Tag Archives: sustainability

The Business Case for ‘Sustainable’ Buildings

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Three recent reports focus on the business case for sustainability, green buildings and human-centric buildings.

Are we now witnessing the new normal, where the question of sustainability cost is flipping from, how much extra will the sustainable building cost? to, what are the real costs in not providing sustainable buildings?

The WorldGBC Business Case for Green Building: A Review of the Costs and Benefits for Developers, Investors and Occupants, examines whether or not it is possible to attach a financial value to the cost and benefits of sustainable buildings.

The report highlights how green buildings can be delivered at a price comparable to conventional buildings and investments can be recouped through operational cost savings. It also notes that with the right design features, green buildings can create a more productive workplace.

The report specifically focuses on the potential benefits of green buildings throughout the various stages of the building lifecycle, from reduced costs during the design and construction phases through to improved health and productivity of workers when a building is in use.

“This is the first time all the credible evidence has been compiled into one collective resource”

  • Asset value: Emerging evidence in some markets of green buildings being able to more easily attract tenants and to command higher rents and sale prices
  • Design and construction costs: There has been an overall reduction in the costs associated with designing and constructing sustainable buildings
  • Operating costs: The direct benefits from green buildings in use (such as reduced energy and water use and lower long-term operations and maintenance costs) typically exceed any costs premiums associated with their design and construction within a reasonable payback period
  • Workplace productivity and health: The characteristics and indoor environments of green buildings can influence the productivity and health of workers who occupy them, resulting in bottom line benefits for businesses
The UKGBC Report Capturing the Value of Sustainability, Identifying the links between sustainability and business value focuses on a wider business case for sustainability, looking at at the challenges that businesses face in trying to identify the value they derive from their sustainability initiatives.

… the purpose of this report is to empower businesses and individuals to make the business case for environmental and social impact activities and to enable them to measure and demonstrate the value their organisations derive from such practices. 

Of particular note, relevant to my current work relating to FutuREstorative and with COST RESTORE in understanding the emergence of restorative and regenerative sustainability, this report notes we are seeing the rise of the restorative enterprise within the built environment

Much has been written on how businesses are moving towards doing more good rather than less bad. The phrases ‘net positive’ and ‘restorative enterprise’ are now appearing within sustainable business circles, with both referring to businesses that put back more than they take and restore social and natural capital whilst making a profit. Such businesses may be termed as using a ‘business with impact’ approach or being a ‘purpose driven’ organisation. In this context, ‘purpose’ may be de ned as ‘an aspirational reason for being which inspires and provides a call to action for an organisation, its partners and stakeholders, and provides bene t to local and global society’.

The white paper from Buildings 2030: Building 4 People: People-Centric Buildings for European Citizens published in November 2017 notes how the buildings we live and work in are affecting our environment, our physical & mental health, our wellbeing and our productivity.

The broad alignment of environmental and health agendas presents an opportunity to not only invest in better performing buildings, but also to improve the quality of life for people using these buildings. Enhancing the health and comfort of people in buildings has a huge potential for economic and societal benefits such as better health, increased productivity, reduced sick leave and a decrease in associated medical costs We call this approach “Building 4 People.”

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UK Government 25 Year Environment Plan is … disappointing.

nature globeThe UK Governments 25 Year Environment Plan (A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment) released yesterday should, on the face of it be a very significant document. Leaks and pre-issue comments from Gove in particular, hinted at great things in respect to addressing plastic, aligning health benefits of nature with healthcare and restoring nature in light of housing and infrastructure developments.

The Plan identifies six key areas:
Using and managing land sustainably (chapter 1).
Recovering nature and enhancing the beauty of landscapes (chapter 2).
Connecting people with the environment to improve health and wellbeing (chapter 3).
Increasing resource efficiency, and reducing pollution and waste (chapter 4).
Securing clean, productive and biologically diverse seas and oceans (chapter 5).
Protecting and improving the global environment (chapter 6).

