The Ego Eco Seva thinking that many will have heard me talk & present on was developed from FutuREstorative and through COSTRestore. The Ego Eco phases are somewhat self explanatory, and Seva, taken from Sanskrit ‘serving others without reward’ is used as ‘doing the right thing because we are part of nature, not apart from’
“The planet does not want to be saved. Or rescued. Or even changed. Our planet wants to be loved. Love is not a game of numbers and spreadsheets, checks and balances, debts and contracts. It is an exalted dance of joy, respect and gleeful, mutual appreciation and true partnership.
We should all be dancing. But right now the music’s stopped. And I sense it won’t authentically restart until we properly reconnect with what really matters, our deeper selves, each other and our home”
Connecting with nature should be easy. It surrounds us, and we are ourselves part of nature. From early TQM and worship facilitation days, I used getting out of the classroom, hotel or business conference room for a walk as means of introducing more energy and creativity into the sessions. Indeed my approach to connecting, although not called that in the 1990’s (I referred to this as finding your site spot to think) was to
Find a nice spot
Today we may add do not share the experience through social media, its yours – something inconceivable back in those 1990’s business or university construction improvement modules.
Yet, as we spend 90%+ of our time indoors, getting out into green space to find that nice spot is not easy for all. We are greening our buildings and spaces with biophilic design, more green landscaping, and great initiatives:
The 10 minute initiative is a USA mayoral programme to ensure everyone in their cities has high-quality park or green space within 10-minute walk of their home or office. Whilst this sounds a great, just try walking in a city for 10, even 5 minutes, through our typical built environments, it is quite a stretch.
We have wonderful green community spaces emerging within our inner cities. I visited the Phoenix Community Garden in London recently as research for a possible community garden in our local Lancashire town. We need more of this.
London contractor Modus, encouraging project staff and operatives to eat lunch in green space through maps showing where they can find green space close to the project.
But connecting with nature is not just about health …
In FutuREstorative I referred to biophilia as the Secret Sauce for Sustainability. The more biophilic connectivity with nature we have within our built environment, the better the access to real nature connectivity, then the better our sustainability behaviour, and importantly the better our creativity and imagination for regenerative climate crisis solutions.
Originating in FutuREstorative and further developed in conjunction with COST RESTORE, this PQQ for Assessing Regenerative Sustainability Capability template details areas of regenerative sustainability that a client, the design team (or design and build contractor) should be considering, and seeking evidence of understanding, approach and experience from the potential supply chain in written responses and in interview
REGENERATIVE SUSTAINABLE PROCUREMENT
From COST Restore publication: Regenerative Construction and Operation Bridging the gap between design and construction, following a Life Cycle Approach consisting of practical approaches for procurement, construction, operation and future life.
RegenerativeSustainable procurement is the transition between the sustainable design vision and the realisation of that vision. Within the regenerative sustainability paradigm, it is vital that the construction process of the project along with the facilities management of the project is undertaken in a manner that is not only socially just and ecologically sound but is regenerative in enabling human and ecosystems to thrive.
The template should be tailored to meet project specifics.
Request a customisable copy of the Regenerative Sustainability PQQ
Writing in FutuREstorative back in 2016, I looked at what a construction project would look like in response to the Living Building Challenge‘s “what if every act of construction made the world a better place” …
Projects would be net positive in all aspects, on place, nature, water, health, even knowledge and of course carbon.
Construction projects are carbon-positive: Strict carbon planning and management is key. Remaining carbon emissions after all carbon management improvements have been made are addressed with restorative offset programmes.
For new buildings, it is critical to focus on reducing embodied emissions;
For existing buildings we need to focus on reducing operating emissions.
The largest reductions came from the use of high-mass and energy- intensive materials.
Carbon and Construction carbons are not understood.
