Sustainability, Restorative to Regenerative

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 industry to adopt and implement through adopting regenerative frameworks and standards identified (such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Living Building Challenge) and

››› 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.

Welcome to a new era for sustainability

 

 

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What hurts, what helps, what heals: the Built Environment and mental health.

With respect to  Mental Health Awareness Week,  Erin Newton’s excellent article in UD/MH (Urban Design / Mental Health) caught my attention. Erin notes that the built environment can create and maintain risk factors for mental illness by stripping away protective factors for good mental health, for example through:

Reducing access to nature
Reducing opportunities for physical activity
Overloading the senses
Eroding privacy and quiet time
Interrupting sleep
Reducing safety (from crime to traffic to way finding)
Separating people from their social networks

buildings
The Built Environment can strip away protective factors for good mental health

As noted in my last blog post, this can lead to an increased state of distress, a solastalgia and yearning for natural environments we recall from the past, further impacting on mental health.

Yet, with  with biophilic design and salutogenic approaches, by focusing on what improves mental health, rather than only just reducing the negative impacts, Erin suggests that as built environment professionals designers, contractors and facilities managers we need to be knowledgeable about what hurts, what helps, what heals and to;

Recognise environment affects the mind, the body and perception.
Boost cognitive health by creating visually and aesthetically pleasing buildings & cities.
Advocate for buildings, spaces, cities and communities that have plenty of fresh air, good light and green spaces, while reducing noise and visual pollution through good design.
Create buildings and places for refuge, escape and outlet.
Design places that facilitate people talking to each other in positive, natural social interactions.
Improve mental health by creating safe, walkable communities.

And mental health issues are not only limited to building design and buildings in use, but also the construction process. . I am reminded of Anne Parkers astute contribution to FutuREstorative where she comments ‘I see your wonderful Sustainable buildings shining bright, then I look at your Project Managers and project team and I see the light not so bright and dimming’

Erin Newton is a UD/MH Fellow and part of NK Architects Healthcare Group in Morristown, New Jersey, USA

FutuREstorative is available in hard copy and electronic format from RIBA Bookshops

RESTORE: REthinking Sustainability TOwards a Regenerative Economy

pexels-photo-93013
REthinking Sustainability Towards a Regenerative Economy 

 

After a number of years discussing, bidding, meetings in Italy and skype calls across Europe we finally launch our four year RESTORE* Cost Action CA16114 programme, exploring restorative sustainability, in Brussels this Thursday 9th March.

* REthinking Sustainability TOwards a Regenerative Economy

COST Action public page 

RESTORE Overview:

Sustainable buildings and facilities are critical to a future that is socially just, ecologically restorative, culturally rich and economically viable within the climate change context.

Despite over a decade of strategies and programmes, progress on built environment sustainability fails to address these key issues. Consequently the built environment sector no longer has the luxury of being incrementally less bad, but, with urgency, needs to adopt net-positive, restorative sustainability thinking to incrementally do ‘more good’.

Within the built environment sustainability agenda a shift is occurring, from a narrow focus on building energy performance, mitigation strategies, and minimisation of environmental impacts to a broader framework that enriches places, people, ecology, culture, and climate at the core of the design task, with a particular emphasis on the salutogenic benefits towards health.

 Sustainability in buildings, as understood today, is an inadequate measure for current and future architectural design, for it aims no higher than trying to make buildings “less bad”. Building on current European Standards restorative sustainability approaches can and will raise aspirations and deliver restorative outcomes.

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

The COST proposal will advocate, mentor and influence for a restorative built environment sustainability through work groups, training schools (including learning design competitions) and Short Term Scientific Missions (STSMs).

Keywords: restorative sustainability, restorative design processes-methods-tools, climate change, health, wellbeing, sustainable urban development, social, ecology, built environment.

The Working Groups

  • Working Group 0: Project Coordination
  • Working Group One: Restorative Sustainability
  • Working Group Two:Restorative Design Process
  • Working Group Three: Restorative Buildings & Operations
  • Working Group Four: Rethinking Technology
  • Working Group Five: Scale Jumping

The Cost Action will also include:

  • RESTORE Training Schools
  • RESTORE STSM – Short Term Science Missions
  • RESTORE Early Stage Research opportunities

We have an ‘in development’ website with more information here

COST Action public page 

Mindfulness, Biophilia and Salutogenesis: a powerful triptych for improving construction health and happiness

pexels-photo-94616Increasingly health is becoming a key aspect and driver for building design and maintenance. (See Next Wave of Design: Wellness-minded Spaces)

OF note, are seeing a BREEAM alignment with WELL, but as pointed out in FutuREstorative, and by others, this approach needs to equally apply to the construction process, to project working environments, including project office accommodation.

Mindfulness, Biophilia and Salutogenesis can provide a powerful triptych of approaches for construction health and happiness. But what are they, and how can they improve construction?

Mindfulness

The state of being present in the moment. Mindfulness can help in reducing stress and mind-wandering in addition to enhancing the sense of wellbeing and fulfilment from life and work. Mindfulness is growing in use within other sectors to address amongst other things wellbeing, productivity and safety.

