Seattle, Vancouver and Squamish: a sustainability visit.

Having just returned from a visit / tour of sustainability projects in the Cascadia, NW pacific area of Seattle, Vancouver and Squamish, combined with a outdoor vacation, I am now sorting copious notes, photos and observations from the trip that will form future blog posts and inclusion in my forthcoming book, FutuREstorative.

File 16-03-2015 22 55 55

There were so many ‘highlights’ of the trip that will feature in future articles, but, as a quick summary:

The lack of snow inhibited any real winter sports without really venturing deep into backcountry. I was later to learn that this year ‘pineapple express’ wind and low snowpack levels will have an adverse affect on water aquifers across the region.

Walking and biking in forests where bear, cougar and coyote roamed and (worryingly, so early in the year) had been spotted during our visit introduced a fission of alertness not known in the UK or Europe and made for interesting discussions on re-wilding the UK countryside!

A return visit to the Austrian House at Lost lake Whistler, a Passive House gift from Austria to the 2006 Olympics and Canada’s first PH registered project.

Understanding the distinctive heavy timber architecture of the Squamish area, and visits to buildings at the stunning location of Quest Campus, Squamish and the Environmental Learning Centre at the North Vancouver Outdoor School in Brackendale (winner of a Wood Design Award held in Vancouver that week)

Meeting with Sustainable Leadership Conversation co-host and friend Andrea Learned who took me on a great cycle tour through her ‘hood –  the Seattle Ballard area and along the Waterfront with stop offs at the Tractor Tavern (home of garage and grunge) Stone34 (Leed Platinum Brooks HQ) finishing with great social media / sustainability discussions over dinner.

Visits to Living Building Challenge projects, the CIRS building at University of British Columbia, the Bullet Centre in Seattle and the VanDusen visitor centre Vancouver as well as understanding other notable sustainability buildings such as the MEC HQ in Vancouver and Stone34 in Seattle.

Water featured in visits and discussions, in particular that we should start to address water in the same way we do for energy performance in buildings – from the impact on “fossil-water” through to buildings, like the Bullitt Centre acting like trees and returning 80% of water that falls on the building to the aquifer and in using the 20% many times in closed loop systems. And of course those waterless composting toilets …

Whilst in the Bullitt Centre it was fun to to provide a live update back to and converse with the Living Building Challenge UK Collaborative water petal workshop in Leeds.

But it wasn’t just the big restorative sustainability concepts that inspired, often it’s the small but awesome detail that is essential in reinforcing the messages, like the CIRS building on UBC where the solar aqua filter plant room is positioned at the entrance, viewed by all entering the building as a reminder. But perhaps the best message being in CIRS café area where two vegetarian meals are served for each meat meal, reinforcing the message of the resources in land and water to provide the meat meal compared to that of the vegetarian.

File 17-03-2015 09 03 34It was of course great to visit the Bullitt Centre and question behind the stories covered on the web and numerous articles; it really is an inspiring building and lives up to its green reputation. But now the real challenge starts – “to replicate the Bullitt Centre a thousand, a million times and fast” Over an iced tea with Denis Hayes we discussed the real possibility of a Bullitt Centre type project in Manchester as the hub for iDSP, the Institute for Design Space and Place.

Many inspiring chats and discussions gave insights into restorative sustainability for example with Tim Herrin at CIRS, with Brad Khan who really knows the Bullitt Centre inside out, with Denis Hayes, with the LBC team (great to meet and catch up with Amanda Sturgeon, Eric Corey Freed,  Hilary Mayhew, Stacia and Bonnie) and, completely by chance, at a Vancouver dinner party, a planner involved in the LBC certified Childcare facility at Simon Fraser University. An evening meal with Ken Carty, author and retired political scientist at UBC provided interesting insights into Canadian politics.

I guess no visit to the Pacific NW could be complete without getting to understanding some of the environmental politics – particularly to the north of British Columbia where the TNG and the proposed Northern Gateway oil sands bitumen pipeline is being fought to prevent environmental damage to an awesome wilderness areas. A visit to the newly opened, community located, Patagonia store in Vancouver provided further insights to Patagonia’s environmental and responsibility activity in the area via their excellent ‘zine booklet published for the stores opening ‘In the Land of the Misty Giants’ (issuu version here)

I should of course mention the reason d’etre for the trip was triggered by my partner, Soo Downe and her midwifery week at UBC with the highlight of her public lecture at the Inaugural Elaine Carty Midwifery Programme (Storify here)

But who would of thought that Cows would feature in my tour. Denis Hayes kindly gifted me a copy of his new book Cowed co-written with his wife Gail Boyer Hayes. Cowed provides a fascinating insight to how Cows impact so much both on our lives and the environment and was a great read on the long flight back from Vancouver.

