What If …

What if we lived in a time when the human imagination flourished and anything felt possible.

It was back in 2008 when I first came across Rob Hopkins through his Transition Handbook. This helped shape a lot of my sustainability thinking at the time, (Time for built environment transition?) and in turn participation in Transition Town activities here in the North West. Writing in 2008, from a future 2030, Rob looked back over transition achievements, to when “in 2011, the Government initiated the concept of the Great Reskilling in the training of construction industry workers” with skills and mindset to address a sustainable future.

Of course that reskilling is still to happen within the built environment sector, and is ever important as we look to circular economy, toxic free and nature based construction techniques and materials. Fast forward to Rob’s latest book, What If …From What Is To What If … What if we had undertaken that construction re-skilling back then?.

What If does have a sprinkling of the climate doom gloom we face (and read in many climate change texts at the present) but the focus is on our capability to reimagine a better future and in asking the question how can we unleash the power of our imagination to create the future we want.

This resonates well with me, and with many of the messages I have used over recent years, in FutuREstorative in 2016 and in the series of #imaginebetter keynotes for Specifi and others through 2018 into 2019. And it is indeed core to the Living Building Challenge call to “imagine if every act of construction made the world a better place”

What If takes us on a deeper exploration of ‘imagination’ in an inspiring and urgent call for us to look deeper, to reconnect, with place, with nature, with ourselves and to reimagine a better future with a renewed sense of possibility.

Within sustainable design we focus on topics such as biophilia, that FutuREstorative described as the secret sauce for sustainability behaviour, to rekindle our believe that we can achieve a restorative future. Yet, spending 90% of our time in buildings we increasingly suffer solastalgia – a distress and yearning for earlier times, of better childhood memories, of a cleaner, more natural environment, that ebbs away our power to imagine a better environment, or reclaiming the one we have lost

Worringly, What If details how we are losing our capacity for imagination through dependency on technology, through loss of biodiversity, disconnection with nature and a degradation of of our environment, pushing us further into a spiral of being unable to imagine, and then achieve, a better future.

What is the impact on our imaginations of freefalling biodiversity and abundance? And, the corollary, is a diminished imagination to blame for the tolerance of such abject (biodiversity) tragedy?

What If revisits the power of our imagination, with stories, research and case studies, in play, as a vital element of our health, as a core element of connectivity with nature, of our ability to ask better questions and then importantly explores what if our imagination and desire for a better future came to pass.

On the dustcover, What If is described as a passionate call to action, to revive and to replenish not only our individual imaginations but a collective imagination, and once achieved there could be no end to what we may accomplish.

Rob Hopkins is the co-founder of Transition Totnes and the Transition Network

Carbon is not the enemy …

From my series of Specifi blog posts that pick up on discussions following my presentations there … 

At the Cardiff Design event, slides and comments on rethinking and reimagining carbon carbon prompted much conversation over the networking drinks. 

If we are to address climate change, avoid climate breakdown, cap global temperature increase to 1.5 and to face up to the IPCC 2018 Report warnings, then only reducing carbon from buildings and construction will not be enough, we need to think different think bigger, think regenerative.

Reimagining Carbon in the Built Environment

And, so, if we are to make sustainability really attractive we have to balance the challenge of reversing global warming and, simultaneously, deliver economic prosperity for our sector and those that use our buildings

We have the tools, thinking and approaches to create buildings that are regenerative, to function as trees, to function as energy generators, and as carbon sequesters. Buildings that are part of the solution not the problem.

Imagine our buildings self-generating heating and cooling, or create it using power from renewable sources that are connected to a smart grid to optimise energy use.

Our buildings themselves are constructed from materials that take carbon dioxide from the air and lock it up for decades, even centuries, (250 years in the case of the Bullitt Center that features in my presentations).

Within this new built environment are living, biodiverse ecosystems, used for food production, recreation, water filtration, temperature control, and importantly our health, which draw carbon from the atmosphere down into the soil, and living eco systems.