And of note for the built environment,

‘Embed an ‘environmental net gain’ principle for development, including housing and infrastructure. (Chapter One)

High environmental standards for all new builds. New homes will be built in a way that reduces demands for water, energy and material resources, improves flood resilience, minimises overheating and encourages walking and cycling. Resilient buildings and infrastructure will more readily adapt to a changing climate.

And, to improve existing green infrastructure by encouraging more investment while making sure there is a presumption for sustainable development.

However what we have is low on ambition and nothing more than a plan to plan. Each action is peppered with “consider”, “explore”, “promote”, “help” etc … and to work with others if they would care to.

25 yr plan quote

The fact this is a 25 year plan, in 2018, it takes us through to 2043 – firmly into the next generation that will undoubtedly be severely compromised by what we do or don’t do today.  One only has to compare other initiatives with target dates within this timeframe to see how low on intent this plan is. Compare with the WorldGBC plans for zero carbon new buildings by 2030 and all buildings zero carbon by 2050, or the auto industry to move away from fossil fuels.

As commented by many, there is an ‘extraordinary omission’ in the plan: there is no mention at all of fracking. Given that the only sustained solution to the environmental and climate crisis is leaving fossil fuels in the ground, the continued support for extracting yet more through fracking cannot be justified in the light of the this report.

We are now acutely aware that  we do not have the luxury only to explore, to consider and to just reduce impacts … that is not sustainable. We require more direct leadership, commitment and action to do more good, to restore and regenerate the environment.

George Monbiot commented ‘ Those who wrote (the plan) are aware of the multiple crises we face. But, having laid out the depth and breadth of our predicaments, they propose to do almost nothing about them”

Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, “unless more leadership is shown, wildlife will continue to decline & with it our mental health as more people become isolated from benefits of contact with nature’

What we do have however, and should take action on, is further recognition that the environment  and connection with nature is severely affecting the health of the planet, of ourselves and of other species. Gove is trying to secure commitment to an Environment Act in the next Queen’s speech and we should help to secure this as there is not yet full government support, but there certainly needs to be more leadership, direct action and targets in this 25 year plan.

The Plan is available to download from here 

Towards 1.5 DegC: Built Environment’s role in COP23

pexels-photo-425050-2COP23 located in Bonn, Germany and hosted by Fiji takes place from 6 – 17 November.

The hosting by Fiji is significant as as a island nation they already feel the impact of climate change more than other nations. Fiji will also bring a new consensus building and discussion approach to COP23 – ‘Talanoa’.

Talanoa is a Pacific, story telling, term for discussions aimed at building consensus, airing differences constructively, and finding ways to overcome difficulties or embark on new projects. It is one of the building blocks of Fijian society, used for centuries to foster greater understanding among a people distributed over many small islands, and carry them through a tough existence. It is hoped that Talanoa will break deadlocks that have limited COP progress over the last 20 years.

The built environment

In recognition of its crucial role of the built environment, (as part of the climate change ‘problem’ and part of the solution for reducing CO2 emissions) the sector should receive high levels of visibility at this year´s COP.

An unprecedented four-day buildings programme has been pulled together by Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction  which has at its core the overarching goal of COP23:

To harness innovation, enterprise and investment to fast track the development and deployment of climate solutions that will build future economies with net zero greenhouse gas emissions, in an effort to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

You should be able to follow discussions, comments and outcomes from the four days via a combination of #COP23 #GABC twitter hashtags 

Setting the scene: Building Action Symposium

9 November action is very much at the heart of the Building Action Symposium, a public event that will kick off the four-day event programme.

The objective of this action day is to identify key ingredients to achieving a low-carbon, energy efficient buildings and construction sector that will help to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement from 2015.

Turning theory into practice: Best practice examples on the ground

To illustrate that it is possible to walk the talk, the following day, a guided tour by the Federal Chamber of German Architects will showcase a selection of local buildings that are exemplary for sustainable architecture, including a day care centre and student housing.

