Tag Archives: mel starrs

Backcasting for a future sustainability.

The UK Living BuildiUK_collaborative_logong Challenge Collaborative hosted at Leeds Sustainability Institute at Leeds Beckett University is currently  working through the Standards petals and imperatives to develop a UK translation or ‘overlay. It is therefore timely to revisit and remind us of Mel Starrs insightful review of the Living Build Challenge following her visit to our Green Vision conference that focused on aspects of the LBC.

“For those who might not have come across the Living Building Challenge yet, it is a deep, deep green target based certification scheme. The ‘challenge’ is described as ‘the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to diminish the gap between current limits and ideal solutions’. The International Living Future Institute, who operate the scheme, have approached green building certification from the opposite end than say BREEAM or LEED. Rather than starting with where we are today and adding incremental improvements, they have ‘backcasted’ from their ideal end point.

Full article here

SnapseedIndeed it was this idea of backcasting and in particular this image shared via twitter from an ILFI conference some years back that really ignited the formation of the UK Living Building Challenge Collaborative. Backcasting cos sustainability can be seen as an approach that sets future restorative and visionary end points with required practices and imperatives in order to back cast a path and encouraging rethinking of current approaches for getting there. Rather than as with current mainstream sustainability standards, that focus on making current practices a little less harmful through incremental improvement steps.

The Collaboratives exploration of the Petals continues on 11th March with Water and then 22nd April with Energy. More information of these, past sessions and future dates can be found here.

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Construction 2025 Industrial Strategy

Reading the published edition of the Government Industry Strategy, Construction 2025, released yesterday I had two metaphors in mind, Snakes & Ladders and Babies in the River. Metaphors at first annoyingly contradictory, but on reflection pleasingly complementary.

UntitledThe Construction 2025 Industrial Strategy vision contains ambitions to cut costs, deliver projects faster, reduce carbon emissions, improve image and exports, through working digitally,  sustainably, and yes more efficiently.

Snakes and Ladders: illustrates the myriad strands and issues we are trying to deal with in the industry. Indeed the strategy includes a number of ladders with the excellent intention to move the industry forward, but also a number of slippery snakes to prevent meaningful progress for industry players and the industry as a whole. And, no doubt there will be plenty of commentaries on what issues are ladders (BIM and Carbon perhaps?) and which are snakes (image, diversity, SME relevance perhaps?)

However,

Babies in the River:  illustrates why only dealing with these strands and issues will not move us forward, and we will continue with energy sapping improvements, incremental changes and pockets of best practice. (You need to read  Annie Leonard, Story of Stuff excellent article)

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Mel Starrs: sustainability champion, maven and friend

I was deeply saddened to hear early yesterday morning of the tragic passing away of Mel Starrs, a brilliant and inspiring friend across social media, at real life events and tweetups.

The built environment has lost an important sustainability champion, maven and friend. We have lost an anchor.

Mel was an associate director at PRP and a staunch support of be2camp since our first event back in 2008.

It was a good number of years before that when I started reading Mel’s Elemental blog.  It was at that time a brilliant travelog of her world tour, mixed with excellent views on construction, building codes, the built environment and sustainability. Mel refered to herself a self proclaimed ‘maven’, and shared so much not only on built environment matters, but literature, music and food.

Although I had been blogging for a while it was Mel’s blog and her passion that inspired and converted me to a committed and avid blogger.

Thank you Mel

Mel will be a huge loss to the green built environment and sorely missed. We talked only a week or so ago, at the Green Vision CSR event in Leeds, of plans and excitement on raising awareness of the deep green Living Building Challenge into the UK as a real alternative to BREEAM and other award schemes.

Although it wasnt on her blog, her recent Living Building comment to Building magazine sums up Mel’s brilliance in writing and her approach to deep thinking and research. I could simply include a link to that post but its behind a pay/registration wall and needs wider communication and reading by all who are promoting a green built enviromnent, so have reproduced below.

My thoughts are with Mark and Mel’s family.  Mark has written a truly heartfelt post to Mel’s blog:

In memory of Mel Starrs – 6 September 1973 to 14 July 2012

Mel’s Post to Building:

mel Starrs

Last week I attended Green Vision Building CSR event in Leeds organised by the Centre for Knowledge Exchange. One of the sessions I was most looking forward to was the live webcast from Eden Brukman, a highly infectious advocate of the Living Building Challenge.

For those who might not have come across the Living Building Challenge yet, it is a deep, deep green target based certification scheme. The ‘challenge’ is described as ‘the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to diminish the gap between current limits and ideal solutions’. The International Living Future Institute, who operate the scheme, have approached green building certification from the opposite end than say BREEAM or LEED. Rather than starting with where we are today and adding incremental improvements, they have ‘backcasted’ from their ideal end point.

This idea of ‘backcasting’ is not unique to LBC, and can be found in the thinking behind the ‘Natural Step’, brainchild of Swede Dr Karl-Hendrik Robert. Backcasting can be defined as: “envisioning the end result they want and then mapping out a path to getting there, rather than focusing on making current practices a little less harmful”.

