My More than Just a Green Deal keynote to the Merseyside Construction Conference March 13th 2013, making the case to see Green Deal as part of the Green Build and Sustainability agenda, and the need for doing the right green thing every time.
We are seeing a new vocabulary emerging with concepts such as biomimicry, zero or net energy, water and environmental impact, Living Buildings, biophillia, circular economy … and more … As the interest and importance of these concepts influence in the way we design, build and use buildings, do we need a new paradigm? Some 15 years after Egan, do we need to again rethink construction to address these emergent sustainability themes. approaches and skills that once again the sector is lacking, engaging the economists, surveyors and accountants? As Jonathan Dawson comments:
Ecology offers the insight that the economy is best understood as a complex adaptive system, more a garden to be lovingly observed and tended than a machine to be regulated by mathematically calculable formulae.
A comment that makes a nice resonance with the Living Building Challenge philosophy
And of course a key element in this new thinking is the internet, web 2.0 and the power of social media.
Enabled by the growing power of information technology, whole new ways of doing business and organising society are emerging, whose strength lies not in economies of scale but in economies of co-operation and symbiosis
Over the weekend , via twitter I caught a slide via Rachel Armstrong illustrating the difference and need to move from 20th century Cartesian or Newtonian thinking into 21st complexity, emergent thinking …
Jonathan Dawson: “This moment of history calls on us to rewrite the dictionary and create new stories, much as the generations following on from Copernicus did to reflect the new world-view that emerged from his astronomical insights”
Construction ‘localism’ is currently high on the agenda. And set to grow in importance.
There is, rightly, much talk and focus on localism within construction projects and frameworks at the moment, based on the principle of keeping project spend local. And of course realising other benefits such as reduced travel and transport distances, reduced carbon emission, improved productivity and more.
But how do we compare and benchmark ‘localism’? How local is your project? As a client how can you know if your contractor is addressing your ‘localism’ requirements?
The benchmark being set through ConstructCO2 can provide a starting point. How do you compare? Do you know your project stats?
Measuring and understanding your localism (and CO2) footprint must be a key measure, a KPI, as part of your sustainability and CSR programme. Going beyond the measuring it’s essential we monitor trends, make the comparisons, understand the causes and, take action.
It is one of the more important impact and influence areas your construction project has on sustainability and the environment.
After last weeks UCLAN Centre for Sustainable Development, Social Media launch session I was asked how to ‘manage’ and ‘filter’ what you can learn and share across the world of social media sustainability. It was not too easy to summarise in a few minutes on notepaper, so here is my ‘work flow’ and the five key applications used:
Most of my inflow arrives via twitter or twitter based apps, eg tweetdeck or hootsuite. I have a number of established feeds or filters established which enables me to keep a real time watch on activity relating to the topics I am concerned with, or related to my clients interests.
Blogs and websites I follow are RSS subscriptions into Google Reader
Described as a social magazine, Flipboard is a brilliant feed application that enables me have a one stop ‘viewing’ place. In addition to having twitter searches feeding into Flipboard, I also have Google Reader, linkedin groups I follow, hub feeds such as the Guardian Sustainable Business and 2degreesnetwork. (Feeds also include cycling, outdoor, walking and weather interests.)
Instapaper works across many platforms and is my main ‘receptacle’. It is used to collect and tag articles for later reading. Train journeys and waiting times are great Instapaper reading catch up time. From here I retweet, and / or move to Evernote for keeping or further reference.
Rapidly became my everywhere note book. I am drafting this in Evernote! Articles or extracts in Instapaper wanted for reference are exported to Evernote and filed away with tags. These can be for future reference, inspirations for blog posts or, importantly topics on which I can hone, improve or enhance the services I provide for my clients across the built environment.
Tweets can be made either direct from Instapaper or buffered through Buffer which enables some interesting time lapse tweets, or repeated tweets to catch differing time zones. (Care is needed with buffer however to be sure to react to responses!)
So there you have it. This has been an established work flow a quite a while now and one that works for me. It would be interesting to know your work flow and what works for you.
Having a strategy or plan to deal with social media is critical to making effective use of your time online. Building on the support provided to organisations to date on similar social media strategies, we can help you hone your social media plans, with one to one face to face sessions, or on online via (eg) skype.