Bringing about change within the construction and real estate sector: Human Settlements Day

Taking onboard recommendations from the Building Action Symposium on 9 November, this event will explore high impact change agents and measures, the role of private sector engagement and how to link buildings to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Linking buildings to the Sustainable Development Goals: SDG11 Day

Finally, Monday, 13 November is SDG11 Day will see a high-level dialogue between country representatives and senior industry leaders focused on ensuring the buildings sector delivers against key relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals:

  • SDG11 – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • SDG7   – Ensure access to affordable and clean energy
  • SDG13 – Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Sources: this post is based on and adapted from

RICS News post

Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction

Guardian 6th Nov 

Exploring Restorative Sustainability with COST RESTORE

The work and progress of the COST RESTORE Working Group One is nicely summarised in this Infographic. You can find out more on the RESTORE website, and there is still time to apply for the (free, funded) Training School In Lancaster in November

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Grenfell Tower and the precautionary principle.

Many have written, blogged and commented on the avoidable tragedy at Grenfell Tower. I have been in two minds whether to add my voice, but then as a colleague pointed out, I have been blogging on themes pertinent to the tragedy since 2007. Theses themes (on risk, collaborative working, health sustainability, standards, strategies,  and construction improvement) have featured in this and other blogs, in numerous articles across many journals and of course brought together within the recently published FutuREstorative.

No doubt, in boardrooms across the world of built environment organisations, questions are being asked: have we designed, specified or installed similar materials and systems in similar situations. Do we really know? Do we know the materials, chemicals and the impacts of insulation we have installed? Where are the inspection and audit results, where are the material test certificates and evidence of compliance with specifications.

We do not know the exact cause and failures at Grenfell, but what has become clear is that this a systematic failure, a cocktail of failures and certainly not just a single cause.

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Back in my biz improvement / safety advisory role in the 90’s, we used the swiss cheese model for a systematic thinking approach to risk. In the swiss cheese model each slice of cheese is seen as a system activity or aspect layer, holes in individual layer may be problematic but other layers act as a defence to prevent more significant failure.

But when too many holes line up we see a catastrophic system collapse event.  As sadly we have seen at Grenfell Tower.

 

London fire: Screaming people trapped as blaze engulfs 27-storey Grenfell Tower in Notting Hill

Grenfell Tower will undoubtedly have a profound and highly significant impact on design, construction and building management worldwide, but we do not need to wait for an inquiry when we know the problems, the holes in the myriad of swiss cheese layers, and we know what needs to be fixed.

BUILT ENVIRONMENT HOLES IN THE SWISS CHEESE

deregulation and desire to have a legislation bonfire
slow response by government to head lessons learnt
lobbyist pressure to affect change
a fashion for ignoring experts
partial privatisation of the building inspection regime
fragmented supply chain
inappropriate materials or systems
lack of system thinking
a lowest cost mentality that still persists
passive fire strategies
material testing in isolation, not as a system
lack of transparency and impact knowledge of materials we specific, approve, install
ignorance of precautionary principle thinking
lack of collaborative working
failure to question – the “we can only do what the client, architect, contractor specifies’ culture
lack of understanding of building technology (cf uncompleted fire stopping)
inspections (see the Edinburgh Schools Report)
and so many more …

Grenfell should be seen as a warning for the deregulation many would like to see following Brexit. The great repeal bill is set to repeal many of the health and environment EU regulations (those that that ‘hamper uk business’ but will prevent other Grenfells).

Amongst the many causes, it has been suggested the fire may well have started from a faulty appliance. How sadly ironic that it was the perceived EU over-regulations on safe & efficient kettles and vacuums that became a cause-celeb in last years Brexit referendum. (Who are the EU to tell us how safe our kettles and vacuum cleaners should be ….?) See George Monbiot Too often safety has been sacrificed to an agenda of deregulation backed by lobbyists 

6442Moving in from the green fringe of the built environment sector, we have robust standards emerging containing material schedules built on the precautionary principle. (Here we can list the Living Building Challenge, WELL standards along with the Red List, Pharos, Declare and other lists.) Organisations and clients have their own schedules, for example Google’s Portico, British Lands Material Schedule. If such standards and red lists were adopted by the public sector, embedded into building regulations, then the cladding insulation at Grenfell would in all probability not have been permitted.

