Modern Slavery : There can be no sustainability in an unequal world

As emphasised in FutuREstorative, sustainability is only possible within an equitable and socially just sector. Whilst we continue to have instances of unjust practices, of Modern Slavery, within our projects, supply chains and organisations, we simply cannot call ourselves sustainable, or worst, label our projects Excellent, Platinum or Outstanding.

FutuREstorative highlighted many innovations, inspirations and approaches that will help us with the transition towards a regenerative and sustainable future. Yet no innovation, technology, biomimic, biophilic or digital thinking will really progress our sustainability performance if we do not have a matched and parallel improvement in equality, equity, diversity and justice.

no sustainability in an unequal world

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 we now recognise that we need a new level of consciousness in the way we relate to nature for design and delivery of healthy, sustainable buildings, we need a similar ‘worldview’ recognition in how we respect those who produce our materials and buildings.

As part of our sustainability journey, our language in construction also needs to evolve – from one that is combative, technical and confrontational to one that is mindful, and embraces a language of collaboration, sharing, care and love.

We need a change in the narrative and address Modern Slavery in the wider context of a truly  ‘Just’ built environment, through for example mapping and monitoring against the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Modern slavery is currently blowing holes in 11 of the 17 SDG targets.

At a recent workshop we explored the causes of modern slavery, and in addition to the nature of our construction industry, (high labour, short-term contracts, geographic locations, fragmented supply chains), it is our continued drive for lowest cost, particularly in labour dominant work-packages that was seen as a real problem.

A powerful action we can take today is to embed modern slavery aspects within built environment sustainability standards and certifications. As for example JUST (Making Social Justice Your Business)  is embedded within the Living Building Challenge.

I closed FutuREstorative by repeating the most important and powerful of the Living Building Challenge’s aims: the transition to a socially just, ecologically restorative and culturally rich future.

This is a revisited version of the closing Epilogue within FutuREstorative. 

 

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Martin is recognised in the 100 modern slavery influencers index  

 

 

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Imagine Better

nature globeFollowing the success of my Imagine Better keynote for Specifi events, here are links and background reading to references made:

Much of the Imagine Better thinking is from here, my Fairsnape blog or from within FutuREstorative. Thoughts and comments and blogs from previous Specifi events are on the Specifi Blog

If you would like more information, or support in greater clarity, understanding and  interpretation of these ‘new normal’ themes please do not hesitate to get in touch. (We provide support to many organisations, including further ‘deep dive’ training, in house awareness sessions, support for bids and pitching to clients or just a chat with your team)

However, importantly we provide kick off and ongoing support for projects. As I mention in the presentations every project should commence with a Biophilic Design workshop. Speak to us about organising and facilitating your next project’s kick off.

Links to references made in the keynotes:

Yellowstone Park

Four Laws of Ecology revisited

Living Building Challenge 

Living Future Institute Europe 

FutuREstorative bibliography 

Economics of Biophilia 

Patagonia

Sustainable Development Goals 

Well Build Standard 

One Planet Living 

Declare and Red List 

Reimagine Carbon 

M C Construction  biophilic office 

 

Klout closes this week: are we now living in the world Klout built?

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@klout May 10 To all of our fans: after careful consideration we have decided to shut down the Klout website & the Klout Score. This will happen on May 25, 2018. It has been a pleasure serving you, and thank you for your ongoing support over the years. Details here: lith.tc/2wtAAEp

Klout came into the world of social media back in 2008, the same year as we founded Be2Camp, a network to explore application and potential of social media within construction. (At that time an alternative to Klout, PeerIndex was founded in 2009 by Be2Camp member Azeem Azhar)

Klout, the leading ‘influence score’ platform, ever-present over the last ten years, has generated much debate on influence scores and metrics, and been the back bone to many influence lists. Many of which I have appeared in, and delighted to have done so, from the early Guardian Sustainable Business lists to Global CSR influencer lists, Tridos Bank Sustainability Colour of Money listing, to the current and excellent Jim McClelland’s weekly (Built Environment/BIM/Modern Slavery) Top 500 series.  I think my highest Klout was 68 and I think of that as something to be proud of..

We will no doubt see one of Klout’s current competitors take its space – Kred. (And I hear today from Jim McClelland that the BIM Top 500 has adopted Kred)

Or maybe Kout has achieved what it set out to do, creating an influencer economy and reached the end of its ride – as Liriel Higa wrote recently in New York Times, We’re living in the world that Klout built.

