One: 2016 is the year Building Information Management in the UK becomes mandated for public sector projects. Our ongoing challenge is increasing the scope and application, across all the built environment sectors and organisations, moving us towards a digital and data driven industry.
Two: The 2015 Paris Agreement sets ambitious intent to cap global warming to 1.5deg C. Current built environment sustainability strategies and approaches are based around a 2deg cap, with targets too low or too slow. Our challenge is to enable the built environment to play it part, for which we will need all the restorative sustainability tools we have at our disposal. We need to flip our 40% negative impact, but can no longer seek to be near zero or net positive but need to push towards being demonstrably ‘very positive’.
Three: Health is the new GreenBuild. We have seen a big increase in health and wellbeing awareness with biophilia now firmly within the sector’s lexicon. Our challenge is to ensure health and wellbeing is a key driver in design, in materials, in the construction process and within building operations.
Four: our biggest opportunity is to now create the conditions that allow for leadership in integrated and collaborative thinking, combining the innovative approaches and development from the BIM, Restorative Sustainability and Healthy Buildings agendas.
These challenges are explored in depth in forthcoming RIBA Book:
Aside from building materials that present obvious and accepted hazards to health (asbestos, leadpaint etc) it is PVC that generates the most discussion when exploring the Materials RedList imperative in Living Building Challenge training or workshop sessions. To design and construction buildings that are PVC free seems impossible to many, but LBC projects are doing just that through viable alternatives.
The Perkins+Will white paper, Healthy Environments, Whats New (and Whats Not) with PVC published last week (16th Nov) reviewed why PVC is on their ‘precautionary list’ in light of recent advances in PVC chemistry and manufacture. The white paper, a collaboration with the Healthy Building Network, to promote health in the built environment, concluded that despite advances in production, PVC should remain on their precautionary list.
Influential materials rating systems, including the Living Building Challenge building certification and Cradle to Cradle product certifications recommend avoiding PVC. Influential building owners such as Kaiser Permanente and Google have adopted PVC avoidance policies. Perkins+Will, an international architecture practice with about 1,000 architects, included PVC in its Precautionary List as a substance for which to seek alternatives.
“Exposure to a single PVC fire can cause permanent respiratory disease… Due to its intrinsic hazards, we support efforts to identify and use alternative building materials that do not pose as much risk as PVC to fire fighters, building occupants or communities.” Richard M Duffy, International Association of Fire Fighters139
This does not mean that Perkins+Will has eliminated the specification of all PVC-based products. Instead, in keeping with the precautionary principle, when evidence indicates a relevant adverse finding as it relates to human health or negative environmental impact, Perkins+Will seeks to, where possible and appropriate, present alternatives to building owners for their consideration. The goal is to empower design teams to make informed decisions, recognising that this is an issue where scientific certainty is elusive.
Perkins+Will includes PVC on the Precautionary List because it presents hazards to people and the environment, beginning with its synthesis and continuing through its manufacture into products, use, and additional significant hazards during its disposal or recycling.
The white paper includes detailed analysis on the Health Hazards Associated With PVC and Hazardous Emissions from PVC, but the section on Avoiding PVC hazards through substitute materials will be of great help for those seeking PVC free constructions.
I was honoured to be invited to the EuroFM Research Symposium as a guest of EuroFM, held at the recently completed Technology Innovation Centre at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.
As promised, here are my thoughts from the day, and further links to the issues I raised during the day, in conversation or in the panel presentation/debate:
We do not have luxury to continue being incrementally less bad, and with the built environment’s 40% negative impact, the facilities Management sector, (led by the research community) has a huge opportunity and responsibility to flip to being more good.
We have been talking about Sustainable FM for at least a couple of decades, but still we haven’t made any real progress. The environmental impact of how we manage facilities is huge, but remains something we struggle to fully understand, to measure and to address.
It was good to see Restorative Sustainability language within Keith Alexander’s opening presentation – laying down a challenge to the sector to adopt different thinking for sustainable FM
However it was disappointing to see FM research updates or proposals that start from a very dated perspective. Starting from Brundtland’s definition is last decades thinking – and has an odd message, perhaps giving licence to do nothing …. far better to adopt Yvon Chouinard’s (Patagonia) approach – ‘ Sustainability means we give back more than we take” – Restorative or Net Positive FM!
I did question the “in depth studies into sustainable building schemes” that have not picked up on the relatively new thinking standards such as Living Building Challenge, Well Building Standard, Cradle to Cradle, Circular Economy and so on. FM research has to be credible and leading edge for practice to listen and adopt.
Research proposals presented missed the huge opportunities for FM to engage with the wider sustainability agendas, in particular on people and health issues. (Note: the days theme being People Make FM)
Indeed the claim that FM contributes to the health and wellbeing of people needs to be backed up with evidence. Anecdotally, it is possible that FM ( and the wider built environment) could be putting people’s health at risk – through continued inclusion of toxic materials in buildings, (PVC? Formaldehyde glues?), a lack of biophilic thinking, promoting lifts over stairways, standing desks, poor air quality, lighting quality and so on. It is on these ‘health’ issues that the Well Building Standard should be a fundamental part of the sustainable FM agenda.
I did note that on the tour of the 3 month old BREEAM Excellent TIC Building, prior to the symposium, many of the FM delegates commented on the ‘new building smell’ – unfortunately now an indicator that chemicals may have been used in the finishes and adhesives.
