Mindfulness, Biophilia and Salutogenesis: a powerful triptych for improving construction health and happiness

pexels-photo-94616Increasingly health is becoming a key aspect and driver for building design and maintenance. (See Next Wave of Design: Wellness-minded Spaces)

OF note, are seeing a BREEAM alignment with WELL, but as pointed out in FutuREstorative, and by others, this approach needs to equally apply to the construction process, to project working environments, including project office accommodation.

Mindfulness, Biophilia and Salutogenesis can provide a powerful triptych of approaches for construction health and happiness. But what are they, and how can they improve construction?

Mindfulness

The state of being present in the moment. Mindfulness can help in reducing stress and mind-wandering in addition to enhancing the sense of wellbeing and fulfilment from life and work. Mindfulness is growing in use within other sectors to address amongst other things wellbeing, productivity and safety.

(In collaboration with Anne Parker, we can provide tailored Mindfulness for Construction awareness and training sessions)

Biophilia

Our innate relationship with nature. Research is proving that connection or exposure to nature or natural patterns has a huge influence on our state of mind, our wellbeing, cognitive skills and our recovery times from illness. We should for example, be applying the 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design to construction workplaces as part of a healthy construction agenda

Salutogenesis

FutuREstorative introduces the concept of salutogenesis to the built environment. A medical concept that encourages focus on factors that improve & support health and then keeping people healthy, rather than the focus of just reducing the impact on health. Translated to the built environment this can mean focusing on design issues in buildings and workplaces where people go home healthier, feeling better and happier than when they arrived. As an example, the growing recognition that light (daylight and circadian light) can be a medicine, having positive, even healing benefits. Adopting a salutogenetic mindset to the construction process can also encourage us to consider and focus on potential health benefits of working in construction.

salutogenesis-slide

Responsible BIM

We are hearing more and more of ‘Responsible Business‘ approaches, generally taken to mean a combination of sustainability and CSR. But what happens when this emergent thinking in Construction meets BIM? Responsible BIM?

Below is the transcript or notes behind my pecha kucha presentation, exploring Responsible BIM, made to the excellent ThinkBIM event on 2 April in Leeds, .

I wanted to inject a balance of current ‘soft issues’ thinking against a prevalent hard technology thinking. I have no  issues with the passion behind the BIM approaches, I am constantly impressed and think it amazing, but sometimes feel BIM technology and language is a runaway train. Unfortunately just about every BIM event I attend I hear at the outset, BIM is about the people not the technology, with the rest of the event focuses on the application of the technology, with very little soft skill content. When was the last time we saw a BIM event focus solely on collaboration without mentioning software? Having said that, its is the balance of views at ThinkBIM events is what sets it apart from other BIM events.

The title ‘Flatland to Wonderland’ comes from a brilliant article and the work of Petra Kuenkel, who we interviewed as part of our Sustainability Leadership Conversation (#sustldrconv) twitter series recently. In short, we need both the flatlands of reality along with the possibilities of the wonderland for a sustainable future

Flatland

3D modelling, and offsite component manufacture with simple on site assembly isn’t new, as illustrated in the Building article that covered the BAA Project Genesis project in 1997. Pre Egan and pre Building Down Barriers we were doing BIM, so why didn’t it take off as the Egan Report did?  (Egan was at BAA and also involved in Project Genesis).  Somehow we lost the 3D collaborative conversation, maybe the Egan agenda itself ,with a focus on KPI’s and customer satisfaction masked some of the brilliant emerging work of that time?

One of the BIM wake up calls for contractors I work with recently has been the inclusion of BIM questions within PQQ’s in particular the PAS 91 BIM options – and the need for bidding contractors to have a BIM Strategy, signed as commitment from the CEO, detailing milestones, training and development, information management and more. “Lets write one quick”

And on the issue of information management – lets start to align to ISO 9000  documentation control requirements. How many BIM users (real and say-they-do’s) have embedded their BIM information and data communication processes into their Quality Systems. I am currently helping a good number of organisations revisit their management systems and inject current information management thinking. Particular so on how and what information is shared with supply chain members. Doing so enables us to audit, and improve information management using the Plan Do Check Act approach

But, yes, we have BIMwash. BIM language is not that difficult to learn, the technology is not that difficult to purchase, and hey presto we are BIM compliant. Not surprising then that contractors sit and wait for a client to insist or require BIM on a project before applying BIM thinking. As a BIM community we need to change the conversation away from BIM being just a design tool or client requirement to a continuous improvement tool with many many benefits.

