Tag Archives: futures

Working Towards a New Sustainability

Sharing this FutuREstorative review from the Urban Design Group

This book aims to provoke a new way of thinking among those involved in design and development. FutuREstorative is about our relationship with nature and how this translates into our understanding and ‘sustainable design’.

Brown has brought together thinkers and practitioners linked to the Living Building Challenge, and they advocate not just sustainable development or limiting our environmental impact, but a restorative approach, working with nature and making a positive contribution. It is a well argued, hard-hitting and ambitious philosophy.

The book is accessible and thought-provoking, avoiding the trap of previous ‘deep green’ texts, and whilst some points are repeated, their importance warrants this. Each section is well balanced between prose, diagrams, case studies and quotes.

One of the most useful sections sets out the principles of the restorative approach alongside checklists of existing standards such as BREAM and the Well Standard. It is here that the value of its holistic approach to designers becomes clear. It offers principles which value place-making and beauty alongside environmental aspects, making the links crystal clear. If its themes, and the thinking behind them, were adopted by planners and designers, it could mark an important shift in how sustainability informs planning and design.

Whilst this book will not give you all the answers, it will change how you think about the problem. In putting forward the restorative approach, Martin Brown draws together all the buzz words and current strands of thinking into a robust framework, from the future of zero-carbon, Passivhaus, well-being and the circular economy, right through to building information modelling or BIM, social media and the fourth industrial revolution. In doing so, he has created a onestop- shop for ambitious policy makers.

Brown and his contributors’ aim is to ‘inform and change the conversation, reframe the debate, and advocate for a radical change in direction for built environment sustainability’.

This book marks an important milestone in doing that.

Photo by Erik Karits on Unsplash

Working Towards a New Sustainability continues

Much has changed since the idea for FutureRestorative was conceived back in 2015. What have we achieved in 6 years? We have new regenerative agendas, we are leaving a pandemic portal, we had Code Red for Humanity reports and we prepare for COP26. FutuREstorative pointed out we have the technology and tools, yet we are missing and desperately need the ‘regenerative self’

The self that can make informed and conscious decisions. Decisions not only at a project level but for human and non-human communities through time. Decisions where reciprocity actions do not expect a personal or immediate return but heals the future for generations way down the line. A regenerative self recognises all is connected and nested, understands carbon ecology, how nature works and the interplay and importance of biodiversity. Interbeing.

Watch out for a follow up to FutuREstorative … FutuREgenerative Self maybe

Learning and Sharing in the Time of Corona

In these tough days of Covid-19, social distancing and isolation we can also look for the light of opportunity to share and to learn. We are hearing it is possible that physical, face to face events will not be happening for months, until the UK is clear enough for travel for home events, and until the EU is clear for EU events.

Not surprisingly then, we are seeing many events, workshops, exhibitions, film festivals, from book clubs to concerts to design shows, move into the online space.

We have a range of communication platforms to help us do that, from basic to more elaborate and feature rich platforms. It is good to see the virtual world of Second Life being used for Billions of Us – “an (emerging) creative community and collective devoted to using virtual technologies to improve the real world in this time of vast systemic change.” (Thanks to Pam Broviak for sharing this through her Public Works blog. Pam and I met in Second life back in mid 2000’s and then with Paul Wilkinson and Jodie Miners formed Be2Camp – now dormant but Paul has an archive of posts on his ExtranetEvolution blog)

Indeed there is nothing new to online exhibitions and fairs – back in 2014 we used Hyperfair for a number of events, complete with in-world talks, exhibitors and social events a few years ago with (Construction21 and Others) see Sustainability made Cool? Day one at #EXPOC21

A New Normal Built Environment

For us in the built environment, we are starting see that the world of design, construction, supply chains and communications will not be the same post Covid19. We will cannot return to the normal we knew, for that normal is in too many ways responsible for the problems we have now.

Preparing for a new post Covid19 normal must be part of a ‘never waste this crisis’ approach that practices and companies need to take. And now is the time to take that development, when employees are home based, with more time to learn, develop and help shape a future business.

We cannot waste this crisis and we must emerge stronger, ready to address a different environment, when addressing the climate and ecological breakdown will be very high, if not top of the agenda. We have see, through remarkable images of how air quality dramatically improved as activity stopped in Wuhan and Italy. We have seen, after only a short time of ‘shut down’ how nature can thrive, here in the UK (shut down of modern life allows nature to thrive), in the canals of Venice and beyond.

