A Sense of Urgency

I was delighted to be invited to present in Italy (REGENERATION Edition 2 in Dro, Trentino) and Scotland (SEDA Green Drinks in Ayr) recently on insights from FutuREstorative, updates from the LBC Cuerdon Valley Park project and in the case of many at SEDA, introduce the Living Building Challenge.

The Ayr event fell on John Muir’s Birthday and on the eve of Earth Day 2016, so this made a fitting and related introduction, and I guess constituted my annual EarthDay presentation, (something I have done at numerous events annually since 2009 – 2009 presentation is on slideshare here)

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The Brightest Greenest Buildings Europe 2015

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Brightest! Greenest! Buildings EUROPE Opens 10th June 2015 at 10am CET

The free-to-attend carbon neutral virtual exhibition dedicated to Europe’s most successful and greenest building projects and green building solutions opens on June 10th. 

Following on from the success of last years ExpoC21, (Sustainability Made Cool – my blog review here) the format for this year, under the title of Brightest! Greenest! Buildings, is very different.

UntitledThe Expo will run over a number of months with an evolving focus and a great Schedule of Events.

The launch of Brightest! Greenest! Buildings EUROPE 2015 on 10 June 2015  includes presentations by Delta Development Group, C.F. Møller, The Carbon Trust, MIPIM’s Innovation Forum, OVG Real Estate, Europe’s Green Building Councils, BUILD UPON: Co-Creating Europe’s National Renovation Strategies, launch of baseEUcities, and many more!

Brightest! Greenest! Buildings EUROPE 2015, as a virtual exhibition has been designed and organised an international team to promote the greenest building projects and associated solutions in Europe. Our exhibition and conference will reach 50+ countries in the European market in a very efficient manner. Last year, we had the participation of over 1500 of the greenest and most successful real estate investors, project developers, designers, green building consultants and rating tool assessors and other services as well as and technologies, products, and materials providers.

Organized under the patronage of the European Commission, Brightest! Greenest! Buildings EUROPE 2015 is very low cost for exhibitors, free for attendees, eliminates travel time and the associated carbon emissions, and benefits from the support Green Building Councils across Europe as well as other expert organisations. From our current partnerships and future efforts, we believe we will easily reach our target of 10000 high quality attendees and strong media coverage during the 12 month exhibition period.

Our introduction brochure and website – www.BrightestGreenestBuildings.eu – provides all the information about the event, the great organizing team, and the promotional plan and highlights from last year’s event. Booth features are described in the “Why Exhibit” section. Exhibitors can also configure their virtual booths in just a couple of hours using their existing promotional material.

We invite you to take a demonstration tour with our team of the virtual trade fair platform to see first hand how this works. Tours are scheduled at 3:30pm (Central European Time) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and at 10:30am on Fridays. Please note, the deadline to register to exhibit for the 10 June launch event is 29 May 2015.

UK_collaborative_logoAs in 2014, the UK Living Building Challenge Collaborative will have a presence at Brightest! Greenest! Buildings EUROPE 2015, join us on the 10th June and throughout the exhibition!

Related: Why EXPOC21 is a vital event for the built environment

Ecological Handprints: Construction materials that do more good not just less harm

Living Product Challenge. Click to access document on LivingFutures.org
Living Product Challenge. Click to access document on LivingFutures.org

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.

The philsophy:

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.

The Living Product Challenge ‘brochure’ pdf can be downloaded from here. The UK LBC Collaborative will be getting to grips with the LPC over the coming weeks, with a view to providing more information and introduction sessions later in the year.

Sources #LF15 Tweets,  https://living-future.org

Rethinking Water, Reclaiming Water #WorldWaterDay

This year the World Economic Forum identified “water” as one of the top 5 biggest societal and economic risks for the next 10 years. Climate change is affecting the water cycle, with water variability increasing and extreme events (floods and droughts) becoming more common and increasingly costly. The impact that the built environment has on water management in just about every other sector is significant, making water performance of buildings a corporate or social responsibility issue.