And on to the wonderland …

If we really want to co-create a sustainable built environment, and isn’t that what BIM is all about?, then we need to have both the harsh reality of the flatlands with the spirituality of the wonderland. This resonates with Lucy Marcus Be2Camp BE2Talks back in 2011 where she described the need for leaders to be both Grounded and Stargazers.

I am impressed with the Collective Leadership approach and model (developed by the Collective Leadership Institute), and the necessity to move beyond collaboration. (How many times have I heard or read a contractor claiming to be collaborative simply because they have a supplier progress meeting once a week)  The Collective Leadership Model provides the scope of elements leadership and collaboration could, should, look like in a modern construction environment. Covering both technicality and people issues of diversity, and mindfulness

Ah mindfulness …

Currently we seem to be struggling with two drivers, on one hand the sustainability agenda of being simple, of realigning with nature. biophilic approaches and natural renewable solutions and on the other the ever increasing complexity of data, be it BIM data or big data and technology.

It is not surprising that one of the most sought after advisors to silicon valley is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, (Thay), seen by many as the the modern guru for mindfulness.  Such practices are seen to be key for business, enabling focus on real innovation, free from clutter of distractions. We will see much more of this in the construction sector I am sure, as we learn to balance people with technology, simplicity with data, well being with efficiency.

US BIM write Randy Deutsch approaches this thinking in a recent blog article for Design Intelligence Beyond BIM Boundaries – “in order to master BIM, we have to do less BIM, we have to do other things” And if we focus on better communications, people skills, listening, empathy and understanding, then BIM will flourish without effort.

Perhaps BIM is now is seen by many as a big hammer, an approach that if not adopted then we are not doing construction correctly, “if the only tool we have is a hammer then every problem is a nail”  BIM practitioners and advocates need more tools in their conversation and offerings covering both technology and soft skills. As Randy commented ‘ go against common wisdom and fortify your soft skills”

We had a brilliant twitter based conversation with Casey Rutland as part of the #EXPOC21 series this week where the conversation led to whether BIM will simplify or complicate sustainability. Many people re-tweeted the question, but with few answers offered, other than when done correctly, BIM will enhance sustainability, done incorrectly it will harm sustainability. Incorrectly here can mean overloading buildings with technology solutions when natural solutions would work (but harder to model perhaps) or by not taken cognisance of where materials are coming from or their health impacts. Casey introduced the concept of SustainaBIMity – the mash up of sustainability thinking with building information management. A far better description than Green BIM

Aligning BIM thinking to progressive sustainability thinking such as the Living Building Challenge is exciting and has huge potential. In the near future we will see BIM objects cover the attributes of health data, justice in production data, carbon and travel data. (Note the dialogue in the US between Autodesk and the Healthy Products Declaration database for example)

And we know that carbon, embodied and transportation will become a key BIM data element, procuring kitchen pods from China for modular construction on the other side of the globe may be a data and cost solution but it is not a restorative sustainability solution. (cf Modular Construction on Souremap)

In our pursuit of designing and creating buildings that work for people, planet and purpose, we perhaps need to address both the higher Maslow needs as well as focusing on basic shelter needs, and in some way build them into data and modelling,  Biophilia at last is opening up a whole new chapter for design, and BIM, and well for the built environment as a whole. In the UK the term Sick Building Syndrome has dropped out of use, but we need to be aware of the dangers of creating buildings through BIM that don’t model or promote health and well being.

There are examples of this, for example by early involvement mind and health charity experts to view and comment on proposed buildings in a 3D environment, advising on the potential enhancement or damage to end user well being. And only yesterday,(01/04/14)  Rick Fedrizzi, President of USGBC writing in EDC called Health the next frontier of green build performance, and more recently calling on the built environment to use medical data for improved building solutions.

My final slide proposed that every BIM project should have an educational element, to inform and motivate the industry and that this should be embedded into PAS1192 or equivalent documentation. No project or organisation should be allowed to claim BIM compliance unless they openly share their approaches and lessons learnt, covering both the flatland BIM and the wonderful healthy buildings that enable people and organisations to flourish.

 

Greening the construction site cabin environment for health and wellbeing

Cutting my teeth on construction sites as a green horn QS back in the 70’s was an introduction to the frozen feet, sweating head, un-insulated site cabins, with their austere, bleak and unwelcoming work environment.

Fast forward and today, yes we have insulated cabins with PIR sensors, and occasionally you come across plants in the site cabin, windows providing decent daylight or sparks of innovation, like the free fresh fruit for site personal provided daily, but generally the internal working environment hasn’t changed much since the 70;s. Even co-location spaces on large projects are often tucked away in the bowels of a building with no daylight.  We tend to think of these offices as temporary, but temporary can be anything up to a few years, and many site personnel spend careers in temporary, accommodation

In a word, grey, not green.