On May 25, Klout will shut down, but not because what it set out to do is irrelevant. On the contrary: Klout is closing because, well, we’re living our Klout scores now. The “influencer economy” is thriving, and it has created a new vocabulary. I just reached 500,000 Facebook fans! My YouTube video went viral. OMG, did you see who commented on my Instagram post? I’m trending worldwide. I checked in so many times I’m the mayor of my local bar.

I was happy to get a professional boost from social media influence; today, entire careers are built on it. In our influencer-driven world, Kim Kardashian gets paid $500,000 for touting a product on Instagram. Product placement on social media is so rampant that Olivia Wilde felt compelled to include the hashtag #notanad when she posted a picture of new sustainably made sneakers by Nike.

Within my social media workshops and coaching sessions I point out the work of Kasanoff in 2013, that true influencers across social media, are Generous and Expert,in that they, we, are proactively generous with expertise before people need that information. As Munish Datta wrote in a contribution to FutuREstorative, Sharership is the new Leadership. And, as such, maybe influencers do not necessarily need a score or a ranking to be recognised.

However, we all, or many of us, like listings, high scores and the recognition to be ranked highly in listings. Listings based on Klout algorithms were once a pleasing mix of companies and individuals, demonstrating individuals have as much influence on improvement as large organisations, particularly in the construction world of sustainability, CSR, BIM etc, Such lists now topped out and dominated by large corporate and institutional organisations, suggest Klout scores have been compromised by perceived importance bias towards of organisations. It will be interesting to see how Kred rankings pan out on the large organisation / individual influence issue.

Klout may be no more, but the influence of Klout will live long.

4 Laws of Ecology: Revisited

Four Lawas of Ecology

I undertook the task earlier this week of reviewing references for our upcoming RESTORE working group publication {Sustainability, Restorative to Regenerative}. One of those references was to Barry Commoner’s popular quote and definition on ecology, that the first law of ecology is that everything is connected.

This lead me to pick up a copy and re-read deeper into Commoner’s 1971 The Closing Circle and revisit the Four Laws of Ecology.  The Closing Circle describes the ecosphere, how it has been damaged, and the economic, social, and political systems which have created our environmental crises. It gives us a clear and concise understanding of what ecology means that is evermore relevant today.

And timely, Commoner’s second law – everything must go somewhere – resonates with a comment I gave to our local Lancashire Evening Post on plastic pollution. (We need to We need to be critically questioning single use plastics and acutely aware of plastics impact on health and the environment – and be aware of what happens when we throw plastic away – as really, there is no ‘away’)

The First Law of Ecology: Everything Is Connected to Everything Else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all. “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” John Muir

The Second Law of Ecology: Everything Must go Somewhere. There is no “waste” in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown. Any waste produced in one ecological process is recycled in another. A core principle for the Circular Economy.

The Third Law of Ecology: Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but any human change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system” And in the context of chemicals of concern we are looking to eradicate from buildings (through eg the ILFI Red List) “The absence of a particular substance in nature, is often a sign that it is incompatible with the chemistry of life”

The Fourth Law of Ecology: There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. Exploitation of nature, will always carry an ecological cost and will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless.

The four laws warn that every gain is won at some cost. Because our global ecosystem is a connected whole, any impact, anything extracted from nature by human effort must be replaced. There is no avoidance of this price and delay only creates the ecological disruption and biodiversity loss we are witnessing.

This reinforces statements I make so often in presentations (see Specifi Edinburgh and RESTORE Budapest for example) and within FutuREstorative, that sustainability is the point at which we start to give back more than we take, and that we no longer have the luxury to just reduce our impact but we have delayed too long to do more good to rebalance the ecosystem equilibrium.

 

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Available via RIBA Bookshops

 

The Business Case for ‘Sustainable’ Buildings

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Three recent reports focus on the business case for sustainability, green buildings and human-centric buildings.

Are we now witnessing the new normal, where the question of sustainability cost is flipping from, how much extra will the sustainable building cost? to, what are the real costs in not providing sustainable buildings?

The WorldGBC Business Case for Green Building: A Review of the Costs and Benefits for Developers, Investors and Occupants, examines whether or not it is possible to attach a financial value to the cost and benefits of sustainable buildings.

The report highlights how green buildings can be delivered at a price comparable to conventional buildings and investments can be recouped through operational cost savings. It also notes that with the right design features, green buildings can create a more productive workplace.

The report specifically focuses on the potential benefits of green buildings throughout the various stages of the building lifecycle, from reduced costs during the design and construction phases through to improved health and productivity of workers when a building is in use.

