Mobilising the Construction Sector for Climate Action

We now know that buildings and the built environment are a key factor to our climate change problem, whilst at the same time, a vital part of climate change solutions.

2015 is seen by many as the turning point in the fight against climate change. In December, France hosts the 21st “Conference of the Parties”, or COP21, with a goal of reaching a binding agreement to limit global warning to between 1.5degC to 2degC.

Without significant action by the built environment sector, this target can not be met

December 2015 


The built environment sector’s crucial role in mitigating climate change is finally being recognised. For the first time in the history of climate negotiations, A ‘Buildings Day’ will be held December 3 at the COP21 UN conference on climate change in Paris.

  • Helping to put the buildings and construction sector on the below 2 °C path
  • Aligning existing initiatives, commitments and programmes to achieve greater scale and increase the pace of efficiency actions
  • Catalysing stronger collaboration and targeting sectoral and cross sectoral climate action and solutions for all

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Now then, is the time for every built environment organisation; funder; client; designer; constructor; and maintainer, to revisit and to recommit to sustainability goals that will not only seek to limit global warming through reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, but also seek to be net positive.

More than 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are buildings related, with emissions from buildings set to double by 2050 if we continue business as usual. Not addressing climate change will increase the risks and vulnerability of countries, regions and local communities. The forecast rapid urbanisation, without action will accelerate impacts.

Yet:

  • The built environment sector offers one of the most cost-effective and economically beneficial paths for reducing energy demand and associated emissions while at the same time supporting adaptation and resilience to climate change.
  • Many low-energy, renewable and deep renovation solutions are available. Proven policy, finance and technology actions exist.
  • The economic, health, and social benefits of sustainable buildings are significant. Buildings provide shelter, places to live, work, learn and socialise, directly affecting our daily lives. Providing more than 50 per cent of global wealth, and one of the largest employers at local level, the sector also offers a path to poverty alleviation.
  • Buildings are long-term ventures. Today’s new buildings are tomorrow’s existing stock. Failure to act now would lock in growth in GHG emissions for decades.

Better Build Green is the World Green Building Council’s new campaign which focuses on the UN climate change negotiations – COP21 in Paris. The campaign aims to show the world that green buildings offer one of the best and most cost-effective ways to tackle climate change and help keep global temperature rises within the two degrees limit. The message is simple: not only had we better build green if we are to reach a two-degree world tomorrow, but we are better off today if we do.

Sources:

UN Environment Programme Buildings Day 

Friends of Europe

Better Build Green

The New Economy – Why Buildings Matter in Fights Against Climate Change

Fairsnape iSite: Beyond Sustainability

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What does good ‘Facilities Management Sustainability’ look like? And why aren’t we doing it now?

I was honoured to be invited to the EuroFM ReseCGb8As1WsAA4i1varch 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,FM Restorative Sustainability 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.CGa3mDhWgAAPrZI
  • 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.UK_collaborative_logo
  • 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.

Related Links:

Living Building Challenge

Well Building Standard (see also Vicki Lockhart Well Building presentation here)

Bullitt Centre  @bullittcentre  and (see also my interview with Denis Hayes)

Bullitt Centre added value report: Optimizing Urban Ecosystem Services: The Bullitt Center Case Study

Bullitt Centre – From Roots to Canopy

Cradle to Cradle

Circular Economy – Circulate

Responsible Business – Yvon Chouinard

Research and Social Media: Rethinking Sustainability Research: Eight Global Challenges and  my presentation to UCLan CSD 

Restorative Sustainability: Future Restorative

Living Building Challenge UK follow @livingbldgUK

Brightest Greenest Buildings EU  – the EU Virtual Expo for Built Environment (opens 10th June)

World FM Day – 10th June – Building Resilience for the Future

Entering the The Guardian Sustainable Business Awards could be good for you

SustainBus_460x276Business is evolving, organisations big and small are taking new approaches to embedding sustainability and seeing results. The Guardian Sustainable Business Awards celebrates innovation and impact in corporate sustainability and the people who are making business better.

Categories include the Built Environment but also the current themes important to innovation and impact of the built environment sustainability agenda, and regularly covered by blogs such as this: collaboration, communication, net positive, restorative sustainability, natural capital, social impact, supply chain, waste, carbon and energy and more.

Why you should enter the awards

How to enter  Entries close on 7 February 2014

The Categories …

Communicating sustainability Inspiring action on sustainability issues is key. We’re looking for stand-out examples of campaigns that have engaged and entertained. Eliciting action and leading to tangible shifts in behaviour

Net positive It is no longer enough to do less bad. Progressive businesses are seeking ways to be regenerative in their activity, this award is for those businesses that are taking tangible steps towards making a net positive contribution to communities, society and the environment.

Work Is your organisation a great place to work? Creating healthy, happy working environments is part of being a sustainable business. This award will go to an organisation that seeks to foster a culture of health and happiness for all employees.

Natural capital  From water to healthy soil, pollinators to forests, nature underpins 100% of economic activity. This is an award for an organisation that is trailblazing a strategy to appropriately account for the value nature provides it with.

Social impact Business’ has huge potential to contribute positively to society. This award is for a project or initiative that seeks to solve a challenging social issue whilst simultaneously creating shared value for the business.

Collaboration An award for a project or initiative that breaks down traditional barriers. We are looking for examples of several partners working together in non-traditional ways towards a goal that delivers truly sustainable outcomes.

Supply chain – sponsored by WRAP Global supply chains are vast and complex. This award is for initiatives that embed a respect for human, economic and environmental rights across a business or product’s supply chain.

Carbon & energy management Reducing business’ scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions is key to meeting the UK’s carbon reduction targets. This is an award for initiatives that take a holistic approach to measuring, managing and reducing emissions.

Waste From circular principles applied to design to projects achieving zero waste and re-manufacturing initiatives, rethinking waste is vital and this award is for projects or products that are at the leading-edge of that rethinking.

Built Environment – sponsored by Aecom An award for innovative re-developments or new-build projects that are at the leading-edge of approaches to reducing the built environment’s negative environmental impacts and raising its positive social impact.

Fairsnape is a media partner for The Guardian Sustainable Business Awards