Encouraging then to read  Australia’s first green construction site, a partnership with 202020 Vision, a programme seeking to increase urban green space, and bringing the greening concept into the site office.

“Incorporating green space into our site offices is part of our broader plan to create high performance workspaces. International research shows developing green space within office environments not only significantly boosts the health and wellbeing of staff, but also increases productivity,” says Lauren Haas, Brookfield’s Australian sustainability manager, and 202020 Vision advocate.

“Through introducing a Plant Plan, we envisage seeing the same or better improvements in our own staff that is integral to delivering high performance buildings for our clients as well as being an employer of choice.”

The 202020Vision programme is also conducting pre and post occupancy tests on the site team to see if their ‘green environment’ improves health and wellbeing.

We know from (eg the latest World Green Building Council’s Business Case for Green Building report) that biophilia, greenery, views to nature through windows, can improve worker well-being by reducing stress levels, less frustration, increased patience and improved overall satisfaction. The Living Building Challenge, Health Imperative, founded on biophilia principles requires daylight to all working spaces … And all this should apply to construction offices not just the buildings we design and construct.

Hopefully as contractors develop in line with Sustainability, CSR and HR best practice we will see more attention to biophilic thinking, creating green healthy inspiring places to work, enabling construction of green buildings. And, coupled with the rise in interest of mindfulness thinking for site staff, are we heading into a new era of contracting?

lbc biophillia

Healthy building concepts should apply to construction site offices as well as buildings we construct.

 

 

Related:

Biometrics and Biophilia – the new sustainable construction?

Have we picked the low hanging fruit of Sustainable Construction?

Mindful Construction – pre-frontal cortex ramblings

photo (2)I caught up with Anne Parker last week over a morning tea and stroll around the grounds of the Apple Store Cafe in Scorton where we discussed mindfulness in construction as a key to unlock many of the current  issues facing construction, including sustainability and technology. We started to scratch out possible format, content and venue for a Mindful Construction Conference in the new year, but more on that over the coming weeks.

Anne delivered a Be2talks talk at our event back in September following which I asked her for a few thoughts on mindfulness:

Ramblings from My Pre Frontal Cortex – Anne Parker

The hills had never looked so green, the motorway signs had never looked such a Mediterranean blue, the mid summer sunset wrote lyrics all of its own.

Had I just taken some playful hallucinogenic drugs?  No of course not – I had just left a CIOB AGM! Yes, I had just given a talk on ‘Mindfulness in Construction and Engineering’ at this professional forum and it had given me the most amazing experience and affirmation.  Let me explain.

‘Mindfulness’ is a way of living, a way of managing the mind and the body that has origins in Eastern Traditions and has been steadily tested, researched and validated by Western Science.  What do you know about your brain and your body?  Have you learnt about it so that you can maximise the quality of your daily life?  Can you maximise the power of your brain to optimise your performance at work?  Do you understand the range of processes within your mind and body that influence your ability to innovate, tolerate change and work collaboratively with others?  Perhaps you thought that this was at the level of skill or talent without going any further into anatomy or physiology.

This is a hugely exciting time as sciences converge.  The fusion of ideas is generating new insights and models but more interestingly means that new language, metaphors, images or styles import and export ideas and practices from one arena into another.

I had found that it was my mission to bring Mindfulness into certain industries without any pictures of rainbows or women sitting on beaches in yoga postures.  With no reference to ‘Gods and Goddesses Within’ or to Yin and Yang I had found a set of idioms with which I was bringing this stuff into industries with possibly a very low tolerance to ‘airy fairy ideas’.  I was passionate about communicating the genius of these practices to men and women who could feel the benefits of this learning in their busy lives in practical or demanding jobs.  So far the exercise had been a thorny experience but I knew it was what I was here to do.  I persevered.  The talk at this CIOB AGM was part of my mission.  And it was a turning point.  This audience on this summer’s night gave such an enthusiastic, high energy response to the teachings of these disciplines that I was lifted beyond measure.

The joy of my internal world was being reflected back to me on that motorway drive home.  Brains, Mind, Body, Wellbeing, Buildings, Construction – the whole concept was beginning to flow.  Surely everything that has ever been built or made or constructed started off in someone’s mind?  So isn’t it worth having a look in there, exploring it? Working with it or taming it?  The construction of the outside reflection is what we shall live in years to come…..

Mindfulness.  It is worth your investigation.

Is the next step a conference on Mindfulness and Neuro-Leadership for the Construction and Engineering industries? Would love to hear your thoughts….

