With the construction materials sector exposed to significant transition and physical risk resulting from climate change, the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) recent paper, Investor Expectations of Companies in the Construction Materials Sector, outlines the steps that investors expect companies to take to manage climate risks and accelerate action to decarbonise in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The guide is endorsed by other investor networks that make up the Global Investor Coalition of Climate Change, and was developed in line with the goals of Climate Action 100+ in order to inform investor engagement with construction material firms on the initiative’s global list of 161 focus companies.
Investors supporting the Climate Action 100+ initiative expect construction material companies to make commitments in respect of
Implement a strong governance framework which clearly articulates the board’s accountability and oversight of climate change risk and opportunities.
Take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across their value chain, consistent with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the increase in global average temperatures to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Provide enhanced corporate disclosure in line with the final recommendations of the TCFD5 and, when applicable, sector-specific Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change Investor Expectations on Climate Change to enable investors to assess the robustness of companies’ business plans against a range of climate scenarios, including well below 2°C and improve investment decision-making.
Climate change risk is especially acute for companies that manufacture cement. As the most widely used construction material globally, cement is the source of 7 percent of global man-made carbon dioxide emissions. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest global emitter, behind only China and the US.
Declare is a construction materials transparency disclosure programme.
Business as Usual Sustainability may well prove to be our barrier in addressing the climate change issues we face. To only ‘sustain’ is no longer enough, we now have a real urgency to embrace regenerative sustainability, to thrive … and to enable thriving.
The last three decades have given us many opportunities to embrace sustainability, but have only done so reluctantly and given the worsening CO2, air quality and health issues associated with our buildings, inadequately. So now the options available to us are increasingly radical and of necessity transformative.
The recent 2018 IPCC report has given us 12 years to avoid a painful climate breakdown and the risk of irreversibly destabilising the Earth’s climate. If we are to meet the targets in front of us, related to the 2015 Paris Agreement, the SDG’s and here at home in the UK Built Environment with our CO2 reduction by 2025 targets, we need to move way beyond Business as Usual Sustainability …
The report confirmed that we must take widespread changes to design, construction, maintenance and re-use of buildings. It reinforces buildings account for 40% of CO2 emissions with building materials such as cement and concrete accounting for some 8% of the global figure. In essence this would require no construction, building, industry, plant or vehicles using gas, oil, coal or fossil fuels; a building products sector converted to green natural products and / or non-toxic chemistry; and heavy industries like cement, steel and aluminum production either using carbon-free energy sources or not used in buildings.
Further, the construction and use of buildings will by necessity need to be positive, not passive, neutral or negative – sequestering and capturing more carbon than emitted, generating more energy than used, improving air quality rather than polluting and improving inhabitants wellbeing rather than contributing to health problems.
The best time to start radically reducing carbon was 30 years ago, the second best time is to start today.
Its time to step up.
We can do this.
The Paris 1.5 aspiration is still within our reach – just! Thankfully the 2018 IPCC report does contain at least one positive, and that is anthropogenic emissions up now are unlikely to cause further warming of more than 0.5°C over the next two to three decades or on a century time scale.
This means that, if we stop using fossil fuels today, the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that have already been released into the atmosphere to date are not likely to warm the earth the additional 0.5°C, either by 2030, or 2050, or even by 2100.
No doubt you have read many end of 2018, start of 2019 sustainable lifestyle things we can do – from eating less meat, cycling not driving, avoiding fossil fuel energy – and these are all good, and things we should be doing. But we can do more, and in the built environment we can make significant and meaningful progress in, for example:
Educate and Advocate As individuals, as organisations and as a sector we must educate and advocate. Many of those entering the design and construction sector over the next twelve years are still in education (many at primary school and have a whole secondary and university education in front of them)They need to be inspired and motivated for a built environment that will be radically different to the one we have today.
Reverse the Performance Gap The performance gap between design and actual causes unnecessary co2 emissions. As with the Living Building Challenge, let’s make award of any sustainable standard only on achievement of or bettering of the agreed design intent. Perhaps planning should only be given, or priority given to buildings that positively make a contribution – on carbon, water, or air quality. A challenge for Building Regulations and Planning requirements to step up.
Grow from Thousands to Billions Trees: “Our planet’s future climate is inextricably tied to the future of its forests,” states the 2018 IPCC report, calling for billions of trees to be planted and protected. We have the skills, materials and mindsets to design, construct and maintain buildings that function as trees. Perhaps the flagship here is the Bullitt centre, but we have thousands of buildings around the world that have regenerative attributes. Building on the title of the 2018 World Green Building Council report we can ramp this up from Thousands to Billions – to all buildings.