Here in the UK we may not have the acute water issues as for example being experienced in Perth or in California where they have less than a year’s supply of water. This shortage is due to a number of reasons such as removing water from the aquifers and not returning it (or indeed returning it treated with chemicals, and the reduced levels of snowpack, acute this year, that top up these aquifers)

Yet, in the UK we are experiencing floods and water shortages, restrictions and droughts more frequently, so rethinking water, in design, in construction and in building operations can only be a good thing.

The UK Living Building Challenge Collaborative has been exploring the Challenges’ Water Imperative and developing an overlay or interpretation guide for UK projects and clients looking to adopt Living Building Challenge approaches.

The Water Petal intent is to To meet all water demands within the carrying capacity of the site and to mimic natural hydrological conditions, using appropriately-sized and climate-specific water management systems that treat, infiltrate or reuse all water resources on-site.

Lets unpick that a little …

“Water Demands” One theme emerging, from the work of this group and my visit to a number of LBC projects in the Pacific NW is that we need to rethink water and the performance of buildings in water management, giving it the same focus as we do energy. Not to see water as an additional design criteria, but to be at the core of design, calculating and seeking ways top reduce water load, as we would with energy.

Reducing ‘water load’ for a building use can be achieved through waterless or composting WC’s such as those in the Bullitt Centre or though recycled water systems such as the busy VanDusen botanical garden visitor Centre in Vancouver.

13.2-ReclaimedWater“All water” – the CIRS building at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver – a sustainability research lab – is utilizing a Solar Aquatic System designed to mimic the purification processes of naturally occurring water systems in close proximity to human inhabitation, such as streams and wetlands, to produce clean water for use in the building

“Net Positive” – LBC projects will be water net-positive, for example, via the large underground (56k gallon water tank)  the Bullitt Centre can survive for 104 days without accessing mains water, the CIRS building can supply grey water to adjacent buildings.

“Reuse” Good buildings will recycle and reuse grey water more than once using natural systems. And without using materials deemed ‘toxic”, i.e. those on the Living Building Challenge’s Red List such as Chlorine and PVC. On a domestic level, water reclaiming systems such as Nexus eWater are enabling the recycling of rain water and grey water many times in a domestic closed loop system

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Systems that treat Good buildings will treat all water on site, ensuring no leachates and other nasty’s run off into the ground, into water systems, just as trees do, and as trees did that most likely stood on the site in the past, ensuring the aquifers remained as pure as possible.

 

 

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Thinking beyond SUDS, Constructed wetlands can and arguably should be incorporated into the structure of the building as well as being part of the landscaping.

Viewing buildings as a system of interconnected buildings is key to integrated design, rather than seeing each as stand-alone buildings. Here great synergies can be gained, moving reclaimed or harvested water from one building to another to meet need, using buildings as storage or as filters for others.

 

Construction phase … projects can develop water hierarchies, as we do waste and energy hierarchies, perhaps with a water plan, addressing the question “Why do we use drinking quality water for washing down site plant, keeping dust down etc.”

And to FM and building operations – spreading the water conservation message, through signage and through occupant ‘charters’ can all help gain respect for special water technologies within the facility. Going further Catering and food outlets could serve two vegetarian meals for every one meat – as the CIRS building does – to reinforce the vastly different quantities of water required to provide meat produce and veg / fruit produce (not to mention energy and travel impact)

And, on drinking water The WELL Building Standard for Water requires and promotes safe and clean water through proper filtration and other methods, requiring the appropriate quality of water for various uses. Again without harmful chemicals or materials.

IMG_2035So on World Water Day, a call to UK universities with a strong built environment and sustainability programme and values. Make your next university estates project a sustainable water building, along the philosophy of the Living Building Challenge, as a research project as the CIRS building does, or as a demonstration of what is possible – core to the Bullitt Centre remit. Influencing and inspiring the next generation of built environment professionals is so important.

“The era of harm reduction, half steps, and lesser evils is behind us. As a society, we need to be bold in ways that were once unimaginable. Luckily in the building sector, we now can imagine where we need to go”

If you would like more information on the work of the UK Living Building Challenge or indeed on the standard itself, please get contact me on fairsnape@gmail.com or Donna on d.m.lee@leedsbeckett.ac.uk or indeed follow us on twitter @fairsnape and @livingbldgUK

Seattle, Vancouver and Squamish: a sustainability visit.