(In collaboration with Anne Parker, we can provide tailored Mindfulness for Construction awareness and training sessions)

Biophilia

Our innate relationship with nature. Research is proving that connection or exposure to nature or natural patterns has a huge influence on our state of mind, our wellbeing, cognitive skills and our recovery times from illness. We should for example, be applying the 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design to construction workplaces as part of a healthy construction agenda

Salutogenesis

FutuREstorative introduces the concept of salutogenesis to the built environment. A medical concept that encourages focus on factors that improve & support health and then keeping people healthy, rather than the focus of just reducing the impact on health. Translated to the built environment this can mean focusing on design issues in buildings and workplaces where people go home healthier, feeling better and happier than when they arrived. As an example, the growing recognition that light (daylight and circadian light) can be a medicine, having positive, even healing benefits. Adopting a salutogenetic mindset to the construction process can also encourage us to consider and focus on potential health benefits of working in construction.

salutogenesis-slide

Sustainability, Sharing and Success

Below is my keynote presentation given to the UCLan Teaching and Learning conference recently, where the theme of the conference was Sustainability, Sharing and Success.

My keynote covered development of sustainability thinking, from the throwaway dreams and society  of the 1950’s to the circular economy, from the ubiquitous Brundtland definition to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, from sustainable buildings to healthy, biophilic and salutogenic buildings that heal. The keynote explored sharing through social media, and successful, ‘just’ sustainability leadership.

All themes covered  in detail within FutuREstorative published end of August 2016.

Lendlease: Accelerating Wellbeing in Built Environment

In November 2015, Lendlease, one of the world’s leading integrated infrastructure and real estate groups, announced a global alliance with Delos, aiming to accelerate the integration of human health and wellness outcomes in the built environment. This alliance will include identifying pioneering projects in Australia, Asia, the United Kingdom and the United States, which will pursue WELL Certification and provide ‘WELL ready’ workplaces for tenants.

Untitled 5Geoff Dutaillis, group head of sustainability at Lendlease said, “Supporting the next generation of buildings and places that get it right for people, as well as the environment is very important….The built environment has a critical role to play in helping cities and governments transition towards a low carbon future; however, it’s the direct impact on human capital and productivity through increased focus on supporting human health and wellbeing which is the untapped potential.”*

The WELL Building Standard is the first protocol of its kind to focus on “improving human wellness within the built environment by identifying specific conditions that, when holistically integrated into building interiors, enhance the health and wellbeing of the occupants.” The WELL Building Standard is a performance-focused system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing including air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and importantly mind.

Wellness and Happiness: The Next Built Environment / CSR Frontier 

WELL Building Institute launches pilot programs for new sectors.

Designing Buildings Wiki: Well Building Standard 

Quartz: healthy product datasets for BIM?

When we know what our buildings are made of, we can make informed choices by selecting materials that are healthier for occupants and have a lesser impact on our environment*

This blog regularly covers the intersection between sustainable, healthy products (for example the Living Building Challenge Red List) and BIM. Indeed the selection of materials and products based on biological health, as well as environmental impact and functional performance within ‘sustainable construction’ should be a no brainer.

We are not so good at using data in construction, and although this is improving as BIM becomes more established, there remains a gap in useful product health data sheets that carry material or product ingredients. Projects that use a rigorous material schedule such as the ILFI Red List often find themselves unpacking designs and material specification in order to understand product recipes and seek safe alternatives.

The Quartz Common Products Database, a collaborative initiative from Flux, HBN, thinkstep and Google was launched at VERGE 2015 at the end of October.  Quartz is an open database of composition, health hazard and environmental impact data for building products. It looks a promising contribution to a greater understanding of material health impacts and, being open source, paves the way for inclusion and alignment with BIM’s and the Product Data Sheets currently being compiled by CIBSE, NBS and others.

“Quartz aims to bridge the gaps between information, knowledge, and action, leading to less toxic, lower-impact building materials”

The Quartz database (www.quartzproject.org) will provide a collection of product profiles for commonly used building materials. Specifically:
● Quartz is a free and open dataset, integrating both LCA and health-hazard data into a single information source using widely accepted and consistent methodologies, such as Pharos Project/GreenScreen hazard screening, TRACI 2.1, and ISO14044.
● Data is vendor-neutral and covers 100 building products across a range of categories, such as concrete, drywall and insulation. Products are compared by composition, health impacts, and environmental impacts.
● Data is licensed under Creative Commons BY 4.0, meaning there is no restriction on the use, redistribution, or modification of the data. This openness will enable the AEC community and the general public to become more educated about the potential
impacts of materials in buildings and communities, and to put this data to creative and productive use.
● Through consistent language and metrics, stakeholders will be empowered to have productive dialogue with building products manufacturers, driving the industry towards increased sustainability  (From Quartz Press Release)

Health profile
Quartz Health Profile for polyvinyl chloride membrane, prohibited by ILFI Living Building Challenge Red List but in common use in construction.

Here in the UK this could be seen as timely launch, with the Considerate Constructors Scheme promoting a Construction Occupational cancer awareness campaign on sites. A welcomed campaign and one that should start with product specification using data such as Quartz to remove such toxic materials from construction.

“Sites need to proactively eliminate harmful substances, when this isn’t achievable working methods and equipment must be substituted for safer alternatives (CCS)”

By focusing only on construction site, we are not learning from the past, and it is the same thinking as we were a few decades ago when the focus was on ‘safe’ handling of asbestos.

In todays climate of CSR, (Corporate Social Responsibility), where Do No Harm is a common-place construction value, specifying, procuring and installing products that cause ill health in production, in installation and in use should be deemed as socially irresponsible.

Note – a very useful guide to Nine Green Product databased for Architects, Specifiers and Consumers was published to Architect Magazine on Nov 10th 

In 2015 we should have a much more mature approach to health – not to be content with one that seeks only to reduce impact on health but an approach that seeks to improve health, through biophilic material inclusion and a salutogenic approach.

*from http://quartzproject.org/