To this end I am running in-house, online inter-active CPD style sessions through Zoom or Teams for a number of my clients, both here in the UK and overseas. (If you are interested in this for your organisation please get in touch)

Zoom Regenerative

A weekly 45 minute Zoom meet up for those interested in learning more or are practising regenerative approaches, in sustainability, in the built environment, in business etc. Each session will feature an introduction or presentation from a regenerative colleague from around the world, followed by a lightly facilitated discussion. Starting on April 7th, I plan Zoom Regenerative to be held Tuesdays at 8pm UK (but possibly shifting an hour or two to allow participation from Australia at a sensible hour)

Link for the Zoom session will be on my twitter feed under hashtags #ZoomRegen


An extract from my Contribution the the RESTORE Cost Action ..

It is possible that every sustainability practitioner, academic and student globally is now home working. Through communication technologies we can share and discuss the work of RESTORE and regenerative sustainability. There are many working groups discussions taking place through Zoom, but we can do more. For example

LFE (Living Future Europe) has started a weekly Resilience Lounge hosted by Carlo Battisti. (Wednesdays 5pm UK Details)

Martin will be starting a weekly Zoom Regenerative series starting on the 7th April with guest from around the world sharing their regenerative voices, actions and approaches. (Tuesdays 8pm UK Details and #ZoomRegen)

There is a global Transition Town discussion group on Monday 30th hosted by founder Rob Hopkins

There are also many on line book clubs which have caught my eye, for example The Living Mountain as a twitter based book club – search #CoReadingVirus and a Nature Writing Course hosted by Emergence Magazine starting on 5th April 12.00 PST

Connectivity with Nature, its importance to mental and physical health is a key theme that runs through the work and outcomes of RESTORE. It is a sad consequence of housing design and construction over recent decades that many many families are now isolated in homes with no views, no access to nature, and in some cases in city centres with no windows. We will undoubtedly see a rise in mental health, anxiety and domestic violence. You may have noticed an increase in the sharing of nature based images, videos, art and music across social media. This in a small way, may give a little comfort to those without access or views.

Lets use our collective and individual social media accounts to share, and lets use the hashtags #NoticeNature and #CostRestore

Suggested reading In Times of Uncertainty, let nature be your refuge Lucy Jones – author Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need the Wild.

Monarch Butterfly (see Why is there a Monarch Butterfly on the cover of FutuREstorative …)

Rethinking Sustainability Research: Eight Global Challenges

mb-m-and-c-1-blue“We must start to envision what a positive future looks like and work to make this happen”  Bob Watson, Chair of Future Earth’s Interim Engagement Committee.

Further reinforcement that good or best practice may not be enough, with the need to identify the ‘required practice’ to enable us to address big sustainability issues is central to Future Earth’s recently published Strategic Research Agenda 2014  .  This concept, (mentioned many times by myself in presentations, seminars and on this blog) resonates well with the Living Building Challenge and restorative sustainability thinking or forward visioning.

The Strategic Research Agenda 2014 publication, result of a year-long global consultation on priorities for global change research, calls for a rethink  in research to address serious environmental, social and economic threats.

The Strategic Research Agenda 2014 focuses on three themes: firstly, on understanding how the planet is changing; secondly, on deploying integrated, interdisciplinary science to address urgent sustainable development needs; and thirdly, on transforming development to be more sustainable in the long term, through eight global sustainability challenges;

  1. Delivering water, energy, and food for all.
  2. Decoupling carbon emissions from economic growth.
  3. Safeguarding land, freshwater and marine natural assets.
  4. Building healthy, resilient and productive cities.
  5. Promoting sustainable rural futures.
  6. Improving human health by incorporating global change concerns.
  7. Encouraging sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  8. Improving governance and early warning systems to respond to complex future threats.

‘The Strategic Research Agenda 2014 advocates not just a set of research priorities, but also a novel way of doing science. This approach is detailed in the Future Earth 2025 Vision and includes a strong emphasis on full integration among scientific disciplines, on engagement with societal partners in co-designing and co-producing knowledge, on international collaboration, on producing knowledge that is valuable to decision-makers, and on generating the solutions that society needs’ Strategic Research Agenda 2014

Download: strategic_research_agenda_2014.pdf


another decade of waste or something different?

One of the potentially more powerful influences that could shape future thinking on waste and waste management that emerged during the ‘noughties’ is Cradle to Cradle, Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough & Michael Braungart

This is a subject I have blogged, twittered, presented and included in workshops on many occasions, but recent musings led me to think just what the coming decade in construction could look like if C2C thinking was adopted.

In particular projecting the ‘waste is stupid’ concept forward how will our approach to waste change?

So lets stand in the future, lets say 2019, where we have passed a good number of the known milestones on zero carbon and sustainable construction, and look back at how our attitude to waste matured.