Having just returned from a visit / tour of sustainability projects in the Cascadia, NW pacific area of Seattle, Vancouver and Squamish, combined with a outdoor vacation, I am now sorting copious notes, photos and observations from the trip that will form future blog posts and inclusion in my forthcoming book, FutuREstorative.

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There were so many ‘highlights’ of the trip that will feature in future articles, but, as a quick summary:

The lack of snow inhibited any real winter sports without really venturing deep into backcountry. I was later to learn that this year ‘pineapple express’ wind and low snowpack levels will have an adverse affect on water aquifers across the region.

Walking and biking in forests where bear, cougar and coyote roamed and (worryingly, so early in the year) had been spotted during our visit introduced a fission of alertness not known in the UK or Europe and made for interesting discussions on re-wilding the UK countryside!

A return visit to the Austrian House at Lost lake Whistler, a Passive House gift from Austria to the 2006 Olympics and Canada’s first PH registered project.

Understanding the distinctive heavy timber architecture of the Squamish area, and visits to buildings at the stunning location of Quest Campus, Squamish and the Environmental Learning Centre at the North Vancouver Outdoor School in Brackendale (winner of a Wood Design Award held in Vancouver that week)

Meeting with Sustainable Leadership Conversation co-host and friend Andrea Learned who took me on a great cycle tour through her ‘hood –  the Seattle Ballard area and along the Waterfront with stop offs at the Tractor Tavern (home of garage and grunge) Stone34 (Leed Platinum Brooks HQ) finishing with great social media / sustainability discussions over dinner.

Visits to Living Building Challenge projects, the CIRS building at University of British Columbia, the Bullet Centre in Seattle and the VanDusen visitor centre Vancouver as well as understanding other notable sustainability buildings such as the MEC HQ in Vancouver and Stone34 in Seattle.

Water featured in visits and discussions, in particular that we should start to address water in the same way we do for energy performance in buildings – from the impact on “fossil-water” through to buildings, like the Bullitt Centre acting like trees and returning 80% of water that falls on the building to the aquifer and in using the 20% many times in closed loop systems. And of course those waterless composting toilets …

Whilst in the Bullitt Centre it was fun to to provide a live update back to and converse with the Living Building Challenge UK Collaborative water petal workshop in Leeds.

But it wasn’t just the big restorative sustainability concepts that inspired, often it’s the small but awesome detail that is essential in reinforcing the messages, like the CIRS building on UBC where the solar aqua filter plant room is positioned at the entrance, viewed by all entering the building as a reminder. But perhaps the best message being in CIRS café area where two vegetarian meals are served for each meat meal, reinforcing the message of the resources in land and water to provide the meat meal compared to that of the vegetarian.

File 17-03-2015 09 03 34It was of course great to visit the Bullitt Centre and question behind the stories covered on the web and numerous articles; it really is an inspiring building and lives up to its green reputation. But now the real challenge starts – “to replicate the Bullitt Centre a thousand, a million times and fast” Over an iced tea with Denis Hayes we discussed the real possibility of a Bullitt Centre type project in Manchester as the hub for iDSP, the Institute for Design Space and Place.

Many inspiring chats and discussions gave insights into restorative sustainability for example with Tim Herrin at CIRS, with Brad Khan who really knows the Bullitt Centre inside out, with Denis Hayes, with the LBC team (great to meet and catch up with Amanda Sturgeon, Eric Corey Freed,  Hilary Mayhew, Stacia and Bonnie) and, completely by chance, at a Vancouver dinner party, a planner involved in the LBC certified Childcare facility at Simon Fraser University. An evening meal with Ken Carty, author and retired political scientist at UBC provided interesting insights into Canadian politics.

