What is the collective noun for declarations? An argument, (used to describe architects and wizards) sounds a good fit. But I like a Promise of Declarations.
Coupled with recent findings from the IPCC, the UK’s CCC Net Zero Report and inspiration from Greta Thunberg and school strikers, over 100 local authorities, have declared a climate emergency and / or committed to net zero carbon by 2030 or 2050. And within the built environment we have declarations from Architects (now over 500 practice signatures), Landscape Architects, Structural Engineers, Service Engineers, Creative Communicators and even Construction Supply Chains. Check them out:
And, if anyone is setting up, or knows of a construction sector emergency declaration, I would be more than keen to assist/support
Tell the Truth: The first objective of call of extinction rebellion is to recognise that a climate emergency exists and to tell the truth. The second is to Act Now. Now that these groups, institutes, practices and individuals have recognised a climate emergency problem exists, we can act, and now is the time to turn these commitments into actions.
Act Now – All of these declarations have similar, reassuring, commitments for faster change in our industry towards regenerative approaches. And in doing so recognising that business as usual sustainability (BAUS) has not moved the needle on carbon, global climate temperatures or biodiversity.
“faster change in our industry towards regenerative design practices”
Act Now – Reimagine carbon – the greatest contribution we can make in the built environment, given that we emit 40% of emissions, is to design, deliver buildings that store carbon.
Act Now – Declare: Only with greater transparency in respect of the products we use, can we address impacts our buildings have on human, biodiversity and planetary health. Declare is focused on taking toxic materials out of the Built Environment through fostering a transparent materials economy free of toxins and harmful chemicals.
3 Collaborate and going beyond silos, we cannot do this alone and will need the might of all good collaborative working approaches from the last 30 years. One powerful benefit of Living Building Challenge accreditation, in not awarding certification until design intent is proven over a 12 months continuous period, is the way in which design, construction, facilities managers and those using the building have to collaborate for sustainable success
The current use of the extinction symbol by Extinction Rebellion, is establishing the symbol as the image of climate breakdown akin to the (CND) peace symbol. In addition, the vision, messages and demands from Extinction Rebellion, (echoed by Greta Thunberg, the SchoolsStrike4Climate and David Attenborough’s BBC Climate Change: The Facts) is resonating with business and the built environment sector. And as I mentioned in a tweet this morning – XR has done more for climate change, climate breakdown awareness than the sustainability movement has done, with (as the Guardian reported) Support for Extinction Rebellion in the UK has quadrupled in the past nine days as public concern about the scale of the ecological crisis grows.
The symbol represents extinction. The circle signifies the planet, while the hourglass inside serves as a warning that time is rapidly running out for many species. The world is currently undergoing a mass extinction event, and this symbol is intended to help raise awareness of the urgent need for change in order to address this crisis. Estimates are that somewhere between 30,000 and 140,000 species are becoming extinct every year in what scientists have named the Holocene, or Sixth Mass Extinction. This ongoing process of destruction is being caused by the impact of human activity. Within the next few decades approximately 50% of all species that now exist will have become extinct. Such a catastrophic loss of biodiversity is highly likely to cause widespread ecosystem collapse and consequently render the planet uninhabitable for humans.
We believed that we had time and techniques to reform this capitalist system towards something sustainable. It was a wonderful idea at the time, and even got its swansong with international agreement of sustainable development goals
Decarbonization by 2025 is a very tough goal, but …we have met tough goals before. We won’t get there by looking at bird photos and picking up litter on Earth Day once a year
Where to start? … ‘tell the truth’, … acknowledge a #ClimateEmergency exists and our built environment role .. and set zero carbon targets for 2025,
Martin Brown @fairsnape At the moment we are on track to fail our own industry strategy target carbon reduction 50% by 2025 … how will we explain that to next gen? #XConstruction
Whether you agree with Extinction Rebellion approach, or not, we need all means, advocates, media and approaches to raise awareness, tell the truth and starting acting.
USE OF EXTINCTION SYMBOL: No extinction symbol merchandise exists, and it never will do. The free use of the extinction symbol by individuals in their personal artwork or other forms of expression is strongly welcomed and encouraged, but any form of commercial use of the symbol is completely against its ethos and should therefore be refrained from. To reiterate, please do not use the symbol on any items that will be sold, or for any other fundraising purposes. There are no exceptions to this policy.
Again the question of what we mean by sustainability has arisen from various directions, and will, no doubt, continue to do so … Prompted by reading Lloyd Alters recent post in Treehugger, here are my thoughts …
Lloyd Alter in his TreeHugger post What’s a Better Term for Sustainable Design, calls for a vote between Sustainable Design and Responsible Design, citing standards such as One Planet Living, Living Building Challenge that go beyond sustainability.