The mid 90’s saw my first involvement with sustainable construction, as Business Improvement Manager, setting up strategy and awareness programmes for Mowlem Construction, driven it should be noted to address client bid requirements in PFI and Prime Contracting.
At that time Brundtland’s definition from 1987 was fresh and it made good sense to include it in strategies and as a definition.
In hindsight, one of the problems of this approach is that it reinforced the thinking of that time, that environmental management, and by default sustainable construction belonged firmly and squarely within the Health and Safety departments. A misconception that many organisations still subscribe to, or struggle to move away from.
But, since then, sustainability thinking has moved on from environmental management as H&S add on, to a wider view of sustainability that includes social and business responsibility, ethical procurement and localism and is now heading for a challenging future greener and deeper agenda
It is encouraging to note the move away from what I have referred to as ‘accommodationalist‘ thinking – ie doing only what we are required to do by law, no more no less. In fact this thinking is now being challenged by the Governments red tape initiative, proposing to remove certain sustainability related legislation
Over the last 7 years I have been supporting organisations map out and chart progress on their ‘Route to Zero‘, identifying actions necessary today, tomorrow and most likely into the future. We may be in the position of being able to say we have picked off the low hanging fruit from the sustainability tree.
Most construction companies now have a sustainability policy and project approaches that are ISO 14001 accredited, to deal with better management of waste, recording transport construction miles, employing locally and so on.
But now the real work begins, reaching higher into the greener, more dense canopies of the tree, with a new, emerging set of challenging actions that will take us closer to our zero impact ambitions.
Amongst these new challenges we can see:
- Collaborative and circular economy thinking. For example what if every building improved with age, improved in its function, its resilience, its performance. Became more ‘durable‘? Contracts would not only need to cover the design and construction of buildings, but a new form of collaboration between provider and user that included continuous improvement criteria. Such Circular Economy thinking would force new collaborations across the supply chain, across discipline and with clients.
- Convergence of data, information rich ICT environments, an Internet of Things linked to metering sensors that will provide real time feedback on performance of the buildings and of the construction process, driving improved and sustainable resource utilisation. Getting us closer to zero waste and zero carbon emissions.
- Responsible specification and procurement, that is not only local but considers ethical and most importantly the health impact of building product ingredients. (see the Healthy Product Declaration Standard)
- Challenging standards, that bring new deep green philosophies and certifications for buildings and facilities, as we see with the Living Building Challenge
- The inclusion of costing nature within construction projects. ‘Cheap’ buildings may only be cheap because the real social, environmental costs have been externalised for someone else, often society and the public purse to deal with. Time to bring those externalised costs back into the project costs?
- A mindful built environment sector, or one that has mindfulness, ie ‘in the moment’ awareness of the impact the design, the construction, the maintenance, use and deconstruction of the building will have upon the environment and nature. Mindfulness is a huge and complex topic but an important sustainability concept we will hear far much more of in 2013.
The first Green Vision tweetchat for 2013 will explore some of these issues on the 28th January at 8pm using the hashtag #GVisChat, asking the question are we getting closer to ‘Zero’?
If you would like to know more on how the Fairsnape Route to Zero mapping and charting programme can help your business, please do make contact
Update – Presentation on this theme
All too often I hear construction talk of how things will be better and back to normal when we emerge from the current tough environment, with a strategy of retrenching, waiting and picking up again in good times just around the corner.
Wrong – this is the future, right now, and only those who adapt and embrace change will find a better working environment, and turn the corner to find those good times. As Einstein said, doing the same thing over and over again hoping for better results is just plain insanity.
I was reminded at yesterdays Constructing Excellence Collaborative Working Champions meeting that the Never Waste a Good Crisis – Challenge to the UK Construction Industry is now three years old – and the message is still as viable and important as ever.
Embracing change across so many facets of business today is vital for future success, but particularly in the sustainability and responsibility arena. As Michael Townsend wrote only yesterday on the Guardian Sustainable Business blog, companies that prosper in future will be the ones that take action on sustainability now, and asks the question:
Should construction companies remain engaged in the net depletion of resources, or move towards becoming a zero-adverse impact facilities business within the circular economy?
Understanding change and adapting for the future is a big ask for many organisations within the built environment, and we have yet to see breakthrough case studies. However, many are now embarking on the first step of increasing awareness of change, and through the Fairsnape Route to Zero approach starting to map out a strategy.