“This is the first time all the credible evidence has been compiled into one collective resource”

  • Asset value: Emerging evidence in some markets of green buildings being able to more easily attract tenants and to command higher rents and sale prices
  • Design and construction costs: There has been an overall reduction in the costs associated with designing and constructing sustainable buildings
  • Operating costs: The direct benefits from green buildings in use (such as reduced energy and water use and lower long-term operations and maintenance costs) typically exceed any costs premiums associated with their design and construction within a reasonable payback period
  • Workplace productivity and health: The characteristics and indoor environments of green buildings can influence the productivity and health of workers who occupy them, resulting in bottom line benefits for businesses
The UKGBC Report Capturing the Value of Sustainability, Identifying the links between sustainability and business value focuses on a wider business case for sustainability, looking at at the challenges that businesses face in trying to identify the value they derive from their sustainability initiatives.

… the purpose of this report is to empower businesses and individuals to make the business case for environmental and social impact activities and to enable them to measure and demonstrate the value their organisations derive from such practices. 

Of particular note, relevant to my current work relating to FutuREstorative and with COST RESTORE in understanding the emergence of restorative and regenerative sustainability, this report notes we are seeing the rise of the restorative enterprise within the built environment

Much has been written on how businesses are moving towards doing more good rather than less bad. The phrases ‘net positive’ and ‘restorative enterprise’ are now appearing within sustainable business circles, with both referring to businesses that put back more than they take and restore social and natural capital whilst making a profit. Such businesses may be termed as using a ‘business with impact’ approach or being a ‘purpose driven’ organisation. In this context, ‘purpose’ may be de ned as ‘an aspirational reason for being which inspires and provides a call to action for an organisation, its partners and stakeholders, and provides bene t to local and global society’.

The white paper from Buildings 2030: Building 4 People: People-Centric Buildings for European Citizens published in November 2017 notes how the buildings we live and work in are affecting our environment, our physical & mental health, our wellbeing and our productivity.

The broad alignment of environmental and health agendas presents an opportunity to not only invest in better performing buildings, but also to improve the quality of life for people using these buildings. Enhancing the health and comfort of people in buildings has a huge potential for economic and societal benefits such as better health, increased productivity, reduced sick leave and a decrease in associated medical costs We call this approach “Building 4 People.”

Revolutionary, Regenerative Sustainability; RESTORE Training School

The UK RESTORE Training School

The first RESTORE Training School took place in Lancaster, UK between 14th and 17th November 2017 organised and facilitated by Martin Brown, Fairsnape. Over 40 trainees and RESTORE core group members attended, representing a great spectrum of sustainability disciplines, experience and EU countries. The four days were lead by trainers and guest lectures from the UK, EU and USA, but with a distinct Lancashire focus!.

The focus was firmly on Regenerative Sustainability, Biophilia, and Sustainability Education,  in four days trainees gained a deep understanding of Restorative and Regenerative Sustainability and the key topics from RESTORE working groups.

The week was very busy and very interesting, with topics and activities that went well beyond my initial scope and expectations” Trainee Report Feedback

Training school designed to progress the RESTORE Cost Actions purpose.

“I believe this was the beginning of something bigger and totally revolutionary”            Trainee Report Feedback

Discussions and agreement on sustainability definitions was a crucial start to the four day training school

“I received clear definitions and deep understanding of three basic, but important words: sustainability, restoration and regeneration. I think that this precise explanation will allow me to direct my research toward more “green direction” Trainee Report Feedback

 

“So one of the key insights to me was to understand sustainable design as a philosophy. It’s not a list of do’s and don’ts about materials, site development, and building systems. It’s a holistic ethic that includes all the stakeholders in the dialogue, encouraging feedback for continuous refinement and improvement. It seeks to imitate the efficiency and diversity of nature and create design solutions that are responsive, self-regulating, and full of spirit” Trainee Report Feedback

“Working with experts from different fields, discussing different ideas, learning about others and about their expereinces, their work, education, their side of the story – that is how you can learn so much in just few days, something that you can not learn by reading only books. I am so very glad that I was part of this Training School and I can surely say that I had a great time, but at the same time learnt a lot”  Trainee Report Feedback

“Do nothing today to compromise tomorrows generation” Also, the concepts of salutogenesis and healthy materials were introduced. These were completely new expressions to me, so besides trying to process all the information I had great times in the debate parts, where discussions among a completely heterogeneous group lead to a perfect understanding. Trainee Report Feedback

State of the Art and Visions from the working group subgroups central to the training school content