Anne’s talk to Be2Talks, The Cuddle Hormone’: Mindfulness, Sustainable Construction and Social Media  can be viewed here 

Mindfulness for Construction Success

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMindfulness is fast gathering pace as a set of daily practices to manage stress, worry or to enhance daily living ‘in the present moment’. Organisations, large and small, including those in the construction sector are starting to explore how mindfulness can help with well being, sustainability and yes, improved organisational success. (For examples see articles listed below)

If you have read or heard about mindfulness and would like to come on a course to learn the techniques with others, then Anne Parker is running a course in Blackpool Lancashire. on the 5th October and 2nd November. The course will show you the techniques,  background information and then review your experiences and build on your practices further.

Perhaps you don’t know anything about Mindfulness at all and you would like to find out what it is all about then this is also for you. The content will allow for lots of questions and comments as well as being practical and highly participative.

More information is available from Anne Parker or view the event flyer here.

Anne will be presenting at the Be2Talks in London on the 25th Sept.

Articles:

Mindfulness: The Key to Long-term Business Success?

Upgrading the brains of global leaders 

Global technology CEOs seek out wisdom of zen master Thich Nhat Hanh

From Greendeal to Mindfulness in Sustainability

My More than Just a Green Deal keynote to the Merseyside Construction Conference March 13th 2013, making the case to see Green Deal as part of the Green Build and Sustainability agenda, and the need for doing the right green thing every time.

Have we picked the low hanging fruit of Sustainable Construction?

low hanging fruitThe mid 90’s saw my first involvement with sustainable construction, as Business Improvement Manager, setting up strategy and awareness programmes for Mowlem Construction, driven it should be noted to address client bid requirements in PFI and Prime Contracting.

At that time Brundtland’s definition from 1987 was fresh and it made good sense to include it in strategies and as a definition.

In hindsight, one of the problems of this approach is that it reinforced the thinking of that time, that environmental management, and by default sustainable construction belonged firmly and squarely within the Health and Safety departments.  A misconception that many organisations still subscribe to, or struggle to move away from.

But, since then, sustainability thinking has moved on from environmental management as H&S add on, to a wider view of sustainability that includes social and business responsibility, ethical procurement and localism and is now heading for a challenging future greener and deeper agenda

It is encouraging to note the move away from what I have referred to as ‘accommodationalist‘ thinking – ie doing only what we are required to do by law, no more no less. In fact this  thinking is now being challenged by the Governments red tape initiative, proposing to remove certain sustainability related legislation

Over the last 7 years I have been supporting organisations map out and chart progress on their ‘Route to Zero‘, identifying actions necessary today, tomorrow and most likely into the future. We may be in the position of being able to say we have picked off the low hanging fruit from the sustainability tree.

Most construction companies now have a sustainability policy and project approaches that are ISO 14001 accredited, to deal with better management of waste,  recording transport construction miles, employing locally and so on.

But now the real work begins, reaching higher into the greener, more dense canopies of the tree, with a new, emerging set of challenging actions that will take us closer to our zero impact ambitions.

Amongst these new challenges we can see:

  • Collaborative and circular economy thinking. For example what if every building improved with age, improved in its function, its resilience, its performance.  Became more ‘durable‘?  Contracts would not only need to cover the design and construction of buildings, but a new form of collaboration between provider and user that included continuous improvement criteria.  Such Circular Economy thinking would force new collaborations across the supply chain, across discipline and with clients.
  • Convergence of data, information rich ICT environments, an Internet of Things linked to metering sensors that will provide real time feedback on performance of the buildings and of the construction process, driving improved and sustainable resource utilisation. Getting us closer to zero waste and  zero carbon emissions.
  • Responsible specification and procurement, that is not only local but considers ethical and most importantly the health impact of building product ingredients. (see the Healthy Product Declaration Standard)
  • Challenging standards, that bring new deep green philosophies and certifications for buildings and facilities, as we see with the Living Building Challenge
  • The inclusion of costing nature within construction projects. ‘Cheap’ buildings may only be cheap because the real social, environmental costs have been externalised for someone else, often society and the public purse to deal with. Time to bring those externalised costs back into the project costs?
  • A mindful built environment sector, or one that has mindfulness, ie ‘in the moment’ awareness of the impact the design, the construction, the maintenance, use and deconstruction of the building will have upon the environment and nature. Mindfulness is a huge and complex topic but an important sustainability concept we will hear far much more of in 2013.

The first Green Vision tweetchat for 2013 will explore some of these issues on the 28th January at 8pm using the hashtag #GVisChat, asking the question are we getting closer to ‘Zero’?

If you would like to know more on how the Fairsnape Route to Zero mapping and charting programme can help your business, please do make contact

Update – Presentation on this theme