‘The precautionary principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk’

The precautionary principle states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public, or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus (that the action or policy is not harmful), the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking that action. The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. These protections can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that provide sound evidence that no harm will result. (Wiki)

Lloyd Alter blogging in Treehugger illustrates the impact of the material used in Grenfell. What is sad is that this, to most, has come as a surprise.

What appears to have happened is that the Reynobond’s polyethylene core caught fire and the stack effect in the two-inch gap made it spread almost instantly. Apparently it got hot enough that the supposedly flame-retardant polyiso charred as well, putting out tons of smoke, possibly contributing cyanide and other toxic gases. The vinyl framed windows also melted, letting the toxic fumes into the suites very quickly.

As may be expected from media such as the Daily Mail, the green, carbon reduction, climate change agenda has emerged as a blame. Alice Bell writing in the Guardian(Don’t blame green targets for Grenfell) soundly kicks this into touch

But we do have a problem with many seeing building sustainability as simply being energy & thermal performance. The key message of FutuREstorative was to address the necessary shift in sustainability thinking, away from a blinkered focus on energy to one that embraces human and planetary health within a socially just and ecologically sound sustainability.  And … perhaps we should not use the word sustainability until we do.

Today, it is difficult to attend sustainability events where health and wellbeing is not a key theme and message, it is sad that this message is not percolating down through the long tail of construction where lowest cost is still prevalent. Lowest cost even at the high price of social and human life. (A mineral based insulation with a Fire Rating would have cost £2 m2 more than the polyurethane based, more flammable insulation used on Grenfell. It will be interesting to see any records of the value engineering exercise to arrive at this material choice, if indeed there was a recorded VE, and how the decision met the Social Value Act.

Update 30 June BBC Reporting evidence of VE (or cost engineering)

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Time then for all in the built environment sector, the government, lobbyist, clients, designers, contractors and building operators to adopt precautionary principle thinking, particularly when human health hazards have been flagged by coroners reports, data, research and lessons learnt .

This can be voluntarily done now, today.  To wait years for outcomes from an inquiry and the regulation changes that will surely follow, changes that will tell us what we already know, is simply irresponsible.

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.

A Green Built Environment supports the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s)

This blog has referenced the Sustainable Development Goals on many occasions, indeed within FutuREstorative I make the case for the SDG’s to replace the Brundtland definition.

It is now three decades since the Brundtland Commission defined Sustainable Development as ‘doing nothing today that compromises future generations’. It was and remains the definitive ‘strapline’ that has been built into countless sustainability strategies definitions, statements and policies. We have chosen the ‘do nothing’ option, and are compromising future generations, and without radical, positive change we will continue to compromise the next generation.

Understanding and addressing the huge influence of the built environment is essential. This (influence and responsibility) must be included as an organisational governance issue to enable a culture of restorative approaches and delivery.   FutuREstorative

In 2015 the UN published its Sustainability Development Goals 2030. The SDGs define the intention to change the Brundtland definition of sustainability to a new purpose that is proactive and net-positive, and one that improves the social, environment and financial wellbeing of people and the planet by 2030. Just as we embraced the Brundtland definition, so we must now embrace the SDGs as a foundation for our sustainability visions and strategies.

The World Green Building Council recently released a handful of great infographics illustrating how the built environment can support SDG’s,

While many might look at a building and see only an inanimate structure, we look at buildings and see both the physicality and the process by which they are created – an opportunity to not only save energy, water and carbon emissions but to educate, create jobs, strengthen communities, improve health and wellbeing, and much, much more. Green building is a true catalyst for addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues. World Green Building Council 

The SDG’s give new purpose to  built environment Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR):

Content pages cityscape SDGs new

Giving purpose to green facilities management, that can, through promotion of green offices, address several SDG’s:

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And how our homes can be the building blocks in support of the sustainability goals:

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