Biophilia and Beauty

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” John Muir, The Yosemite, 1912

“Beauty is an experience – it is not the property of an object. It is not a permanent state, but the response a person will have to something, another person or action, a feeling or object.”

Over the weekend I sat down to read and review Wellbeing In Interiors, Philosophy, Design & Value in Practice by Elina Grigoriou, recently published by RIBA. A book that is indeed a welcomed and fresh contribution to wellbeing within the built environment. I was struck on the alignment of my thinking with that of Elina in particular regarding ‘beauty’.

The latest edition of Living Building Challenge, 4.0, has moved biophilic design from the Health and Happiness ‘petal’ to Beauty. This takes a little understanding of the philosophy of beauty and nature, something Elina describes within Part 1 ‘Philosophy: prerequisites and outputs of wellbeing’

There is a caveat here., in that we should strive to be far less human-centric when considering biophilia and create buildings and spaces that are both regenerative and beneficial to nature and to humans. Seeing ourselves as part of nature not apart from, and nature as something that happens around us. In this thinking Biophilia would have found a better home in the Place petal, celebrating and recognising our inclusion within Ecology of Place.

Elina refers to the Living Building Challenge, noting the requirement towards creating aesthetically beautiful buildings and spaces, where beauty is a key requirement for a sustainable outcome.

a requirement that neatly explains LBC’s vision in nurturing designs that do not just elevate but celebrate peoples spirit and inspire everyone to be and to do better.”

The conclusion follows that if we design and incorporate biophilic principles within our buildings, we are creating beautiful buildings.

Wellbeing in Interiors also sheds light on another issue I am currently exploring, that of measuring biophilic interventions. Our COST Restore working group looking at KPI’s for interior comfort has identified biophilia as a key performance driver, and exploring indicators that observe successful biophilic designs.

Wellbeing in Interiors addresses this issue in the chapter defining project KPIs and UPA’s (User Profile Activities) within in the ‘Value in Practice: Measuring Wellbeing” section, and again, I am inspired with alignment on my thinking regarding the use of Maslow’s hierarchy (a commonly talked about but underused model) as the basis for inhabitant wellbeing when conducting POE assessments.

Indeed Wellbeing In Interiors provides much fresh thinking for moving the increasingly stale POE and ‘user’ evaluations into a modern, regenerative approach to measuring and monitoring the value of wellbeing interventions.

I look forward to exploring more of Wellbeing In Interiors in future review and insight articles.

Image: Google Earth

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UK’s first Best Practice Benchmarking Awards 2012

It was a real pleasure to sit on the judging panel for the UK’s first Best Practice Benchmarking Awards 2012, devised by the UK Benchmarking Institute in conjunction with The Best Practice Club and Ideas UK at the 2012 Ideas UK Conference on 8th November.

France Telecom Orange and HSBC received awards for their outstanding benchmarking projects.

France Telecom Orange for its “Broadband MTBA (Mean Time Between Assist)” project led by Thierry Denant, Senior Benchmarking Manager

HSBC, for its “When Social Media meets Business Strategy” project led by James Shewry, Best Place to Suggest Manager.

Ray Wilkinson, founding fellow of The Benchmarking Institute and director of the Best Practice Club explains:

“The Benchmarking Awards were set up to recognise examples of best practice in large organisations and raise awareness of benchmarking as THE most powerful business performance improvement technique around today.  Successful benchmarking requires organisations to identify clearly what performance they want to improve, understand it fully and then select, adapt and implement the most appropriate best practice available.  None of this is easy to do and many organisations have wasted lots of time, effort and money in benchmarking activities that have failed to deliver business benefits. Lack of awareness of how best to apply best practice is the root cause of this.

Benchmarking in its broadest definition remains the most popular performance improvement tool, although this claim would include the simple act of comparing performance with another organisation through KPI’s rather than structured benchmarking.

It was a pity that although interest was high there were no entrants from the built environment sector. Hopefully this will be corrected in 2013. Benchmarking remains an important business improvement tool for the sector, and as Paul Morrell commented recently, benchmarking should be driving construction costs.

“If a company wants to see a future, 80% of what it will have to learn will be from outside its own industry.”

As our improvement, communication and sustainability agenda has widened considerably with topics not traditionally found in construction, for example, social value, Corporate Social Responsibility  healthy materials and so on, it is arguably external benchmarking that will return maximum improvement to organisations and the industry.

The Benchmarking Awards is a judged competition, celebrating outstanding benchmarking at individual project level.  After all submissions were assessed, finalists were then selected and invited to present their submissions on the 8th November, at the Ideas UK Conference, where they were subjected to an in depth questioning process to explore the details of their benchmarking project.

The 2013 Awards will open for submissions from March next year.

The Benchmarking Institute consists of a wealth of unparalleled benchmarking experience. Check out the list of founding fellows and industries represented.

If you are interested in dramatically improving your business, looking to gain far much more value from KPI’s or just curious of how benchmarking can help reduce costs, the Benchmarking Institute can help.  Please do get in touch.

Awards reported in Project Manager

Eagle eyed observers will notice the Benchmarking Award is a replica of the Ordnance Survey trig column flush bracket plate. More here on wiki

2008 KPI’s

Constructing Excellence issue 2008 KPI data

The latest UK Construction Industry KPI data is now available interactive and on-line at KPIzone (http://www.kpizone.com). Supported by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), KPIzone contains over 700 graphs and charts, together with industry standard KPI definitions and methods of measurement.

In the age of open source, and the fact that these KPI’s are a key measure behind the UK Sustainable Construction Strategy is it correct to charge for access to this data and KPI material? Surely if Constructing Excellence and the Government are serious about change in the sector then these should be open to all to encourage greater use. Of course the CE business model would be then around benchmarking and sharing, ie a support service rather than selling a product.