Modern Slavery : There can be no sustainability in an unequal world

As emphasised in FutuREstorative, sustainability is only possible within an equitable and socially just sector. Whilst we continue to have instances of unjust practices, of Modern Slavery, within our projects, supply chains and organisations, we simply cannot call ourselves sustainable, or worst, label our projects Excellent, Platinum or Outstanding.

FutuREstorative highlighted many innovations, inspirations and approaches that will help us with the transition towards a regenerative and sustainable future. Yet no innovation, technology, biomimic, biophilic or digital thinking will really progress our sustainability performance if we do not have a matched and parallel improvement in equality, equity, diversity and justice.

no sustainability in an unequal world

And now, as we strive for a 1.5°C cap on global warming and the attendant carbon reduction, we need to ensure that equity and equality remain at the top of every sustainability agenda. There can be no sustainability in an unequal world. Indeed sustainability should embrace the three E’s of ecology, economy and equality. As we now recognise that we need a new level of consciousness in the way we relate to nature for design and delivery of healthy, sustainable buildings, we need a similar ‘worldview’ recognition in how we respect those who produce our materials and buildings.

As part of our sustainability journey, our language in construction also needs to evolve – from one that is combative, technical and confrontational to one that is mindful, and embraces a language of collaboration, sharing, care and love.

We need a change in the narrative and address Modern Slavery in the wider context of a truly  ‘Just’ built environment, through for example mapping and monitoring against the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Modern slavery is currently blowing holes in 11 of the 17 SDG targets.

At a recent workshop we explored the causes of modern slavery, and in addition to the nature of our construction industry, (high labour, short-term contracts, geographic locations, fragmented supply chains), it is our continued drive for lowest cost, particularly in labour dominant work-packages that was seen as a real problem.

A powerful action we can take today is to embed modern slavery aspects within built environment sustainability standards and certifications. As for example JUST (Making Social Justice Your Business)  is embedded within the Living Building Challenge.

I closed FutuREstorative by repeating the most important and powerful of the Living Building Challenge’s aims: the transition to a socially just, ecologically restorative and culturally rich future.

This is a revisited version of the closing Epilogue within FutuREstorative. 

 

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Martin is recognised in the 100 modern slavery influencers index  

 

 

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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

 

 

Regenerative Sustainability: Co-Benefits of the Built Environment.

A number of excellent reports and papers have passed through my reading list and feeds in the last week or so, that together represent a wonderful view on regenerative sustainability co-benefits.

No Longer have luxury

Health co-benefits from air pollution and mitigation costs of the Paris Agreement: a modelling study

The Lancet Planetary Health , Volume 2 , Issue 3. Although the co-benefits from addressing problems related to both climate change and air pollution have been recognised, there is not much evidence comparing the mitigation costs and economic benefits of air pollution reduction for alternative approaches to meeting greenhouse gas targets. We analysed the extent to which health co-benefits would compensate the mitigation cost of achieving the targets of the Paris climate agreement (2°C and 1·5°C) under different scenarios in which the emissions abatement effort is shared between countries in accordance with three established equity criteria.

New Harvard Study: Green Buildings Provide Nearly $6 Billion in Benefits to Health and Climate

Harvard University examined a subset of green-certified buildings over a 16-year period in six countries: the U.S., China, India, Brazil, Germany and Turkey. Known as HEALTHfx, the study found nearly $6 billion in combined health and climate benefits.

UTC Healthfx The Impact Infographic

Related see also http://forhealth.org

The Healthy Buildings Team created the 9 Foundations of a Healthy Building as a standardized, holistic approach to understanding how buildings impact the people inside them. In any indoor space – offices, homes, schools, airplanes – these foundations can be assessed via Health Performance Indicators, or HPIs. Derived from the business term Key Performance Indicators, HPIs are metrics that provide insight into how a building is performing.

 By tracking HPIs on all 9 Foundations of the built environment, we can discover how to optimize buildings for health. We call this “Buildingomics”: the totality of factors in the built environment that influence human health, well-being and productivity of people who work in those buildings.

COBE Co-Benefits of the Built Environment

CoBE (Cobenefits of the Built Environment) is a tool to determine the health and climate benefits related to reductions in energy use. Reducing a building’s energy consumption reduces amount of energy produced by power plants, resulting in fewer emissions of pollutants that contribute to climate change and cause premature mortality, hospitalization, and lost school or work days.

Doughnut Dialogues

Welcome to the Doughnut Dialogues, inspired by Kate Raworth’s book Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st century economist. This looks a brilliant platform to debate ideas, share links and examples, and start new conversations relating to Doughnut Economics see https://discuss.doughnuteconomics.org

BAMB Passports

The electronic Materials Passports developed in BAMB aim to be a one stop shop for material information. Materials Passports developed in BAMB are sets of data describing defined characteristics of materials in products that give them value for recovery and reuse, aiming to

  • Increase the value or keep the value of materials, products and components over time
  • Create incentives for suppliers to produce healthy, sustainable and circular materials/building products
  • Support materials choices in Reversible Building Design projects
  • Make it easier for developers, managers and renovators to choose healthy, sustainable and circular building materials
  • Facilitate reversed logistics and take back of products, materials and components

The Economics of Biophilia 

Not a new document but is now being re-published in 6 instalments. From offices and schools to hospitals and hotels, the case is made for incorporating nature into the spaces we live and work.

Sustainaspeak: A Guide to Sustainable Design Terms

The complex and evolving language used in the sustainable design community can be very challenging, particularly to those new to environmentally friendly and resource-efficient design strategies that are needed today.

Still to review this in full, but looks a good compliment to the work from COST RESTORE Working Group One Language of Sustainability report (available early April)

 

The Business Case for ‘Sustainable’ Buildings

pexels-photo-227675

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.”

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