In 2016, FutuREstorative sought to set out what a new sustainability could look like, moving thinking in the built environment from the ‘reducing harm’ sustainability business as usual approach to one that is restorative, regenerative with a connected worldview. working with natural systems, healing harm done in the past.
I must admit I shied away from using the word regenerative in the title of the 2016 edition. Within the UK regenerative has had an uncomfortable meaning, associated with ‘building schools for the future’ and other less successful programmes. As a Project Manager for a regeneration programme in East Lancashire, I saw first hand, just how uncomfortable the ‘regeneration’ label sat with local communities and the wider sustainability agendas.
I am delighted that FutuREstorative has been adopted by many practices (it has inspired at least two start-ups that I know of here in the UK), is being translated into Portuguese and has been adopted by academic organisations around the world. It has also provided the backbone for the EU COST RESTORE programme.
However, and thankfully, the world of sustainability has moved on a-pace, much has progressed from 2016, (Paris, SDG’s, IPCC and WWF reports) Increasingly we hear much more, and are seeing more examples of regenerative sustainability and ecologically principled design in relation to our buildings, And this includes regenerative buildings that are designed to heal people and planet. I see this as part of what Daniel Wahl refers to as ‘regeneration rising’ but are far from reaching a tipping point.
So, into 2019, my plans are to …
update FutuREstorative, reframing and possibly re-titling as FutuREgenerative to reflect current regenerative activities globally and pushing our thinking further. Over the coming weeks I will be collating regenerative stories and looking for blog style contributions from those at the sharp end of regenerative sustainability, within the built environment and beyond
further support and enable the communities of practice and discussion groups that have emerged and are growing around FutuREstorative
If you would like to get involved in sharing your stories and experience through FutuREstorative communities of practice then please do reach out.
Five years old on Earth Day 2018, the Bullitt Center is surpassing its lofty environmental goals, as well as meeting its commercial objectives.
“The Bullitt Center is proof that profitable, zero energy Living Buildings are possible,” said Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, which owns the Bullitt Centre. “To meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, all buildings need to do the same,” he added.
Some of the highlights of the first five years in operation include the following:
The building is 100% leased with a diverse mix of tenants that include Sonos, Intentional Futures, PAE Consulting Engineers, University of Washington’s Center for Integrated Design, International Living Future Institute, and Hammer & Hand.
Brett Phillips, Vice President of Sustainable and Responsible Investments at Unico Properties, calls the Center “one of the best net income performers on a square foot basis that Unico manages.”
Seattle City Light buys energy the building does not use (“negawatt-hours”) for a total of approximately $50,000 each year. This is rebated to tenants who meet their energy goals as an incentive for energy efficiency. Seattle Mayor Durkan expanded this pilot to 30 buildings on April 11, 2018.
More than 25,000 people have toured the building, including the largest residential real estate developer in the world, the President of Bulgaria, Mayor of Copenhagen, U.S. Secretary of Energy, EPA Administrator, U.S. Senators and Governors, along with thousands of architects, engineers and builders.
A growing list of projects cite the Bullitt Center as an influence, including the Obama Presidential Library, Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design at Georgia Tech, Rocky Mountain Institute headquarters, American Geophysical Union building, Santa Monica City Hall, and the Mosaic Centre.
Business leaders have visited to learn about the building from companies that include Costco, Etsy, Google, Microsoft, REI, and Starbucks.
Of course, the Bullitt Center has also surpassed lofty expectations for environmental performance, generating 20 percent more energy than it used every year since it opened, using only one-third as much energy as a well-run LEED Platinum building, and using 95 percent less water (1 gallon per square foot per year) than the average office building in Seattle, despite having showers on every floor.
The University of Washington, State of Washington, King County, City of Seattle, Skanska USA, Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft, and REI, among 2,500 others, all signed a statement committing to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Despite the success of the Bullitt Center, the vast majority of new construction does no better than meet the bare bones requirements of building code.
As Hayes often remarks, “A building built to code is the very worst building that it is not against the law to build.” Hayes continues, “To avoid a climate catastrophe, we all have to aim much higher. We’ve now shown that it’s possible to develop comfortable, attractive buildings that meet ambitious energy goals and also deliver strong financial performance.”
A 52,000 square-foot commercial building at the intersection of Capitol Hill and the Central Area in Seattle, the Bullitt Center is designed, built and operated to be the world’s greenest office building. Owned by the Bullitt Foundation, the building is a market-rate, Class-A commercial office building with 90 percent of its space leased to commercial enterprises. It was developed to show what’s possible today and to demonstrate a path forward for other real estate development projects. For more information visit http://www.bullittcenter.org.