I guess no visit to the Pacific NW could be complete without getting to understanding some of the environmental politics – particularly to the north of British Columbia where the TNG and the proposed Northern Gateway oil sands bitumen pipeline is being fought to prevent environmental damage to an awesome wilderness areas. A visit to the newly opened, community located, Patagonia store in Vancouver provided further insights to Patagonia’s environmental and responsibility activity in the area via their excellent ‘zine booklet published for the stores opening ‘In the Land of the Misty Giants’ (issuu version here)

I should of course mention the reason d’etre for the trip was triggered by my partner, Soo Downe and her midwifery week at UBC with the highlight of her public lecture at the Inaugural Elaine Carty Midwifery Programme (Storify here)

But who would of thought that Cows would feature in my tour. Denis Hayes kindly gifted me a copy of his new book Cowed co-written with his wife Gail Boyer Hayes. Cowed provides a fascinating insight to how Cows impact so much both on our lives and the environment and was a great read on the long flight back from Vancouver.

So, many people to thank for such a great vacation and study tour, from Brett at the awesome Squamish airBNB, Andrea Learned, the ILFI team, our friends and hosts in Vancouver, those who gave time to talk or provide tours, Denis Hayes, Tim Herring, Brad Kahn and many more. And of course great company, thanks Soo, Chris and Emma

Future posts will use the hashtags #futurestorative and/or #VanSea2015

The UK Living Building Challenge Collaborative Report

The following was first published on the CKE blog:

The UK Living Building Challenge Collaborative met this week at Squire Patton Boggs in Leeds and saw construction professionals, architects, landscape architects, software vendors, sustainability experts and representatives from Leeds Beckett University discuss Standard V3 and the future of the UK Collaboratives.

Martin Brown gave an inspiring introduction to version 3.0, launched earlier in the year, covering the standards principles, petals and key imperatives. This was followed with a great discussion on the Living Building Challenge and relevance in the UK sector.

Martin emphasised that the Challenge is ‘A visionary path to a regenerative future’. Whereas other standards are focused on doing ‘less bad,’ the Living Building Challenge is based on the philosophy of doing more good, that is, restorative sustainability. We should no longer be satisfied with creating buildings that have negative impacts however small they may be, but look to create buildings, structures, and communities that contribute back to the environment and nature.

The Living Building Challenge uses a less technical, but more powerful, softer language than most standards, and puts topics such as beauty, education and biophilic design back into the equation.

Many present commented that a welcomed aspect was the inclusion of ‘health, happiness, beauty, nature’ within the standard.

Indeed the standard uses a metaphor of a flower, with seven petals, each of which comprises of several imperatives, 20 in total. All of these must be met in order to obtain full certification and the status of a Living Building.  We heard there are currently 201 registered projects worldwide.

2015 Plans

We are currently the only collaborative in the UK, however, we will be sharing this status with London due to launch in the spring and interest is growing elsewhere across the country.

During 2015 we will explore each of the Petals individually through workshops which will be held on the second Wednesday of each month, before the Green Vision evening and half day sessions. The timetable will be:

February 11th  – Place

March 11th –Water

April 22nd  –  Energy

May 13th – Health and Happiness

June 10th – Materials

July 8th – Equity

Aug – Beauty and Education

To drive these workshops, we are looking for ‘champions’ to head each ‘petal’. If you feel that you are an expert on any of the standard areas, or passionate about specific imperatives, or just want to get involved please send us an email at CKEEvents@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

We will also deepen the relationship with projects interested in registering and pursuing certification. And the exciting news here is that we have one potential project ready to register and other in development. Other activities will include design competitions, project charrette support, and a UK overlay to the International Standard with terminology, regulations and standards appropriate to the UK sector.

We are also compiling a library of UK building case studies that illustrate Living Building Challenge concepts. If you are aware of any projects, your own perhaps that addresses any of the standard imperatives or philosophies please do let us know for inclusion into our library.

We look forward to you joining our Collaboratives and getting involved, with your projects perhaps, in this exciting new era for built environment sustainability.

As Martin has said many times, ‘it’s time to heal the future’…

Green Revolutionary Engineering

Integral_cover_9x7_FINAL_webIntegral Revolutionary Engineering – a review.

Every now and again you come across a book that is both simple and profound, full of ah ha moments, of innovative ideas and yet seemingly familiar. One such book I have mentioned often on this blog (and gifted to many) is Yvon Chouinard’s “Let my people go surfing”  to which Integral Revolutionary Engineering book published by Ecotone has a similar feel.