Lloyd Alter writing in Treehugger established Upfront Carbon as a key concept term in addressing the ‘Climate Emergency’. ‘Embodied carbon is not a difficult concept at all, it is just a misleading term … I have concluded that it should be Upfront Carbon Emissions, or UCE”. (By the way, Lloyds articleLet’s rename “Embodied Carbon” to “Upfront Carbon Emissions” is a must read that also illustrates how twitter conversations, with Elrond Burrell, can lead to improved industry thinking)
ARRO: a project carbon hierarchy
To achieve a positive carbon project, focusing on the essential upfront carbons,. FutuREstorative proposed a robust carbon hierarchy approach. As the waste hierarchy of ‘recycle, reuse, dispose‘ has become part of our construction waste lexicon so ARRO – Avoid, Replace, Reduce and Offset.should become part of the carbon lexicon
Avoid: carbon through regenerative low carbon design, construction planning and sustainable facilities management …
Replace: high carbon techniques and activities with low carbon, regenerative solutions…
Reduce: seek to reduce carbon through local material and supplier procurement and a focus on construction travel and transport, carbon productivity and construction efficiency …
Offset emissions that cannot be managed out. But be aware you cannot offset the toxic greenhouse gas emissions eg NOX from use of diesel plant and transport.
It is worth noting that the RIBA 2030 Challenge calls for a reduction in embodied (upfront carbon) … rising incrementally from 50 in 2020 to 75% over the next decade before offsetting become acceptable
Asked recently at the end of a keynote zero carbon talk for three actions that we should be doing today, I responded with firstly to Take Back, secondly to Stop and thirdly to Think like a Tree. Admitedly, his was on the spot thinking, but based on a decade or so of engagement with sustainability thinkers, researchers, scientists, practitioners, it makes the basis for a good strategy
Take Back – On our watch , over the last 30 years , of urging sustainable construction, carbon in the atmosphere has increased from 320 to 415ppm. And we in the built environment are responsible for 40% of that increase. To get back to the science based safe target of 350 we need to be taking carbon out of the atmosphere. Therefore, the most responsible thing we can do is to design and construct buildings that are carbon sinks. Buildings that lock carbon away.
Stop – or at least severely reduce putting pollutants and carbon, into the atmosphere.
Think Like a Tree – carbon is an essential building block within nature. We need to rethink and understand carbon cycles, acknowledge that carbon is not the enemy. We need a better construction carbon and eco – literacy so we fully understand carbon as a natural currency cycle, evaluating carbon efficiency (carbon productivity) as we do financial efficiency.
Once we see carbon as a ‘currency’ then we can understand carbon productivity – how much value of building are we delivering for each unit of carbon emitted. This should become the KPI for projects, alongside or even replacing the measure of productivity in labour terms. It is one of the most simple of KPI’s., or could be, construction cost divided by upfront carbon. We tightly monitor and measure construction value, and we measure construction carbon, albeit unevenly.
In conclusion then …
An ABC for (Net) Zero Carbon Construction
Adopt a carbon strategy: of take back, of stopping emissions and of rethinking carbon as natural cycles,
Build robust carbon ARRO hierarchy strategies that Avoid, Reduce and Repair and Offset into every project
Carbon productivity monitored as a core KPI, with strong carbon leadership and literacy, that matches the level of focus we have on financial and safety performance within the industry
Next: Part 3 – Just What is Construction Carbon and Ecological Literacy
At the start of each year there is a searching for new, we feel we need something new, a new tool, a new message, a new tagline to recharge our sustainability approaches.
Over recent years I have loosely used hashtags to define my approaches, consulting, keynotes and thinking, for example #ImagineBetter and #EgoEcoSeva in 2018, 2019.
For 2020, I return to, and incorporate a tagline I first used way back in 2009 through keynotes and work associated with Green Vision at Leeds Beckett and then incorporated into FutuREstorative in 2016 … #HealingTheFuture
“Recharging nature recharges the human spirit. In 2020, we could all do with some of that” @GeorgeMonbiot
Through climate & ecology emergency declarations and increased climate justice awareness we now have a sense for the urgency in not only reducing our impact, (being less bad) in being regenerative (doing more good) but also in repairing damage done, on our watch over the last 30 years or so. I feel Healing the Future sums this well, whether it be carbon, climate justice or ecological healing.
My 2019 twitter profile image took the warming stripes from Ed Hawkins and reversed them, showing the journey we have in front of us to reduce carbon back to 350ppm, to keep global temp increases below 1.5 … and maintain climate justice. My 2020 profile image is from a slide used in 2011, for a Green Vision presentation, entitled Time to Heal the Future.
What if we lived in a time when the human imagination flourished and anything felt possible.