It’s a refreshing change in approach and the scarcity of projects actually certified are testament to the uncompromising nature of the scheme. Even once taking into account the fact the scheme is in its infancy, there is a very low reach. There are only a tiny handful of projects fully certified to date and none even registered in the UK.

Seven ‘petals’ are assessed: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty. Most of these are instantly familiar to anyone with experience of LEED or BREEAM, until you get to the end of the list. Beauty has more resonance with the architectural notions of ‘delight’ than the rather more engineer-led, process and target framed LEED and BREEAM.

Don’t let this ‘softer’ side fool you though – despite all the talk of petals, equity and beauty, the targets within site (NO greenfield AT ALL), water (net zero), energy (net zero) and materials (the red list overlap with say the BRE’s Green Guide is fairly minimal) are the highest conceivable. The Living Building Challenge requires that every project meet each of its 20 strict requirements to achieve the certification. This ‘ceiling’ is where far fewer than 1% of building assessed under BREEAM would fall and in excess of ‘Outstanding’ rating.

So how useful is such a tool? I’m a fan of stretch targets and believe more can be gained from trying but failing to meet a just out of reach target, than everyone being mandated to say meet a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating through the planning process. Mandating green building certification dilutes the value of the scheme in question, and can fail to adequately reward those projects which are true pioneers (possibly one reason why BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating was introduced – similar to GCSE A*).

The Living Building Challenge is an opportunity to grab back that top end of the market and demonstrate deep green, uncompromising credentials.

Having a vibrant deep green scheme such as Living Building Challenge established in the UK would be a fitting tribute to Mel’s passion and expertise in Building Code, BREEAM and LEED.

Heros and Texts for a future Built Environment based on #CSR

“suddenly the air smells much greener now”

Listening to ‘These Streets’, lyrics by Paolo Nutini summed up the brilliant, inspiring Green Vision conference in Leeds – exploring CSR within the built environment.

A mix of talks, presentations, round table discussions and pecha kuchas from Mel Starrs, Eden Brukman, Tamara Bergkamp, Eddie Murphy, Martin Brown, Faye Jenkins, Claire Walker, Rick Hamilton, Mark Warner, Pedro Pablo Cardoso-Castro, Andy Ainsworth, Paula Widdowson and many others showed that there is real emergence and a future for a Built Environment founded on social responsibility principles.

The air smells much greener …

We heard of excellent progress being made by individuals, projects and organisations on the CSR journey, and how behind these are great influential thinkers, often outside of the sector, many, unsurprisingly, related to the ‘outdoor’ sector.

Many of the speakers were enthusiastic in sharing CSR heros and recommended CSR reading. So here, as a summary, or reading list are those mentioned during the day. I wonder how many of these are on the reading list within design, construction and fm education? (Book titles link to Amazon)

Yvon Chouinard

Rock climber, environmentalist and outdoor industry businessman, noted for his contributions to climbing, climbing equipment and the outdoor gear business. His company @Patagonia is widely acclaimed for its environmental and social focus. According to Fortune magazine, Chouinard is arguably the most successful outdoor industry businessman alive today.

The Responsible Company What we have learnt in the first 40 years at Patagonia by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley (see my blog)

Let My People Go Surfing Yvon Chouinard – Probably the ‘must read book’ to understand CSR in Business

(On my blog: How can construction learn from Patagonia?)

Ray Anderson

Founder of Interface Inc., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of modular carpet for commercial and residential applications and a leading producer of commercial broadloom and commercial fabrics. He was known in environmental circles for his advanced and progressive stance on industrial ecology and sustainability.

Ray was was posthumously awarded an Outstanding Achievement award at this year’s Guardian Sustainable Business Awards in 2012. (There is a related, must watch, video here: John Elkington describing the work and legacy of Ray Anderson)

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose: Doing Business by Respecting the Earth (2009) Later released in paperback as Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist in 2011.

Paul Hawken

An environmentalist, entrepreneur, and author. Ray Anderson of Interface credited The Ecology of Commerce with his environmental awakening. He described reading it as a “spear in the chest experience”, after which Anderson started crisscrossing the country with a near-evangelical fervor, telling fellow executives about the need to reduce waste and carbon emissions.

Hawken’s book, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (1999) coauthored with Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins, popularized the now-standard idea of natural capital and direct accounting for ecosystem services, a theme revisited by Rio +20 and likely to become more mainstream across the built environment.

Janine Benyus

Her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature defines Biomimry as a “new science that studies nature’s models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems”. Benyus suggests looking to Nature as a “Model, Measure, and Mentor” and emphasizes sustainability as an objective of biomimicry. Key thinking in the Living Building Challenge principles, as is

E O Wilson

Edward Osborne Wilson an American biologist, researcher, theorist, naturalist and author. In the mid 80’s developed the concept of Biophilia, the connection between humans and nature, which translates into architecture and the built environment as comfort, well being and productivity through exposure to natural light and natural surrondings or imagry.