2010 There is a general awakening and awareness in general business, government and society to the disproportionate contribution that construction makes in terms to waste and associated carbon emissions.

2011 Now seen as the rubicon year in which construction waste started to be seen as socially, economically and environmentally unacceptable, (as asbestos, tobacco and smoking)

2012 50% reduction to landfill target only just achieved and disputed by many. Realisation that the real cost of waste is not in landfill but in creation of waste in the first instance even if waste is recycled or reused

2012 Reusable Protection Solutions (RPS) introduced that start to eliminate waste from packaging. Some RPS items seen as desirable design objects and used as furniture.

2013 Resources, including waste managers and waste ‘budgets’ diverted into avoiding waste and managing waste out, with no costs budgeted for waste management. Waste starts to become a real design issue

2013 Achievement of Zero Waste becomes a reality and a key industry KPI and target.

2014 Recycling now seen as a performance indicator of the design sector and  limited to materials arising from demolition and buildings taken out of commission.

2014 Site Waste Management Plans replaced by Material Re-Use Plans (Materials incorporated into designs and construction must have a reuse identified should wastage occur and at end of building life)

2015 Contract procurement of design teams, contractors and subcontractors majors on the ability and past evidence of eliminating waste and producing

2016 Savings from zero waste costs offset initial investment in sustainable construction and energy conservation measures

2017 Recycling now seen as a key element of the design sector as recycled materials are created with planned future use.

2017 Reduction in material supply sector output as the efficiency of construction improves.

2017 Construction profits increase

2018 Construction costs reduce in line with improved quality and waste reduction

2019 The traditional landfill and waste sector shrinks to a negligible level.

2019 Waste transportation, particularly skips, seen as quaint and laughable method from the past decade, “very noughties”

… the futures nano

The science of nanotechnology is already revolutionising the worlds of medicine and construction, according to a Guardian article looking at nanotech in food, Once Bitten
Seamless tubes of graphite one atom thick and 10,000 long (to the naked eye, large quantities would look like soot), carbon nanotubes are up to 100 times stronger than steel but around eight times lighter. They can be teased into a twine that can be woven into sheets and, potentially, mixed with composites to eventually overhaul the way – and the height to which – we build.

And those buildings could be covered with solar cells made from nanomaterials that could supply all their energy needs. 

And in communications … nanotechnology would allow the Nokia Morph concept phone to be laid flat like a keyboard or folded into a bracelet that can be connected wirelessly to a headset.

And in RFID, nano-transistors could revolutionise asset management  and hence reshape the way in which facilities management works.

built environment futures? (now with links)

The other evening I had the opportunity to tour around a new state of the art hospital facility, so state of the art it is calling itself the hospital of the future.

As the press release states: The new facility intends to positively transform the traditional health care experience that is normally associated with staying or working in a hospital. The campus will epitomize Cisco and PPH’s shared vision of a ‘Connected Hospital’ where technology and the physical environment seamlessly integrate to enhance patient care through the sharing of timely, accurate information among the right people at the right time, between hospitals and the extended ecosystem of care.

Following the tour – more comments here soon – I popped into the Blarney Stone pub and shared a Guinness or two with a friend whilst listening to a live singer entertain the regulars.

‘Work’ wasn’t over though – it was then off to a small group meeting to discuss how web technology can assist those working in the built environment sectors. This was part of a regular Tuesday evening get together to learn and share on themes that run from using Skype to dealing with Radon.

Possibly a typical afternoon / evening for those involved in improvement forums and tours, except this one was completely virtual within second life, demonstrating the benefits of such platforms for business, communication and learning.

On February 25 ‘cut the ribbon’ on a new hospital – Palomar West – a simulation of a real world hospital campus due to open in 2011 – gives visitors the opportunity to tour the hospital years before its doors actually open. How that for testing future patient comments and user ‘usability’. The ‘experience’ of users can be monitored prior to the building commencing, and real life designs amended accordingly. This is more than the video fly through we see to promote new buildings. I could sit and chat to others, within the reception and discuss our thoughts on the place.

The live singer was in a pub in London, streamed into a virtual pub, the Blarney Stone, on the Dublin sim. (The beer was real but from my own fridge)

The meeting was part of the Construction Group, with members across the globe, learning and sharing in a setting very similar to the thousands of meetings that occur across the country every night. Except this didn’t involve any traveling, didn’t interfere with family life, and with delegates from around the world, huge potential in global learning.

I am planning a regular meeting get to together to discuss the topics raised through isite – so if you have a second life – join the isite group in world, IM me from within second life or just leave a comment below . For more on second life, how to get into the groups, visit places such as the Palomar, contact me here, or leave comments below.

Hospital of the Future press release … Continue reading