I have long hooked on to a comment from Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia, The Responsible Company)that we should not be using the word sustainability until we give more back than we take, and that’s more back to the environment, but also to the place and culture in which we are based, the people we live and work with, those who work for us, and the society & communities in which we live work and play.
I am co-editing chapters for the forthcoming RESTORE Regenerative Design publication that also borrows much from regenerative standards, whilst embracing ecological perspectives, such as Commoners four laws of ecology. I would offer regenerative design as an alternative to sustainable or responsible design.
Listening to Bruce Springsteen’s brilliant Broadway performance I was struck by his piece on 1+1=3 – this is regenerative sustainability. It’s where the magic happens, it’s the magic of rock and roll, classical music, poetry where the sum of parts is far greater than the parts. Currently buildings and products struggle to make 1+1=2.
RESTORE 2018 publication (Sustainability, Restorative To Regenerative) defined regenerative sustainability as enabling eco and social systems to flourish but also pushed thinking forward, to embrace a Seva approach, where we design as part of nature, rather than apart from nature (the Eco stage). It requires a paradigm switch in how we see ourselves as part of nature.
This was highlighted on my recent visit to Future Build where more than one green building supplier used the expression of giving nature a home within our buildings. Seva thinking would reverse this, to promoting green build products that nature would tolerate in its home.
It is when the capacity of a place to sustain itself becomes ruptured that the human mind is forced to reflect upon ecology. Only then do most of us consider the interconnections between plants and animals and their environment. Ecology teaches that you cannot damage one part of a system without causing knock-on effects elsewhere. From Soul and Soil by Alastair McIntosh (a book I am currently reading described as ‘extraordinary, weaving together theology, mythology, economics, ecology, history, poetics and politics as the author journeys towards a radical new philosophy of community, spirit and place)
Within FutuREstorative: Towards a New Sustainability I flagged how the language we use is important, for clarity in what we are describing and attempting to achieve, but also in the often combative adversarial expressions we use, (of competitions, wining, beating etc) adopted from business and no doubt Sun Tzu’s Art of War thinking, and that we rarely, (although I must admit more increasingly), hear words of love, caring and compassion within the sustainability lexicon.
Is it ok to use the word sustainability?
My view, at the moment, is that it is ok to use the word sustainability, but not as something we have achieved, but as our striving for a tipping point (as per Chouinard’s quote). In this thinking we do not have many, if any, sustainable products or buildings. With perhaps exceptions such as natural, nature-based, building materials and buildings like the Bullitt Centre (not only for what it is today but also the ethos and philosophy on the way it was envisaged and designed)
I will be describing the work of RESTORE and the thinking behind Ego, Eco, Seva at the Living Futures 19 conference in Seattle on 2 May.
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.
The Lithuanian Green Build Council conference in Vilnius, attracting over 100 from the world built environment Real Estate, Design, Contruction, Product Manufacturers, Facilities Managers and Investors, asked the question ‘Sustainability what is it’?
It was a privilege to kick-off presentations, following an opening address from the Republic of Lithuania’s Ministry of Environment, sharing insights from FutuREstorative and Cost RESTORE. It was pleasing to see that key messages of my keynote resonated throughout the day’s presentations and case studies from inspiring speakers from Europe and the USA.
The key message was that we no longer have a luxury only to be less bad but that we need to seek different approaches to sustainability that enable us to do more good. Thats more good for people health, for planet health and importantly for financial health. Only reducing impact can be seen as the foolish act of driving ever slower towards a cliff edge we know is there.
The impact we have within the built environment sector on the health of those who work live and play in our buildings is huge, and a responsibility we need to face up to, not just to ‘sustain’ but to enable people and planet to thrive.
The LTGBC event included presentations with wonderful insights into regenerative design from Emanuele Naboni KADK / RESTORE, on circular economy from Kestutis Sadauskas, European Commission on healthy materials and LCA (from Camille FABRE, Sant-Goban, into green bonds for regenerative projects from Katya Nolvall atSwedbank) and BIPV – Building Integrated PV’s from Julija Kaladžinskaitė, alongside certification schemes that push the regenerative and health concept from David Hubka and Levan Ekhvaia (DGNB)
It was also a privilege to meet with and share insights with staff and students from VGTU (Vilnius Gedimino Technical University) School of Architecture the following day. Once again discussions and questions related to the need for collaboration with health practitioners in project design and construction. My thanks to Dr Gintaras Stauskis for the guided tour of Vilnius with insights into the city’s history and soviet architecture, and to his team at VGTU for hosting me for the day.