It was back in 2008 when I first came across Rob Hopkins through his Transition Handbook. This helped shape a lot of my sustainability thinking at the time, (Time for built environment transition?) and in turn participation in Transition Town activities here in the North West. Writing in 2008, from a future 2030, Rob looked back over transition achievements, to when “in 2011, the Government initiated the concept of the Great Reskilling in the training of construction industry workers” with skills and mindset to address a sustainable future.
Of course that reskilling is still to happen within the built environment sector, and is ever important as we look to circular economy, toxic free and nature based construction techniques and materials. Fast forward to Rob’s latest book, What If …From What Is To What If … What if we had undertaken that construction re-skilling back then?.
What If does have a sprinkling of the climate doom gloom we face (and read in many climate change texts at the present) but the focus is on our capability to reimagine a better future and in asking the question how can we unleash the power of our imagination to create the future we want.
This resonates well with me, and with many of the messages I have used over recent years, in FutuREstorative in 2016 and in the series of #imaginebetter keynotes for Specifi and others through 2018 into 2019. And it is indeed core to the Living Building Challenge call to “imagine if every act of construction made the world a better place”
What If takes us on a deeper exploration of ‘imagination’ in an inspiring and urgent call for us to look deeper, to reconnect, with place, with nature, with ourselves and to reimagine a better future with a renewed sense of possibility.
Within sustainable design we focus on topics such as biophilia, that FutuREstorative described as the secret sauce for sustainability behaviour, to rekindle our believe that we can achieve a restorative future. Yet, spending 90% of our time in buildings we increasingly suffer solastalgia – a distress and yearning for earlier times, of better childhood memories, of a cleaner, more natural environment, that ebbs away our power to imagine a better environment, or reclaiming the one we have lost
Worringly, What If details how we are losing our capacity for imagination through dependency on technology, through loss of biodiversity, disconnection with nature and a degradation of of our environment, pushing us further into a spiral of being unable to imagine, and then achieve, a better future.
What is the impact on our imaginations of freefalling biodiversity and abundance? And, the corollary, is a diminished imagination to blame for the tolerance of such abject (biodiversity) tragedy?
What If revisits the power of our imagination, with stories, research and case studies, in play, as a vital element of our health, as a core element of connectivity with nature, of our ability to ask better questions and then importantly explores what if our imagination and desire for a better future came to pass.
On the dustcover, What If is described as a passionate call to action, to revive and to replenish not only our individual imaginations but a collective imagination, and once achieved there could be no end to what we may accomplish.
What is the collective noun for declarations? An argument, (used to describe architects and wizards) sounds a good fit. But I like a Promise of Declarations.
Coupled with recent findings from the IPCC, the UK’s CCC Net Zero Report and inspiration from Greta Thunberg and school strikers, over 100 local authorities, have declared a climate emergency and / or committed to net zero carbon by 2030 or 2050. And within the built environment we have declarations from Architects (now over 500 practice signatures), Landscape Architects, Structural Engineers, Service Engineers, Creative Communicators and even Construction Supply Chains. Check them out:
And, if anyone is setting up, or knows of a construction sector emergency declaration, I would be more than keen to assist/support
Tell the Truth: The first objective of call of extinction rebellion is to recognise that a climate emergency exists and to tell the truth. The second is to Act Now. Now that these groups, institutes, practices and individuals have recognised a climate emergency problem exists, we can act, and now is the time to turn these commitments into actions.
Act Now – All of these declarations have similar, reassuring, commitments for faster change in our industry towards regenerative approaches. And in doing so recognising that business as usual sustainability (BAUS) has not moved the needle on carbon, global climate temperatures or biodiversity.
“faster change in our industry towards regenerative design practices”
Act Now – Reimagine carbon – the greatest contribution we can make in the built environment, given that we emit 40% of emissions, is to design, deliver buildings that store carbon.
Act Now – Declare: Only with greater transparency in respect of the products we use, can we address impacts our buildings have on human, biodiversity and planetary health. Declare is focused on taking toxic materials out of the Built Environment through fostering a transparent materials economy free of toxins and harmful chemicals.
3 Collaborate and going beyond silos, we cannot do this alone and will need the might of all good collaborative working approaches from the last 30 years. One powerful benefit of Living Building Challenge accreditation, in not awarding certification until design intent is proven over a 12 months continuous period, is the way in which design, construction, facilities managers and those using the building have to collaborate for sustainable success