Questioning Sustainability

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)

The abstract and papers for the forthcoming American Geographers event Nature’s New Urban Worlds: Questions of Sustainability perhaps reflects the current zeitgeist, where nature is being used in the design and forging of new urban worlds.

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.

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Regenerative sustainability: enabling people and planet to thrive.

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.

From Construction to Prostruction

COST RESTORE‘s third working group kicked off in Koper, Slovenia in June, continuing the regenerative themes of working groups 1 and 2, seeking to bring about a paradigm shift in the way we approach construction and building operations.

Working group one addressed concepts of regenerative built environment within the language we use, through our social and ecological relationships (from Eco, to Ego to Seva), through new build and existing heritage buildings that leads to a regenerative economy. This work has been captured with the Sustainability, Restorative to Regenerative publication available for free download.

Working group two picked up these themes and applied to regenerative design.

One of the inspiring and light bulb discussions entered around building users, facilitated by facilities management …  as prosumers, not consumers. And those who design and deliver buildings as prostructors not constructors.

This thinking allows us to further develop the ‘less bad to more good’ diagram that has come to illustrate the work of RESTORE

PROSTRUCTION

We may never change construction to prostruction, however language is important and the wider the term is used, the better awareness of where our sector, organisations, projects and products are on the regenerative spectrum from consumption to prosumption.

Prostruction Using Natures Technology to Grow Buildings –  Eric Corey Freed 

A prosumer is a person who consumes and produces a product. It is derived from “prosumption“, a dot-com era business term meaning “production by consumers”. These terms were coined in 1980 by American futurist Alvin Toffler. Wikipedia 

An early paper exploring facilities management as community prosumers CbFM Community Based FM.

4 Laws of Ecology: Revisited

Four Lawas of Ecology

I undertook the task earlier this week of reviewing references for our upcoming RESTORE working group publication {Sustainability, Restorative to Regenerative}. One of those references was to Barry Commoner’s popular quote and definition on ecology, that the first law of ecology is that everything is connected.

This lead me to pick up a copy and re-read deeper into Commoner’s 1971 The Closing Circle and revisit the Four Laws of Ecology.  The Closing Circle describes the ecosphere, how it has been damaged, and the economic, social, and political systems which have created our environmental crises. It gives us a clear and concise understanding of what ecology means that is evermore relevant today.

And timely, Commoner’s second law – everything must go somewhere – resonates with a comment I gave to our local Lancashire Evening Post on plastic pollution. (We need to We need to be critically questioning single use plastics and acutely aware of plastics impact on health and the environment – and be aware of what happens when we throw plastic away – as really, there is no ‘away’)

The First Law of Ecology: Everything Is Connected to Everything Else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all. “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” John Muir

The Second Law of Ecology: Everything Must go Somewhere. There is no “waste” in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown. Any waste produced in one ecological process is recycled in another. A core principle for the Circular Economy.

The Third Law of Ecology: Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but any human change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system” And in the context of chemicals of concern we are looking to eradicate from buildings (through eg the ILFI Red List) “The absence of a particular substance in nature, is often a sign that it is incompatible with the chemistry of life”

The Fourth Law of Ecology: There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. Exploitation of nature, will always carry an ecological cost and will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless.

The four laws warn that every gain is won at some cost. Because our global ecosystem is a connected whole, any impact, anything extracted from nature by human effort must be replaced. There is no avoidance of this price and delay only creates the ecological disruption and biodiversity loss we are witnessing.

This reinforces statements I make so often in presentations (see Specifi Edinburgh and RESTORE Budapest for example) and within FutuREstorative, that sustainability is the point at which we start to give back more than we take, and that we no longer have the luxury to just reduce our impact but we have delayed too long to do more good to rebalance the ecosystem equilibrium.

 

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Available via RIBA Bookshops

 

Gaining a deeper understanding of sustainability.

RESTORE TS LogoA reminder that there only a few days remaining to apply for our funded RESTORE Training School to be held in November.

Restorative sustainability will move us beyond the intersection of ‘old’ and ‘new’ sustainability, and attending this training school will equip you with knowledge and greater understanding for the new emerging sustainability era..

Aldo Leopold quote

In addition to learning from leading experts in areas such as Biophilia, Sustainable Education & Restorative Sustainability, visit inspiring sustainability projects, you will also gain an understanding of the forward thinking work from the RESTORE working groups.

Applications received to date indicate a wonderful range of backgrounds and experience from across Europe that will enable you to learn, to share and to form working collaborations with other training school delegates.

We encourage you to get your application (or expression of interest) to us now, and to share this opportunity with your colleagues and friends.  The application details are at www.eurestore.eu/ts. but should you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask Dorin Beu (dorin.beu@rogbc.org) or myself.

The Training School is fully funded by COST RESTORE (subject to the COST rules outlined in the application) and hence represents great, unmissable value.

I look forward to welcoming you to Lancaster and the Training School in November …

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Back to School with Restorative Sustainability

What is Restorative Sustainability and why is Education so vital?

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Working with Class of your Own, it is a pleasure to be organising and directing the first Training School for the RESTORE Cost Action to be held in Lancaster, between 14th and 17th November 2017.