It was good to see the work in development on Smart Cities and Internet of Things from Prof Keith Jones at Ruskin University, showing the collaborative joined up research necessary to address complex (as in complexity theory) and wicked problems of sustainable smart cities.
Research to Practice was the theme for the end of day panel session where access to research by FM practice was discussed. I still wonder why research is blind to social media? As an example there were only two of us tweeting (myself @fairsnape and Iain @IainMurray) – but still our tweets reached approx 20k accounts, all researchers, would I am sure, like to have seen their research message reach 20k accounts.
It was, as ever, a real delight to introduce Living Building Challenge thinking and the Bullitt Centre to the EuroFM Research to Practice panel session. This is where sustainable EuroFM Sustainability FM thinking needs to be, driving a wedge into the future, demonstrating what is possible, not wrestling with a dated definition of sustainability.
the World FM Day on 10th June celebrates Building Resilience for the Future as an online debate throughout the day – a great opportunity for the FM Research community to engage and share their work.
Also on the 10th June the Brightest Greenest Buildings Europe virtual expo opens – again a free to attend event giving an opportunity to learn, share and engage with others across Europe.
And, also on 10th June, (a busy day!) our Living Building Challenge UK Collaborative meets at Leeds Beckett to explore the issue of healthy and materials.
If any of the above comments seem a little negative and critical, forgive me, but the intention is to be constructively so, and after all, one of the Living Building Challenge advocacy messages is to ‘stir the pot’, … o challenge current thinking.
One of the more interesting and potentially industry game changing announcements coming out from the ILFI 2015 conference in Seattle last week was the launch of The Living Product Challenge (LPC).
Initially introduced at the LF 2014 conference with more detail released this year along with more on the concept of the “Ecological Handprint” (not a new concept, but one that is set to gain more parlance now adopted by the ILFI)
The LPC challenges manufacturing organisations to make products with a positive “handprint” i.e. encouraging products that are net-positive and transparent throughout the entire life cycle. (Ecological Handprints will measure the positive impact that a product causes across its life cycle, such as harvesting more water and generating more energy than was required to make the product)
There could be reservations with a requirement for LPC accredited organisations to hold other ILFI standards such as Just and Declare, seeming a little incestuous perhaps. However sticking to the LBC approach of philosophy first, advocacy second and accreditation third, lets focus on the philosophy and advocacy to improve the sector, and address certification issues later. Living Product Challenge is looking to operate in an increasingly crowded healthy material transparency and green directory arena, yet the absolute-ness of the criteria, (you do or you don’t) will undoubtedly differentiate.
Buildings that consists solely of products and technologies that themselves do more good than harm, across environmental, social and economic spectrums, in manufacture, construction and in use is a very powerful statement for a regenerative future.
And its an approach of course that responsible organisations within the built environment should be adopting. And here are a whole new set of questions to ask; before designers specify materials; when contractors procure products and as facilities management upgrade/replace products.
Re-imagine the design and construction of products to function as elegantly and efficiently as anything found in the natural world.
Products are informed by biomimicry and biophilia; manufactured by processes powered only by renewable energy and within the water balance of the places they are made.
Products improve our quality of life and bring joy through their beauty and functionality.
Imagine a Living Product whose very existence builds soil; creates habitat; nourishes the human spirit; and provides inspiration for personal, political and economic change.
Like the Living Building Challenge (LBC), the LPC consists of 20 specific “Imperatives” under seven “Petal” categories. All 20 requirements are needed for full LPC certification, or Imperative and Petal certification options . Many of the imperatives will be familiar to those already au fait with the Living Building Challenge, with a few new additions and definations, for example:
Positive Handprint: The manufacturer must demonstrate that the product gives more than it takes over its entire life cycle,
Net-Positive Waste: Water use and release from manufacturing the product must work in harmony with the natural water flows of the site and its surroundings.
Net Positive Material Health: The product must be safe for human exposure during manufacturing, use and end-of-use.
Human Thriving: The product must contribute to an active, healthy lifestyle and be designed to nurture the innate human/nature connection.
Product Fit to Use: Durability, warranty, and useful lifespan must have a direct relationship to environmental impact and embodied energy.
Equitable Product Access: Products sold to consumers must be affordable to the people who manufacture them, and products used in buildings must not unduly impair the affordability of those buildings.
‘Architects have a greater ability to improve public health than medical professionals’
A provocative statement made by physician Dr. Claudia Miller, assistant dean at the University of Texas School of Medicine, at a recent healthy building materials panel moderated and blogged by Kirk Teske on his Point of View blog.
The panel* made a unanimous call for cooperation and transparency from building product manufacturers … the type of collaborative action our industry needs to shift the building materials paradigm from translucent to transparent, and from toxic to healthy
Here in the UK we are seeing the Green Deal gearing up, which, putting aside the programmes finance and operational uncertainty, has a huge potential to improve public health and NHS health costs. A benefit not addressed or recognised to date. (Particularly given the UK’s lowest ranking across European Countries for health and housing related issues)
How would Green Deal look, and what additional health benefits would it provide, if the scheme embodied Living Building Challenge’s Red List Materials? Seems a no brainer to me.
Likewise the recently announced PF2 Education Funding Agency programme for schools in relation to educational building occupant health.
Google may be the influential game changer, globally they are opening 40,000 square feet of office space a week (including a new UK HQ in London). And none of those workplaces will use any of the materials on the red list developed by the Living Building Challenge. Google’s decision stems from two principles, a focus on health and vitality of its employees and cost of healthcare