Tag Archives: FutuREstorative

For Peats Sake …

Notes and thoughts from attending the informative XR For Peats Sake hosted by XR Morecambe Bay via Zoom yesterday evening, leading the event, Si Thomas, Peatland Restoration Officer, Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

Key and important ‘peat’ messages from Si Thomas included

  • Over 40% of our green house gas emissions come from degraded peat
  • Restoring our peatland habitat would give 37% of the mitigation need to meet Paris Agreement by 2030

There were a number of Key Actions discussed, but the most important, in my opinion, was that of Education in respect of peat free compost, but perhaps more importantly awareness on peatlands negative and positive contribution to the carbon emergency we face.

When we think of carbon reduction (and we have to make some 10% reduction per annum to meet Paris Agreement) we think of using less fossil fuel, taking less plane based holidays, driving less, using less heating and offsetting through tree planting. We rarely think about improving the carbon capture of peatlands. This has to change.

Peatland plants and insects are as beautiful and important as the trees and biodiversity we find in forests and rewilded areas. And can be as vital to our own health and wellbeing, with the increasing biophilic recognition of the importance of fractals and natures patterns, even in miniature. (Ref Terrapin Bright Green forthcoming Biophilic Design & Complexity: A Toolkit for Working with Fractals)

During the writing FutuREstorative, I spent time walking and bothying in the Rannoch / Corrour Moor area in central Scotland, giving me time to appreciate both the beautiful and awesome landscapes of a healthy peat land area and the wonderful intricate detail of its biodiversity.

FutuREstorative extracts:

We will see protecting areas of wilderness and Habitat Exchange become part of the overall restorative sustainable development package, and a key element in our corporate social responsibilities. We now recognise and accept the significant and negative impact the built environment has placed on the natural environment over many decades; not only should we be addressing immediate impacts on a project by project basis, but we should also take positive action to protect other habitats in recognition of past damage and helping to heal the future. If we are serious about restorative sustainability, then habitat exchange – either physically, or through effective advocacy and/or offset programmes – should be seen as part of the cost of construction

As a recent Cambridge University shows, rewilding and restoration of land would create carbon sinks to sequester carbon – through, for example, an increase in forestry to 30% (closer to that of France and Germany) and restoration of 700,000 hectares of peatland – and in doing so make a significant contribution to the UK’s target of an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.

Unfortunately UK peatlands are in a bad state of health, but they can be restored relatively cheaply and easily. Once the dominant vegetation, sphagnum moss, is returned, peatlands quickly begin absorbing carbon once again. A healthy bog also functions as an excellent water filter – an important aspect of sustainable water programmes, since 75% of our water catchment is in peatland areas. Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s natural carbon capture scheme provides opportunity for offsetting built environment carbon while making a positive contribution to Peatlands habitat restoration.

And for the beauty of peatlands and amazing characteristics of Spagnum Moss listen to A Pocket of Wind Resistance by Karine Polwart & Pippa Murphy

Links and videos shared during the For Peats Sake

For Peats sake XR Film

Repairing Peat Hags

Visualisation of carbon sequestration in temperate peatlands

Let Nature Help (Wildlife Trusts) Nature Based Solutions: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/sites/default/files/2020-06/Let%20Nature%20Help.pdf

Flow Country: https://www.theflowcountry.org.uk

The Carbon Farmer: https://www.thetopofthetree.uk/the-carbon-farmer

Standing in the literal and virtual front lines for equality.

Within the closing pages of FutuREstorative I made the plea for a just sustainability …

(None of our) innovation, technology, biomimicry, biophilia or digital thinking will progress our sustainability performance if we do not have a matched and parallel improvement in equality, equity, diversity and justice. And now, as we strive for a 1.5°C cap on global warming and the attendant carbon reduction, we need to ensure that equity and equality remain at the top of every sustainability agenda.

There can be no sustainability in an unequal world. Indeed sustainability should embrace the three E’s of ecology, economy and equality.

As part of our sustainability journey, the language also needs to evolve – from one that is perhaps too combative, technical and confrontational to one that is mindful, and embraces a language of collaboration, sharing, care and love. There are signs that the language of business is changing as it incorporates more diverse, open and inclusive approaches.

I return to and close, for now, with one of the most important and powerful of the Living Building Challenge’s aims: the transition to a socially just, ecologically restorative and culturally rich future.

And, in the Black Lives Matters context I was impressed this week by the message to ILFI members from ILFI Board Chair Anthony Guerrero …

Achieving equity and racial justice demands standing in the literal and virtual front lines with our fellow Americans and global citizens, and saying “No More.”

Be courageous in this moment. Be as courageous as you are when designing a living building or living community. Be committed in this moment. At a certain point, the protests will stop—the media will move on—but your voice will still be needed: to plan, to organize, to vote, and to support change. 