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The RESTORE Action aims at a paradigm shift towards restorative sustainability for new and existing buildings, promoting forward thinking and multidisciplinary knowledge, leading to solutions that celebrate the richness of design creativity while enhancing users’ experience, health and wellbeing inside and outside buildings, in harmony with urban ecosystems, reconnecting users to nature.

Applications are now invited for the school that will focus on Restorative Sustainability, Biophilia, and Sustainability Education.  In four days students and practitioners from across the EU will gain a deep understanding of Restorative Sustainability and learn about key topics from RESTORE working groups.

Training School trainees (students, educators, and practitioners) will participate in

  • Introduction Seminars
  • Action Learning
  • Presentations (Team and Individual)
  • Designing and Delivering a School Sustainability Education workshop
  • Study Tours / Interviews with Living Building Challenge Project Teams
  • Report Writing
  • Evening seminars

We expect the school to be oversubscribed, so get your application in now! Full details, selection criteria and how to apply can be found on the Cost RESTORE website.

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Topics to be covered include:

  • PLACE:  Relationship with place, ecology, nature, soils, bio-climate,
  • ENERGY: restorative and regenerative energy, net-zero, carbon-neutral, energy storage
  • WATER: net positive water, building influence, floods, drought, water stress
  • WELLBEING: health, happiness, Salutogenesis, biophilia, mindfulness, air, light, comfort
  • CARBON: science based targets, 350ppm, 2Deg, 1.5Deg, social impact,
  • RESOURCES:  healthy materials, responsible, transparency, conservation, circular economy,
  • EQUITY: equality fairness, inclusion, respect,
  • EDUCATION: behaviour, next generation, next project, development,

The outline agenda for the four days:

Day One (TUESDAY, November 14)

  • Inductions, Welcomes and Arrangements
  • Introduction to RESTORE
  • Restorative Sustainability Thinking
  • FutuREstorative Module
  • Introduction to Biophilic Design and Impact on Sustainable Behaviour
  • Production of Biophilic Design Plan (for Birth Center (Design or Refurbishment)

Evening

  • Guest Lecture Sustainable and Traceable Coffee – Presentation and Coffee Tasting
  • Dinner

 Day Two (WEDS, November 15)

  • Introduction: Sustainability Education, Inspiring the next generation
  • Planning An Education Workshop
  • Site Tour Lancaster Castle + Refurbishment Works
  • Working Group One: Faro Papers, Intro and Discussion
    • Social Wellbeing, Behaviour
    • Restorative Heritage
    • Regenerative Buildings
    • Economics, Resources ‘the circular economy’
  • Guest Lectures (eg Heritage, Biomimicry, Circular Economy)

Evening

  • UK ReWilding Guest Lecture
  • Dinner

Day Three (THURS, November 16)

  • Running a Live Sustainability Education Workshop at Local School (tbc)
  • Education Workshop Feedback from students and teachers
  • Finalisation of Reports/Presentations
  • Public event with sustainability, built environment professionals
  • Training School Presentations to Core Group
  • Training School Q&A Panel Session (chair tbc)
  • Dinner

Day Four (FRIDAY, November 17)

Study Tours to RESTORE demonstration Buildings

  • Building Relationships with Place and Nature: Brock Holes (Preston) BREEAM Outstanding
  • Site Visit – Living Building Challenge Project, CVP, Lancashire
  • Living Building Challenge Design Issues,
  • Designing and Building with Natural Materials
  • Training School Debriefing
  • Post Course requirements

Full details, selection criteria and how to apply can be found on the Cost RESTORE website.

Restorative Sustainability Research Visit Opportunities

RESTORE STSMs

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APPLY for a RESTORE Short Term Scientific Mission !

Interested in bringing Restorative Sustainability expertise to your country? Then apply for STSM within a Specific Areas of Interest.

Short Term Scientific Missions in RESTORE

STSMs are research visits to a host institution where the applicant will perform research activities that advance the objectives of RESTORE. STSMs must be between 5 and 90 days (although, they may exceed that duration in specific instances for Early Career Investigators). STSMs are financially supported by the Action with a fixed contribution of up to 2500 EUR.

  • Propose a related STSM area of interest related to the RESTORE Cost Action
  • Select a Host Institution that has the knowledge you seek to receive
  • Make your innovative proposal to study what you cannot in your country
  • Make your case, why is your study important, how will you use it to expand understanding in your country and abroad and GO!
    • Applications Open 01 June 2017
    • Applications Close 30th June 2017
    • STSM can begin in July 2017
    • STSM and reporting must be completed by February 28, 2018

** Download the Application Details and Form from here **

 

STSM Areas of Interest

You may apply for an STSM related to the following areas of interest, or alternatively for an STSM related to the working group descriptions and key themes.

  1. Historical evolution and changing paradigms of “Sustainability” since 1987 / Brundtland (mapping and evaluating objectives, key themes and topics in WG1, see Appendix A)
  2. Challenges and Opportunities identified by a) existing and b) emerging built environment sustainability standards, and c) the Sustainable Development Goals
  3. Influencing factors & frameworks for Restorative Sustainability
  4. Outdoor Space Comfort Performances Design. New Processes and Emerging Tools to Adapt to Climate Change.
  5. Processes and Tools for Building Up-cycling Design and Circular Economy.

Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM) committee lead:  

Michael Burnard: michael.burnard@iam.upr.si.