“Newly learned term: salutogenesis. The “sustainability” of the people living/working inside a building could be more important than the sustainability of the building itself”  Trainee Report Feedback

Quotes and comments shared through social media during the four days made for a good number of Regenerative Sustainability Takeaways …

“The Living Building Challenge presented itself as one of the most holistic sustainable building standards I have come across and I would really hope to get the LFA certification and aim for a LBC building in one of my future projects. I also thought the 20 LBC imperatives provide a great lens in which to scrutinise projects”. Trainee Report Feedback

Project visits to Brockholes and CVP enabled the students to witness the application of the topics covered during the training school. Planting trees at the Living Building Challenge Project ( in part to offset carbon from travel, but also to provide locally available Larch timber for any future cladding replacement of the Visitor Centre)

“New approaches were given, new ideas were born and this was only possible due to amazing hosts and organizers which knew how to keep us motivated and focused all day long… hard work was done, and great results were attained” Trainee Report Feedback

Read our Storify here 

Download our full infographic here

 

(Header Image Credits TopL JustEngland.org TopR Lancaster Uni. Bot L+R Martin Brown @fairsnape)

Regenerative thinking embedded in new DGNB System 2017.

nature globeSustainable building certification standards are immense influencers on not only the built environment sector but also commercial, industrial and domestic green lifestyles. With that influence comes a real responsibility in establishing the current direction of travel for the industry against a backdrop of climate, economic and social change.

Get it right, and we move closer to addressing major climate change issues, attaining carbon reduction targets and achieving ecologically, economically and socially just goals. Get it wrong and the negative impact ripples far beyond our built environment sector.

It is the purpose of ‘regenerative’ certification schemes not only to identify best practice requirements for design, construction and operation, but to go way beyond current best practices and establish a vision for sustainable buildings based on future requirements — with practice then measured against that vision.

FutuREstorative Working Towards a New Sustainability makes the case for regenerative building standards, using the Living Building Challenge, Well Build Standard, One Planet Living and The Natural Step as examples. Encouragingly, news of the 2017 DGNB System update, the result of an intensive internal review, could well now join that the regenerative sustainability standards family.

The following are extracts and comments are from a DGNB System update release,  illustrating its proposed alignment with current regenerative sustainability theme:

Sustainability should not be an add-on or nice-to-have. Instead, it should be seen as an integral part of every building project. Given the number of global challenges we now face and the demands of climate change, it will become increasingly important for everyone to face up to the key topics of sustainability, especially when it comes to implementing different aspects in practice. Paying lip service to sustainability or reacting simply because it looks good for marketing purposes will no longer be accepted

Health and Wellbeing: We build for ourselves – for people who spend most of their lives in buildings. This intrinsically means that people and their need for health and wellbeing must therefore be the lynch pin – the point around which everything revolves when making all the decisions that influence planning and building

 

Circular Economy: When selecting the materials to be used in a building it is necessary to consider that one day it may be disassembled or reclaimed. The DGNB certification system thus plays an important role in ensuring that material cycles are put in place so that products can be re-used or reclaimed, along the lines of cradle-to-cradle principles.

The DGNB System is therefore the first of its kind to make circular economy principles an assessable and measurable aspect of buildings. To promote the use of new methods, such solutions are rewarded with bonuses, in turn having a positive impact on certification outcomes.

Positive Contribution: The DGNB sees design quality and Baukultur (architectural culture) as a central aspect of sustainable building.  Version 2017 …looks more closely at any factors that consider a building’s contribution to its … environment.

 

Sustainable Development Goals: In 2016, the United Nations issued its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of specific and meaningful targets aimed at shaping the future development of our planet, encouraging people to think again and thus paving the way for life in a sustainable world. The DGNB supports the UN objectives and wants to encourage others to make a tangible and positive contribution to achieving these targets through certification.  All projects that achieve DGNB certification in future will also include a statement on the extent to which they contribute towards fulfilling the SDGs

 

Life cycle assessment of entire buildings. This is captured in the DGNB System in accordance with EU standards and ranges from how materials are produced to final deconstruction. It’s important that scientifically defined benchmarks are used to calculate and optimise impacts on the environment.

 

Innovation: It is the DGNB’s goal to promote new thinking and a willingness to step outside comfort zones. It was this underlying thought that resulted in a new instrument being added to the criteria contained in Version 2017: Innovation Capacities. With immediate effect, many of the criteria have been defined in a way that should motivate planners to pursue the best possible and the most sensible solutions for their project.

RelatedA case for reconstructing the world of sustainable building standards