Love the Reason to Celebrate EarthDay 2020

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’

This week I came across a brilliant Medium post from Ed GillespieThe End of ‘Saving the World’?” that far more eloquently describes what I have in mind when talking about Seva in this context …

Love: the reason to celebrate Earthday 2020

“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”

Lets restart the music … #EarthRise

Image result for earthrise

APRIL 22, 2020 MARKS 50 YEARS OF EARTH DAY ... YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE THE WORLD

Noticing Nature: Secret Sauce for Sustainability

How welcome is the current explosion in the media (books, guides, blogs, articles, tv and radio programmes) on the benefits of connecting with nature.

The first of the 2020 brilliant Out Of Doors series of programme on BBC Radio Scotland was dedicated to connectivity with nature, mostly through trees, in Scotland and beyond, a connectivity that spanned music and art as well as mental and physical health benefits

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
  • Sit
  • Notice things
  • Thats it

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.

This is reinforced by the current research published from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health looking more closely at the habits of 24,000 in the UK, highlighting:

  • Increase in nature visits led to increase in general environmental behaviour.
  • Increase in nature appreciation was associated with increase in behaviour.
  • Neighbourhood nature had direct and indirect effects via visits and appreciation.
  • Evidence emerged of nature visits compensating for low neighbourhood nature.
  • Effects of neighbourhood nature differed across specific environmental behaviours.

A PQQ for Regenerative Construction

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.

Regenerative Sustainable 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

A Carbon Hierarchy for (Net) Zero Carbon Construction

This is Part 2 of Zero Carbon Series. See Part One Carbon That Was then This is Now

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.

FutuREstorative drew on a Total Carbon Study from the Integral Group, DPR Construction and others that looked at the carbon profile through the life of a refurbishment project (DPR’s Construction San Francisco Office) and reported a number of key findings:

  • 􏰀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 article Let’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

ARRO: From FutuREstorative,

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


Image Source: Unsplash, EJ Yao

Healing the Future

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 …

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.

Rob Hopkins is the co-founder of Transition Totnes and the Transition Network

A Promise of Declarations

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 this is not just a UK initiative, there is also an Australian Architects Declaration at https://au.architectsdeclare.com.

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”

Reducing Impact no longer cuts it
We need to move positive good of Regenerative Sustainability

Act NowReimagine 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.

Reimagine Carbon, Carbon is not the Enemy

Act NowDeclare: 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

RE:Sources

Building Over Bluebells

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Jackie Morris in the latest episode of the excellent FolkonFoot podcast series mentioned that children in schools she had visited didn’t know what a wren or bluebell or dandelion was. This ‘revelation’ that led to the creation of The Lost Words with Robert Macfarlane and reinforced the importance of words, and reminded me, why in FutuREstorative, I referenced a passage from Robert Macfarlane.

In a recent revision to the Oxford Junior Dictionary, a number of entries no longer deemed appropriate to were deleted and replaced by more modern entries. As nature writer Robert Macfarlane noted: ‘The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow.’ These were replaced by block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail. As Macfarlane said: ‘For “blackberry”, read “Blackberry’’’. This emphasises the need to re-wild our language as a precursor to understanding the importance of connectivity.”

FutuREstorative

Imagine if those children, oblivious to what a bluebell was, move on to a career role in construction, or design or planning. Being unaware of the ecological importance and cultural history, would they be less likely to protect, and more likely to sanction development?

This is of course against backdrop of the UN biodiversity assessment that we will lose 1 million species over the next decade, due to amongst other factors, land development, and against the grain of the current biodiversity net-gain initiatives, and the signing of climate emergency declarations such as architects declaration that includes recognition of a biodiversity emergency.

The twin crises of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss are the most serious issue of our time. Buildings and construction play a major part, accounting for nearly 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions whilst also having a significant impact on our natural habitats.

Architects Declaration

Such a lack of knowledge reinforces the need for ecology, and or climate emergency however you wish to define it, be a taught not only in schools but also as an ecology 101 for all design, construction trade and management training programmes. As we move more and more towards natural solutions for our buildings and building services, understanding how natural ecological systems function is vital. Without such knowledge, we will not indeed be able to design buildings that function as trees, living buildings such as the Bullitt Center, still the greenest building in the world

(Buildings and Cities) behave so much like living organisms that it is time to begin thinking of them as such. They consume oxygen, water, fuel and other natural resources, and burp out the waste. They have circulatory systems and neural pathways and at least a reptilian sort of brain to provide governing impulses.

Seattle Times
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A Module Programme for students and professionals, based on FutuREstorative, takes participants from an understanding of culture and challenges, ecological and human health, through a new thinking to regenerative building standards and digital futures. For more information, just ask.