So what was / is Climate Week Paris and how relevant to the built environment?

You couldn’t have missed the #CWParis hashtag and tweets from the Business Climate Summit in twitter streams over the past few days. The Climate Week Paris business meeting hosted by The Climate Group was scheduled six months before Paris hosts the UN conference where almost 200 countries are set to seal a (yet another) global climate change pact.

Key events included a Business & Climate Summit and Climate Finance Day, with world’s leading companies and policymakers brought together to demonstrate that low carbon makes good business, and good environmental sense

There were calls from many company executives at Paris urging governments to introduce more carbon pricing systems, such as a carbon tax or emissions trading schemes.

Relevance to built environment

With the Built Environment contributing the (rule of thumb) 40% of Carbon emissions, and a huge influence on business operation the sector had a presence through advocacy organisations and businesses with large built environment assets, but from reports seen and feeds followed, there was a very low presence from built environment providers – if any!

A high level session on transition to a ‘Low Carbon Built Environment’ (with a panel led by Christiana Figueres @CFigueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and chaired by Sandrine Dixson-Declève, Director of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership) discussed how “architect, town planners and engineers, collaborating with the construction, real-estate, materials & technology and financial communities, could showcase solutions for the built environment that can be deployed in Europe and inspire worldwide action”

One of the main points addressed was the lack of visibility suffered by the construction sector, as topics like energy efficiency and net positive standards are often seen as highly-technical and not understood by the general public.

Key to meeting the global goal of decarbonisation by 2050 is seen as the transition of new and existing buildings to EU Net Energy Standards . The EU Standard Requires “Member States shall ensure that by 31 December 2020 all new buildings are nearly zero-energy buildings; and after 31 December 2018, new buildings occupied and owned by public authorities are nearly zero-energy buildings”

Marks and Spencer (M&S) announced that they joined RE100, a global initiative for major companies committing to 100% renewable power, through their Plan A programme to lower carbon emissions from their activities and building operations.

The World Green Build Council promoted and launched its BuildUpon report during Climate Week Paris, aiming to create a building renovation revolution in Europe. See the Imagine a Built Environment that Enables a High Quality of Life for All  report

The BuildUpon report includes two notable actions,

  • identifying and engaging with ‘Unusual Suspects’, those not as yet engaged in the low carbon built environment dialogue.
  • A proposed open source wiki for information, the RenoWiki, a comprehensive summary of renovation initiatives across the 13 project EU countries, “to bring clarity on how national renovation strategies can strategically build upon the current landscape and how identified solutions might be scaled-up across other countries”

And, as reported in the Guardian Article “in an unprecedented alliance, 25 global news publishers have agreed to share climate change content to raise awareness in the runup to the next UN summit and agreed to scrap licensing fees for climate change content so that members of the alliance can freely republish articles.”

A call then to the Built Environment news publishers to do similar, to share climate change content and bring that content out from behind paywalls?

(I am grateful for informative tweets, sharing news and links from Climate Week Paris from friend , @WeMeanBusiness, @GuardianSustBiz, @SDDecleve @ClimateGroup and others in Paris)

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Living Building Challenge 3.0 Released

International Living Future Institute refines and upgrades the building certification program to raise the bar even higher for restorative design. 

PORTLAND, Ore. — May 22, 2014 —The International Living Future Institute™ today
released the next iteration of the Living Building Challenge.

Widely considered the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard,
Living Building Challenge, the 3.0 version represents an important step forward in the
program’s evolution, with several new innovative elements as well as important
refinements.

“These changes reflect the many discussions and compelling feedback provided by
Living Building Challenge project teams pursuing certification,” says Amanda
Sturgeon, the International Living Future Institute’s Vice President in charge of the
Living Building Challenge. “We believe the 3.0 version of the program helps advance
our goal to rapidly diminish the gap between current limits and the end-game positive
solutions we seek in the built environment and beyond.”

On initial reading, I am (perhaps not surprisingly) impressed with the more headline improvements, reinforcing that there is more to built environment sustainability than just the building.

  • The Site Petal renamed the Place Petal, reflecting deeply held belief in viewing each project location as a place with unique and important  characteristics.
  • A more clearly defined Equity Petal, which integrates with JUST™. This is encouraging, not only reflecting the current interest in Equity issues as a key component of sustainability, but embedding within the standard.
  • The Car Free Living imperative becomes Human Powered Living, including “Advocacy in the community to facilitate the uptake of human powered transportation”
  • Water and Energy is simplified, for water ‘net zero water’ redefining water as a precious resource’ and for energy ‘net zero energy’. One hundred and five percent of the project’s energy needs must be supplied by on-site renewable energy on a net annual basis, without the use of on-site combustion. Profoundly simple, profoundly challenging.
  • Happiness is added to the Health imperative, this is a great move, taking the sector responsibility beyond just healthy buildings. A built environment salutogenesis – focus on what makes people happy and healthy – rather than the causes of ill health or sick building syndrome.
  • Appropriate Sourcing strengthened to Living Economy Sourcing in respect of location for materials and services.
  • I am not so sure about renaming of Conservation and Reuse as Net Zero Waste.  A strength of the 2.0 imperative was that is was not called Waste, moving the focus upstream to deal with causes of waste.  The strengthening of circular economy, cradle to cradle thinking is to be to welcomed with the requirement to find ways to integrate waste back into either an industrial loop or natural nutrient loop.
  • Imperative 18 is a big focus on the JUST programme, requiring at least one  project team members must have a JUST Label for their organisation. But why is the contractor not one of those required to do so is surprising. It is more likely that the contractor will have the least just practices, thinking for example of diversity within construction organisations and unacceptable labour practices on football stadium in Qatar. An opportunity missed?
  • Another opportunity missed may be in the education imperative. One of the most powerful means of communicating and sharing sustainability lessons and advances is through social media. It’s great that every project should have an educational website, but also real-time sharing through blogs and (eg) twitter could be a very powerful advocacy platform.

More observations and insights to follow, but once again the Living Building Challenge raises the bar, but there is more to come …

In response to the growing need for sustainability solutions that move across industries and scales and better address the social and environmental crises humanity now faces, the International Living Future Institute™ has created the Living Future Challenge ™.

Based on the elegant and profound architecture of the Living Building Challenge, utilising nature as the ultimate end-game metric for success, the Living Future Challenge will extend to all aspects of society as various programs are launched over the next few years: Living Buildings, Living Communities, Living Products, Living Food, Living Enterprises, Living Lifestyles. 

Living Building Challenge 3.0 can be found here.

Further Reading and Blogs

Living Future “unConference” Sets New Model of Shared Resources by @PaladinoandCo

What You Need to Know About the Living Building Challenge 3.0 by @KatieWeeks