There were many takeaway’s over the two days and I learnt much from presentations and discussions. Conferences such as this may well be seen as a sustainability bubble of like-minded thinkers, but it is heartening to hear of the wonderful innovations and passions that are enabling us in the built environment to become key climate change solution providers, and not just part of the climate change problem.
We are learning to design and build for people and planet health, not just for function retaliation or image. And given the 12 years timeframe the IPCC October 2018 Report has given us … we need more of this.
Congratulations to Eugenis Sapel and team at LTGBC and Vesta for moderating and delivering a great event, and for keeping us speakers focused on financial aspects of regenerative sustainability.
Following the successful COST Restore Lancaster Training School in 2017, applications are invited for the second Training School to be held in Malaga, Spain in October 2018 offering a wonderful learning opportunity for students and practitioners looking to advance their skills at the interface of sustainability, #BIM, digital construction and regenerative design #CostRestore
Regenerative Design: from Theory to the Digital Practice
The aim of the conferences and the training school is the digital implementation of Regenerative Sustainable Design principles in the transformation of existing sites. Via the use of freeware digital parametric modelling, the challenges are to improve outdoor microclimate qualities and the indoor wellbeing, operating a transformation that responds to the criteria of Circular Economy.
The research and design project will represent, in this regard, an opportunity for enhancing life in all its manifestations. This presumes shifting the focus from a solely based human-centred design process into a nature-centred one, where “people and buildings can commit to a healthy relationship with the environment where they are placed”. Such approaches are discussed in morning conferences and in the afternoon scientific driven design developments.
The Barrio of La Luz, which was built after 1960 in Malaga is used as a reference. The site is a polluted heat-island, disconnected from sea breezes, with a spread hardscape, and with no presence of natural elements. Furthermore, the urban dwellers experience poor wellbeing due to the deprived quality of the units, being these modified by tenants often leading to obstructing natural ventilation and light. The projection of climate change will further exacerbate such outdoor and indoor conditions, and there is a need for an example of interventions that are scalable to the Spanish national level.
Trainees will form four groups that will develop four competing transformation design proposals. The design that shows a qualitative creative solution with the higher simulated performances will be awarded. Criteria for evaluation will also include the quality of the digital modelling phases and the dynamics of development of the integrated strategies. To assess the projects’ success, the jury is composed of a mix of international and local professionals and scientist, with experience in architecture, performance and modelling.
Our RESTORE Cost Action publication that records the outputs of the sustainability working group is now available to download from the RESTORE website. This publication, with contributions from over 20 EU countries is an exploration in progressing a paradigm shift in built environment thinking, from sustainability to restorative sustainability and on to regenerative sustainability.
It presents a reference document for future work of the RESTORE Action, for other Cost Actions and for built environment academia and industry organisations.
Within this publication we have sought to describe and reinforce a new era of sustainability, one that address the impacts, pressures and challenges of our anthropogenic age. Against the background of, and within the context of rapidly changing climate we no longer have the luxury not to seek a new sustainability.
It presents a new sustainability paradigm that moves away from just reducing impact to one that is committed to doing more good, through focused restorative and regenerative strategies and actions.
We have sought to establish a language of regenerative sustainability, one that includes love, place and participation in addition to regenerative approaches to energy, water and resources.
The rise in wellbeing as an element of sustainability is highly significant with many of the main stream standards now evolving to embrace wellbeing, aligning for example with the Well Build standard, or as in the case of the Living Building Challenge recognising the importance of buildings on the health and happiness of its inhabitants.
We can go much further however, though buildings that provide salotogenic co-benefits, improving the mental and physical health of those who work, play and live within our buildings, and in doing so making a significant contribution to wider health care economies.
Through the work on definitions, a worldview of sustainability, living buildings, heritage and economy, we have identified and explored a number of ‘triggers’ necessary to move us to a future built environment that is ecologically sound, culturally rich, socially just and economically viable:
››› Language – a language for sustainability that inspires, not confuses,
››› Education – inspiring the next generation,
››› Nature – reconnecting buildings with nature that in turn can reconnect people with nature,
››› Place – living buildings that contribute to and enhance stories and culture of the past and share lessons for the future,
››› Economy – moving from limited growth to Regenerative Economies.
The working group definitions, insights, visions and triggers to move us towards a regenerative economy now sets the foundations;
››› for future RESTORE working groups to build upon and to develop,
››› for education & academia to embrace and include within built environment curriculums.
The built environment is currently a major contribution to climate change, the task before us is to make the shift towards a future build environment that makes responsible contribution to climate solutions.