Anita Roddick

Dame Anita Roddick, human rights activist and environmental campaigner, best known as the founder of The Body Shop, a cosmetics company producing and retailing beauty products that shaped ethical consumerism The company was one of the first to prohibit the use of ingredients tested on animals and one of the first to promote fair trade with third world countries. Roddick was involved in activism and campaigning for environmental and social issues, including involvement with Greenpeace andThe Big Issue.

John Elkington

John Elkington @volansjohn is a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development. He is currently the Founding Partner & Executive Chairman of Volans, a future-focused business working at the intersection of the sustainability, entrepreneurship and innovation movements

His latest book The Zeronauts, Breaking the Sustainability Barrier describes many of todays inspirational leaders : “Just as our species broke the Sound Barrier during the 1940s and 1950s, a new breed of innovator, entrepreneur, and investor is lining up to break the Sustainability Barrier”

Jorgen Randers

2052: What will the world look like in 2052

Jeff Hollender,

Jeffrey Hollender is an American businessperson, entrepreneur, author, and activist. He was well known for his roles as CEO, co-founder, and later Chief Inspired Protagonist and Executive Chairperson of Seventh Generation Inc., the country’s largest distributor of non-toxic, all-natural cleaning, paper and personal care products. www.jeffhollender.com/

Gary Hirshberg,

Gary Hirshberg is chairman and former president and CEO of Stonyfield Farm, an organic yogurt producer, based in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Now part of the Danone group.

Published in January 2008, Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World is a book about socially minded business that calls on individuals to realize their power to make a difference in the marketplace, while doing business in ways that adhere to a multiple bottom line – one that takes into consideration not only finance, but the environment and health as well.

Jeffrey Swartz,

Jeffrey Swartz is the former president and CEO of The Timberland Company an organization that believes that doing well and doing good are inextricably linked. Timberland’s commitment is to reducing global warming and preserving the outdoor environment.

David and Claire Hieatt,

Founders of Howies a clothing company based in Cardigan Bay, Wales produces eco-friendly T-shirts, jeans and sportswear, and aims to have ethically correct practices. Howies use natural fabrics as alternatives to petrochemical-derived modern fabrics. Examples include organic cotton, Merino wool and recycled cotton. Howies T-shirts often have images or slogans with political or environmental themes

Dee Hock

Dee Ward Hock is the founder and former CEO of VISA , described systems that are both chaotic and ordered, and used for the first time the term “chard” and chaordic,combining the words chaos and order.

More?

Over to you –

Follow the discussion on twitter with the #GVis2012 hashtag.

Who are your CSR Heros and CSR Texts to add to this Built Environment inspirers list?

What additions or comments would you make to the entries above?

A full record (video, blog, tweets, presentations, storify) of the Building CSR Event is being curated on the be2camp event page here.

on web awareness

Paul at ExtranetEvolution AEC conferences, content and ‘unconferences’and Jodie at I have no opinion world architecture festival have commented recently on the low awareness and application of web technologies in the AEC and conference world.  As one would expect following previous posts here, and as a founder to be2camp, I would share the same views, reinforced with recent observations.

I was amazed at the low awareness of web applications recently as I presented a session entitled from Facebook to BIMStorms. I knew I wasn’t going to complete the journey planned through the presentation when only 20% of the 70 people there used Facebook, and when asked if they used Facebook for anything other than social the response was nil, a couple on CAD, but then blanks on twitter, linkedin, BIM, etc. I couldn’t mention Second Life …  And these were 70 of our next generation managers – being engaged in HNC or HND courses at the moment.

Hopefully it has led to working with colleges on raising awareness.

Another day, another course, a different set of organisations – 6 small contractors, discussion on use of IT on sites to enable access to knowledge, communication etc.  Not one would allow laptops or computers on site, quoting a lack of trust of their staff to use responsibly and a security / theft issue.

A reminder that its 80% people management and 20% ICT ???  But maybe the 20% is taking the blindfold off?

Oh and has anyone tried to book a venue for an unconference with open wifi or good connectivity and  power for people to use laptops?  I find this frustratingly difficult as I seek a venue for a half day event next month. Conference organisers are way behind this need. And who feels awkward in using a laptop to make notes or blog, or to use the phone to tweet at a conventional conference?

For many conventional conference attendees, the idea of streaming presentations online will be a novel concept; laptops and mobile phones should remain switched off during sessions; and ‘social networking’ means wine and canapes – not blogs and tweets

And as I write this I see twitter messages from Mel and Paul on identifying who within the built environment sector are really embracing web2.0 technologies, as Mel says who is walking their talk? My reposnse would be:those who engaging with initaiatives such as be2camp, like the Constructing Excellence Collaborative Working Champions who are stepping forward to explore web2.0 in a days workshop in January led by Paul and myself. like the use of Twiiter by Constructing Excellence.  Yes early days but ….