Reimagining our sectors Carbon Footprint

Following the specify Cardiff event, I flew out to Vilnius in Lithuania to present a keynote at the Lithuanian Green Build Council Conference. It is extremely encouraging that the same conversations are taking place across Europe with built environment architects, contractors, engineers, facilities managers, product manufacturers and investors

We are starting to rethink sustainability, moving from just ‘sustaining’ to ‘thriving’ and embracing the new normal.

Reference Source: Carbon is Not the Enemy. 2016. Nature

Imagine Better

nature globeFollowing the success of my Imagine Better keynote for Specifi events, here are links and background reading to references made:

Much of the Imagine Better thinking is from here, my Fairsnape blog or from within FutuREstorative. Thoughts and comments and blogs from previous Specifi events are on the Specifi Blog

If you would like more information, or support in greater clarity, understanding and  interpretation of these ‘new normal’ themes please do not hesitate to get in touch. (We provide support to many organisations, including further ‘deep dive’ training, in house awareness sessions, support for bids and pitching to clients or just a chat with your team)

However, importantly we provide kick off and ongoing support for projects. As I mention in the presentations every project should commence with a Biophilic Design workshop. Speak to us about organising and facilitating your next project’s kick off.

Links to references made in the keynotes:

Yellowstone Park

Four Laws of Ecology revisited

Living Building Challenge 

Living Future Institute Europe 

FutuREstorative bibliography 

Economics of Biophilia 

Patagonia

Sustainable Development Goals 

Well Build Standard 

One Planet Living 

Declare and Red List 

Reimagine Carbon 

M C Construction  biophilic office 

 

Future Pathways to Zero: Specifi Bristol Services

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It was a real pleasure to share insights from Future Restorative and other initiatives at the Specifi Services and Facilities Management event in Bristol last night.

The event was also billed as part of the World Green Build Council’s Green Build Week, focusing on re-imagining carbon to address the World GBC’s call for all new buildings to be zero by 2030 and for all buildings by 2050. A very ambitious call, but as the recent report From Thousands to Billions points out, we already have thousands of zero buildings, we just need to learn from these climate hero buildings and scale up for the remainder.

To do so, we have some awesome solutions and proven approaches now available to us – for example in Paul Hawken’s Project Drawdown, William McDonough’s  Reimagine Carbon work, (Nature: Carbon is not the Enemy) the Well Build and Living Building Challenge standards – all of which indicate future pathways to zero.

My keynote “We Eat Carbon for Lunch‘ focused on carbon positive aspects of two Living Building Challenge projects – the Bullitt Centre in Seattle and the Cuerdon Valley Project in Lancashire. Very different projects indeed – but climate heroes both, demonstrating that restorative sustainability is possible. Much of this work and thinking is being explored by the EU COST Restore action, a network of researchers and practitioners from across the EU and beyond, exploring how Rethinking Sustainability leads to Regenerative Economies.

Questions following my keynote from the audience indicate important themes for future keynotes at upcoming Specifi events

  • What is the Living Building Challenge?
  • What are the financial considerations for restorative sustainability?
  • What one (services) climate solution could we implement tomorrow?
  • Just what is Biophilic Design?
  • What clients and organisations are adopting Restorative Sustainability approaches?

Specifi events are unique, providing an opportunity to listen and to learn from inspirational speakers, an opportunity to learn and share in an informal networking format with leading exhibitors and industry colleagues, and then to discuss in more detail over a three course meal. (All included in the free attendee ticket price!)

The Bristol event was in partnership with CIBSE YEN (Young Engineers Network) – these are the young engineers of the future, hungry with an appetite to learn more, on restorative sustainability, but also from the services and facilities organisations exhibiting.

Future events in 2017 include Glasgow (Landscape) Newcastle, (Design) Birmingham (Landscape) and London (Design and Services)

I am delighted to be part of the Specifi Team – curating keynotes and talking at events throughout 2018, so I look forward to continuing the discussion with the Services people in Bristol next Feb and to meeting you at your next local Specifi event soon.

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