I had the opportunity to meet and chat with Kevin Hydes at an Inetgral reception at EcoBuild this week, and picked up a copy of Revolutionary Engineering. Kevin served as the Chair of the USGBC  2005-2006, was a founder and director of CanadaGBC and a former Chair of the WorldGBC and is Founder and CEO of the Integral Group.

Integral are a global network of design professionals collaborating under a single deep green engineering umbrella, providing building system design and energy analysis services, trading as Elementa in the UK

Revolutionary Engineering is a ‘treatise of innovation in deep green building design, featuring stories and ideas from some of the worlds leading engineers and designers’

And it does what it says on the lid, providing a portfolio of the Integral Groups experience of design on deep green buildings, an insight not only into what is possible today but what is highly achievable in the future.

That the forward is written by Jason McLellan (see bio) gives the clue that this a treatise of building services design on Living Building Challenge projects.

And there is a nice affinity here. Leeds, where we founded the UK Collaborative for Living Building Challenge is also Kevin Hydes’ home town.  Now residing in San Francisco, Kevin reminisces in his preface letter on a post industrial Leeds, with belching coal fired power plants and coal from Yorkshire burning in his very home. Times have changed, in Leeds and in sustainable construction since then.

Molly Miller (@miller_mm), author, is Integrals story teller with a background in sustainability writing at Rocky Mountain Institute and Mother Earth News. And what a great title – why doesn’t every company have someone with the story teller title, official or otherwise?.

In conversational tone, Molly includes many Kevin Hydes insights scattered and emphasised throughout, alongside quotes and comments from many other green build thinkers and project team members.

As I read Revolutionary Engineering, I was looking for hints as to how BIM would fit in, yet,  found it refreshing that BIM doesn’t feature. Although I am sure it must have been used to some degree on the large Hospital projects and Empire State Building refurbishment case studies.

… refreshing to read a book with Revolutionary in the title that doesn’t try to sell BIM as the panacea for all things design and construction, even green construction.

Revolutionary Engineering sees other drivers across its fours chapters Imagine, Perform, Sustain and Accelerate. For example, creative leadership and collaboration (there are echoes here of our collective leadership tweetchat from Tuesday evening), innovation and diversity

One of the barriers to innovative thinking and collaboration across the construction sector is acknowledged as lack of diversity – of age and gender. This is indeed something I’ve seen evident in my own work in the sustainability leadership and social media world. Revolutionary Engineering, sees that the processes and policies of an organisation need to be appropriate to women,  consciously arranging hierarchies and teams to be collaborative

The character of innovation relies on different ways of thinking and a homogenous group is just not going to provide that.

Addressing the Cost v Value issue, Revolutionary Engineering reminds me of the 1:5:200 and Be Valuable thinking of a decade ago, brought bang up to date in line with deep green buildings. What must be of interest to every client and contractor seeking sustainable buildings is how Integral brought the Living Building project at Simon Frasier University in on ‘standard budget’

Whilst an reviting read it is also challenging, for eg on the higher cost for going green issue –  to cite cost as an argument against energy efficiency or innovative practices in design is often an excuse to do something the same comfortable way it has always been done”

The book’s case study on the new Clif Bar headquarters is fascinating, illustrating the importance of putting the user first. “The occupant is the star of high performance buildings”  I must say I find Clif Bar an interesting organization for personal reasons, from a CSR and cycling perspective, so this case study added much to my understanding

A small criticism, a lack of page numbers and possibly too many images of one project in particular – the Vancouver VanDusen Botanical Gardens – it is a great Living Building Challenge project that I had the chance to visit in Vancouver a few years back – but perhaps too many images here that you get the feeling of ‘space filling’

In summary we can, as the UK construction industry learn much from the experiences and insights in Revolutionary Engineering as we start to embrace deep green and Living Building Challenge thinking it should be on the reading list of all sustainability professionals, services engineers and a text for construction and building services students … to further the ‘collaborative commitment to relentless momentum’

Integral are participating (exhibiting and talking) at the Construction21 Green Build Virtual Expo in May, prior to then, I will be in conversation with Integral as part of our EXPOC21chat tweetchat series.