So, many people to thank for such a great vacation and study tour, from Brett at the awesome Squamish airBNB, Andrea Learned, the ILFI team, our friends and hosts in Vancouver, those who gave time to talk or provide tours, Denis Hayes, Tim Herring, Brad Kahn and many more. And of course great company, thanks Soo, Chris and Emma

Future posts will use the hashtags #futurestorative and/or #VanSea2015

Advertisements

Wellness and Happiness: The Next Built Environment / CSR Frontier

Update 30/11/16  BREEAM and WELL Alignment review – more good or less bad?

Update 27/10/14:  The International WELL Building Institute launched the WELL Building Standard Version 1.0, as a publicly available standard which focuses on enhancing people’s health and well-being through the built environment, at the inaugural WELL Building Symposium in New Orleans. The WELL Building Standard v1.0 can be applied to new construction and major renovations of commercial and institutional buildings, tenant improvements, and core and shell developments.

Original post …

Salutogenesis – a term we should become familiar with.

It describes an approach that focuses on factors that promote human health and wellness, rather than on factors that prevent disease and ill health (I am indebted to my partner Prof. Soo Downe for introducing me to this concept from the world of childbirth and health, but that has profound implications for built environment sustainability)

And whilst wellness and health is a relatively new emergent for CSR – the built environment is now right at the center. Designing and constructing sustainable buildings isn’t rocket science, we have the methodology and technology, but designing and constructing buildings that improve wellness and health, not just reduce the negative impact on health, is the next frontier for the built environment sector.

It is one that requires different design thinking, requires collaboration with others in the health sector, and it appears to be rising rapidly on the CSR agenda. For example,

  • “Companies that ignore the environmental and social impacts of their buildings could risk miserable workers and low productivity,” Russ Blinch wrote in Guardian Sustainable Business
  • Scandinavian firm Sustainia has based its Guide to Co-Creating Health report on the correlation between what’s good for the planet is what’s good for you — and that healthy people are the single most important resource within the transition to a sustainable future.
  • Increasing the safety of buildings; promoting safe, careful use and management of toxic substances at home and in the workplace; and better water resource management are three of WHO’s 10 facts on preventing disease through healthy environments.
  • Nonprofit BSR argues in A New CSR Frontier: Business and Population Health that companies have yet to realise the full potential of extending health and sustainability initiatives across their entire value chains to include suppliers, local communities and the general public

The Built Environment Sector

And there is encouraging and inspiring approaches emerging from within the built environment sector itself, for example:

  • 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.
  • Workplace Productivity and Health from the World Green Build Council reports on the emerging body of evidence suggesting that the physical characteristics of buildings and indoor environments can influence worker productivity and occupant health and well-being, making a robust business case for health, wellbeing and productivity improvements in green buildings.

While these are welcome signs, we need to be cautious of building approaches that focus solely on energy performance without considering occupant long term health.

Setting it apart from the more established building certification schemes, the Living Building Challenge from the International Living Futures Institute, a regenerative sustainability approach that falls in line with my definition of salutogenesis – focusing on doing more good, not ‘just’ less bad – majors on health across its petals and imperatives.

For example, the Red List of Materials, (within the LBC) takes a precautionary principle approach, (if there is any doubt a material or design may have any negative impact on health we should not be using it), It encourages biophilia thinking in design, (ie the health benefits arising from association with nature), along with air quality, natural daylight and more

Greening the Construction Office

And it’s not just a design issue for the built environment, but one that construction organisations are in need of addressing. For example temporary office and working accommodation for construction projects can benefit greatly from a health and wellness approach. Recently U.K. Building Editor Sarah Richardson discussed the problems of stress and ill health in construction workplaces, not a new issue as The Health and Safety Executive found in 2007. With 88 percent of those working in U.K. construction experiencing some kind of work-related stress, perhaps it’s not surprising considering the often-dire site office accommodations.

In fact, when was the last time we saw any thought given to health issues, effective daylight and fresh air or greenery within the office?

Martin, through Fairsnape is a built environment consultant, strategist and advocate for sustainability, CSR, social media and collaboration. He provides commentary on the sector at http://www.fairnsape.com.

This article was originally written for CSRWire