rightly, much talk and focus on localism within construction projects and frameworks at the moment, based on the principle of keeping project spend local. And of course realising other benefits such as reduced travel and transport distances, reduced carbon emission, improved productivity and more.
But how do we compare and benchmark ‘localism’? How local is your project? As a client how can you know if your contractor is addressing your ‘localism’ requirements?
The benchmark being set through ConstructCO2 can provide a starting point. How do you compare? Do you know your project stats?
Measuring and understanding your localism (and CO2) footprint must be a key measure, a KPI, as part of your sustainability and CSR programme. Going beyond the measuring it’s essential we monitor trends, make the comparisons, understand the causes and, take action.
It is one of the more important impact and influence areas your construction project has on sustainability and the environment.
The 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
There has been an increase in circular economy thinking and the built environment recently, and no doubt we will see much more in the coming weeks and months. It forms a core element behind the Green Vision half day conference in Leeds on the 12th Dec.
Whilst researching back ground information on “Designing Out Landfill” for a client I was struck by these useful paragraphs from Sophie Thomas co-director of design at the RSA and published in a Guardian Sustainable Business article in September 2012
Built to last
Design sits at the heart of the challenge to create a circular economy. Approximately 80% of a product’s environmental impact is “locked in” at the design stage, so understanding production cycles and reconfiguring them for maximum effectiveness is key. We cannot simply substitute one material for another without understanding the consequences.
Designing in this way is complex. Gone are the days of “sustainable” or “eco” design, when a simple change of material to a recycled alternative would give a project environmental credibility. This system calls for investigation into materials at a molecular scale. It demands true co-creation, with all stakeholders involved in the lifecycle of a particular product. Finally, it requires a new logistical approach to capturing and recirculating materials.
This effort needs to be led by businesses. At the moment, it is rare to see a company setting a design brief that includes requirements to recover material. Now, however, the business model is changing and the economic imperative for recovery is growing stronger.
How well is design, construction and facilities management prepared for such ‘deep green’ thinking to waste elimination?
Addressing climate change, environmental harm and sustainability can seem far to difficult and complex to tackle, so often we dont, or we do so with approaches that are masked by process and checklist.
Daniel Goleman, in Ecological Intelligence gives us three simple, yet remarkably comprehensive rules for reducing impact:
1. Know your impacts
2. Favour improvement
3. Share what you learn
Imagine the power of everyone in your organisation fully understanding the environmental impact of what they do, favouring improvement to address (over doing nothing) and continually sharing with colleagues, supply chain, clients and the wider industry.
In respect for sharing, social media has enabled unparalleled learning and sharing for sustainable improvement, something the built environment is just awakening to.
Does your organisation have Ecological Intelligence and a set of simple rules for reducing environmental impact?
Through facilitated workshops, we can help you explore a ‘simple rules’ approach to dramatically improving effectiveness of your processes and procedures, increase buy in whilst reducing red tape bureaucracy.
Behind seemingly complex issues there are simple rules. The concept of Simple Rules is a key principle within complexity and emergence thinking. The oft cited simple rules being those for flocking birds.
This blog series will explore application of simple rules to sustainability and the built environment. Based on the premise: if we were to discard all strategies , policies, processes, procedures, work instructions and checklists, what simple rules would emerge or would we need.
Next: Simple Rules for Business Improvement
Whilst being a great advocate for learning from others, sharing and benchmarking best practice, often it is essential to ask questions of our approaches to topics such as sustainable construction, before comparing.
In this mornings twitter fed reading stream was an article describing the five questions that Interface ask of themselves. Interface are world leaders in design, production and sales of environmentally responsible modular carpets “Design is a mindset and sustainability is the journey of a lifetime”
Now whilst Interface’s responses in the article are inspiring, it struck me these are the questions we should all be asking of ourselves. Asking across the built environment, in design and specification, in product manufacture, in construction procurement and supply chains. Asking within project sustainability meetings, within company sustainability development and review sessions, at board level and even in ISO14001 audits.
Asking until we have answers and approaches we can live with.
1. How can we increase use of recycled and bio-based materials?
2. How can we prevent our materials from ending up in landfill?
3. How can we reduce carbon and GHG emissions and at the same time increase our use of renewable energies?
4. How can we reduce water consumption?
5. How can our clients and customers make decisions about materials based upon trustworthy environmental facts?
Once you have answers to these questions, you will want to take a look at Five Questions Businesses Must Answer to Advance Toward Sustainability According to Interface, Inc.
Themes covered in the Cumbria Green Deal workshop yesterday, both within round table groups and in general discussions were strikingly familiar, being the age old improvement issues that the construction and built environment sector has been trying to address for the last few decades.
It is encouraging that Green Deal is raising these themes with a new audience, and reinforces the point that Green Deal is another important improvement step on route to construction excellence. However, it is also a reminder that Green Deal may be doomed to failure it its just another sticking plaster applied over our industry core problems
So, forgetting for a moment the mechanics of Green Deal, what are the underlying themes …
Collaborative Working – the need to work together, across supply chains and in consortia is emerging as a pre-requisite for Green Deal. The six principles of Collaboartive Working, (Compete on Value, Relationships, Integrated Working, Collaborative Cost Management, Continuous Improvement and People Development), first developed under the Building Down Barriers are very appropriate to Green Deal today.
Added Value and Lean Construction – the need to reduce costs whilst improving value. The need to be lean across the Green Deal process. The first Lean Management principle of identifying and stripping waste out is key to effective Green Deal delivery
Open and Transparent Costing – essential to get back to real costs, adopting new and radical approaches to pricing and dealing with risks, and the need to eradicate competition by profit / lowest cost.
Communications – across Green Deal players, with customers and consumers to the way in which we market and promote ourselves.
With the main root of construction problems being related to communication issues, effective approaches to Green Deal communication is vital
Sustainability and CSR – from technical sustainability of how to improve performance of hard to treat properties, to green skill development, to procuring local and appropriate resourcing all get a good outing in Green Deal discussions
Value Management – the need to evaluate between differing Green Deal Plan options, products and quotes across a differing range of criteria (cost, life cycle, replacement, appearance, performance etc) will benefit from robust value management approaches.
Quality Management – our industry SME resistance to adopting processes and certification that applied correctly will improve quality and consistency, reduce errors, reworking and costs, but importantly offer confidence to clients now shifts from ISO 9001 to PAS 2030.
Automation – will automating processes without loosing face to face relationships usher in a world of iPads, social media and improved streamlining of routine / back of house processes?
What will Green Deal do for your organisation?
On this blog: Where Greendeal will succeed …
See Su Butcher’s Just Practising blog and comments to What will the Green Deal do for us?
Building Down Barriers Supply Chain Handbook