Tag Archives: heal the future

2050: A built environment digital future within a climate hell?

15005533690_89bee8ef08_zCan a digital future help the built environment adapt to or mitigate a climate hell?  Two reports issued recently (01 Sept) caught my interest, both based on 2050 timelines:

Built Environment 2050: (BE2050) A report on our digital future by the influential group of young construction professionals. BIM2050,  illustrating the need for organisations to consider new skills, new processes and strategies around emerging digital technologies, with a focus around a BIM future The report comprises essays focusing on three key areas; education and skill; technology and process; and the culture of integration, highlighting risks, challenges, opportunities and benefits that come with large scale innovation and game-changing new technologies. Graham Watts, CIB comments in the intro  “It is an important discussion document of ideas and concepts that will, I hope, spark debate in the wider construction community.”

and, the other report issued on 01 Sept?

Reports form the Future, United Nations report, based on 2050 weather forecasts and reports warning of floods storms and searing heat in what it describes as a climate hell. (A Bulgarian weather forecaster in 2050 shows a red map with temps of 50deg) The blatant doomsday, disaster movie (think day after tomorrow) nature of the report is intentional, raising awareness in advance of the upcoming UN Climate change summit in New York, encouraging a faster response to climate issues.

So how can the built environment, itself responsible for a whooping negative 40% impact on climate change, adapt, mitigate and address climate change and how will a digital future contribute?   

The future of our industry is facing a high degree of  complexity, extreme competition and uncertainty with respect to the outcomes of climate change, availability of resources and the disruptive nature of innovation.

Regardless of their origin, (climate change) factors will indirectly stimulate a rate of change in our sector, which will have a direct impact on every aspect of the built environment as we know it.( BE2050)

The emerging, regenerative sustainability, (eg Living Building Challenge) thinking considers:

– The need to start doing more good, not just continue being less bad, flip from ‘nearly zero’, or ‘zero’ to net positive and heal the future. Not only in water and energy, but also in waste and addressing circular economy thinking.

– Addressing the wider health impact of buildings and facilities – removing harmful and toxic materials from the built environment in production, construction, in use and in disposal (or recycling)

– Working together in what may seem unconventional collaborations

– Create a new responsible industry! Turning the traditional social image of construction on its head

Given this, how will a digital future contribute? 

When reflecting upon Building Information Modelling in its context to a sustainability race, one realises that BIM is not just about modelling or intelligent design, but ultimately represents our emerging digital capabilities as an industry, and our future potential to meet these demands. (BE 2050)

After all it is big data, driven from BIM applications that is driving innovative approaches such as seeing buildings as material banks, not waste generators. The BE2050 report invites an ongoing debate, one absolutely essential to keep BIM and Digital approaches from falling into a bubble, (BIM for BIM’s sake?) and start debating the wider contribution for eg :

– Product data libraries that carriers health and material recipe composition to enable informed decisions through digital value engineering

– BIM approaches that  address functional and financial reuse and reincorporation of buildings and products from end of one building’s life into the next.

– BIM education that removes discipline silo’s and places BIM as a powerful tool to progress restorative sustainability approaches

Both reports are to be welcomed in the ongoing debate to correct the built environments sustainability failings of the past and face up to responsibilities for the future…

Sustainable Construction 10 years on – plus ca change?

Sorting through old papers over the holiday break, I came across this call to action from 2004

So why is the construction industry so slow in adopting sustainability principles?  There is more than enough sustainability knowledge in the marketplace to help organisations become more innovative, save costs and deliver a better product for their customers.

Business leaders and individuals are just not sufficiently engaged or enthused.

New entrants to our industry are beginning to expect high levels of ethical environmental and social performance. Clients are also beginning to expect higher standards and suppliers too are waking up to a better way of working. Organisations that do not adopt a sustainable approach will find it increasingly difficult to attract employees, clients and suppliers.

Now is the time to make the change and become more sustainable in everything we do.

The 2004 drivers for sustainability were based on risk management, driven in the main from client requirements (recall for example the influential MaSC – Managing Sustainable Construction programme launched that year) and we still ask the question if Business leaders and individuals are sufficiently engaged or enthused.

We have seen many strategies, targets and new drivers in the world of sustainable construction, the significance and danger of carbon wasn’t on the agenda back in 2004, the climate change wasn’t the issue as it is now, we barely understood CSR and social sustainability and we didn’t have social media as the powerful communication, learning and sharing tool.

And yet the approach to sustainable construction from contracting organisations remains the same. All too often I hear that “we only do it when the client or project demands it” And I notice increasingly that BREEAM (Very Good) projects seem to be losing the drive to change the way we sustainably construct – its business as usual for many working on such projects.

Going into 2014  we need to remain optimistic. Over the holiday period I have also been browsing some of the works of Richard Buckminster Fuller and struck by his quote

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

we need that new model now in construction, not one that challenges the existing – but makes a new way of doing things far more attractive and compelling on all counts. We can see a hint of this new model within the Living Building Challenge, Circular Economy and Restorative Sustainability thinking. For many reasons the built environment is known as the 40% sector, consuming 40% raw materials, producing 40% of total waste, contributing 40% traffic on roads, using 40% energy generated and so on.


Lets flip these negatives into positives and heal the future.

We can only describe what we do as sustainable when we take less from the environment and when we contribute more to society than we take.

(We will be discussing this theme in our monthly Sustainable Leadership Conversation tweetchat on Tuesday 7th Jan at 7pm UK / 11am PST – follow the #sustldrconv hashtag on twitter)