Tag Archives: transition towns

22 Must Read Sustainability Books

FR_Visuals_FINALOne of my aims in writing FutuREstorative was to explore and encourage new thinking for sustainability in the built environment. In turn, inspiration for the book has, in part, come from a number of classic writers and books over the last half century or so, woven into FutuREstorative and into built environment sustainability potentials.

In addition to these books being powerful in shaping my thinking towards sustainability, they  often articulate alignment between nature, the outdoors, wildness and business sustainability.

The Bibliography in FutuREstorative gives a complete listing, but below are a sample 21 of the best, all worthy of making a great sustainable reading or gifts to inspire, as indeed would FutuREstorative!.  (Note the wonderful Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve, simply as an additional gift to inspire)

Image 8.1a Book Shelf

Let my People go Surfing – Chouinard, Y.
Three books in one here, a biography, a mountain & surf adventure and a business sustainability philosophy. This is a must read for reluctant business CSR people.

Sand County Almanac – Leopold, A.
Recognised as the godfather of ecology, Sand County is the classic land ecology book. Classic quotes form Sand County include Thinking like a mountain and We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain.

Silent Spring – Carson, R.
First published in three serializsed excerpts in the New Yorker in June of 1962,this is the book that in many ways triggered the 1960s environmental protest movement. Still as valid today as we deal with persistent chemicals within the built environment materials

Cradle to Cradle – Remaking the Way We Make Things – Braggart, M. and W. McDonough Groundbreaking for the circular economy thinking, challenging the way we make and dispose of things.

Ecology of Commerce – Hawken, P
An important text that aligned ecology and environmental concerns with mainstream business. “if you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.”

Biophilia – Wilson, E.O
Part autobiographical and personal, Wilson’s introduction to the love and relationship with nature, that introduced us to the concept of biophilia. “Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even wellbeing. …”

Transition Handbook – Hopkins, R.
The original handbook for the now-global Transition movement, addressing actions required in transitioning to a post peak-oil economy. “… by unleashing collective genius of those around us to creatively and proactively design our energy descent, we can build ways of living that are more connected, more enriching and that recognize the biological limits of our planet.”

Wildwood – A Journey through Trees – Deakin, R.
Living with trees, an autobiography from one of the UK’s foremost environmentalist writers. “To enter a wood is to pass into a different world in which we ourselves are transformed

Revolutionary Engineering – Miller, M.
How the international engineering firm Intergral approach restorative sustainability. Included are case studies from their Living Building Challenge projects. Intégral: Revolutionary Engineering is for trailblazers who care about advancing the building and construction industry toward greater occupant health and happiness, and stronger resilience and regenerative systems.

Design with Climate: BioClimatic Architecture 2015 update – Olgyay, V.
Reprint of a classic 1960s text that inspired and promoted architectural design based on biology and climate. I was not fully aware of this important work until researching for a commissioned review

Biomimicry in Architecture, 2nd Edition – Palwyn, M.,
Insights into the amazing world and future potentials of biomimicry within the built environment

Feral – Rewilding the Land, the Sea and Human Life. Monbiot, G.
Inspiration for restorative and regenerative environmentalism and conservatism through  Monbiot’s experience and passion on rewilding themes.

Tools for Grass Roots Activists. Gallagher, N. and L. Myers, P Brilliant collection of essays and tools from over two decades of the Patagonia invite-only Tools Conferences

Walden – Thoreau, H.D.
Recognised by many as being the classic work on environmental and conservation thinking. “We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder – Louv, R. 
Why we need biophilia in our and in our children’s everyday lives. “We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories”

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: How My Company and I Transformed Our Purpose, Sparked Innovation, and Grew Profits – By Respecting the Earth – Anderson, R.C. and R. White,
The guide that shaped and continues to inspire the values and ethos of Interface Inc. to take nothing from the earth that can’t be replaced by the earth

Landmarks – Macfarlane, R.
Why language and words are important to understanding our relationship with nature and landscapes. Certain books, like certain landscapes, stay with us even when we left them, changing not just our weathers but our climates.”

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate – Klein, N.
How capitalism and our economic structures are at the root cause of climate change.“So we are left with a stark choice: allow climate disruption to change everything about our world, or change pretty much everything about our economy to avoid that fate. But we need to be very clear: because of our decades of collective denial, no gradual, incremental options are now available to us.”

Responsible Business – Chouinard, Y. and V. Stanley
Background to the responsible business values and approaches at Patagonia. “At Patagonia, making a profit is not the goal because the Zen master would say profits happen ‘when you do everything else right.’”

Reinventing Fire – Lovins, A.
A route to a non fossil fuel future in four industries that includes the built environment. Reinventing Fire will require tapping, in particular, the two biggest motherlodes of energy, efficiency and the Sun.

Eden – Smit, T.
Background to the development and principles of the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK. “…. construction is a culture that depends on warfare and fault finding that is not compatible with collaborative partnerships …”

&

FutuREstorative: Working Towards a New Sustainability Brown, M.
Focuses on the emergence of a net positive and restorative sustainability, as a more rounded social, wellness, health and healthy buildings debate “We can and must reignite sustainability, set the sustainability soul on fire, make sustainability fun and exciting, and inspire a new generation – not only for a vision of sustainability that is regenerative but a vision that also acknowledges the damage of the past and makes amends, healing the future

 FutuREstorative : is available via RIBA Bookshops and other online book services!
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a transition view of the uk transition housing plan

A welcomed and important perspective on the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan was posted by Rob Hopkins on the Transition blog:

lowcarbonplancover

After many months of Ed Milliband putting himself out there are a Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change that actually gets climate change, finally his big Plan, the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan was unveiled on Wednesday, in a speech in the House of Commons that name checked Transition Towns and which is the boldest national vision for a low carbon society yet seen.  Many others have since pitched in with their thoughts, I thought it might be useful here to offer an analysis from a Transition perspective.  In his speech, Milliband said “we know from the Transition Towns movement the power of community action to motivate people..”, clearly an outcome of his attendance as a ‘Keynote Listener’ at the Transition Network conference in May. So how does the Plan measure up, and does it actually advance what Transition initiatives and the wider relocalisation movement are doing?

On Housing (of particular interest here) Rob Comments:

tpcommThe Plan restates 2016 of the date by which all new housing will be zero carbon, which is entirely laudable, although Wales has actually managed to introduce this 5 years earlier, by 2011.  It might have provided a good push to this had it been brought forward to, say, 2014. Much of this part of the report is as you would imagine, but it does contain the intriguing statement that “the Government is investing up to £6 million to construct 60 more low carbon affordable homes built with innovative, highly insulating, renewable materials”.

Does this mean that there is now £6 million for hands-on research into straw bale, hemp construction, earth plasters and so on?

Or does ‘highly insulating, renewable materials’ refer to Kingspan and other industrial oil-derived building materials?

At the moment ‘zero carbon homes’ refers only to a building’s performance once built, not the embodied energy of the materials it contains.

The role of local and natural materials in strengthening local economies is key.

My Comment: it is these points that need a wider, open and urgent debate as raised in a previous blog item here. If zero carbon is the solution what was the question? and are we defining zero carbon with enough insight?

Rob scores the Plan as follows:

Addressing Peak Oil:  1 out of 10.

Energy: 7 out of 10.

Transport 4 out of 10

Housing: 6 out of 10

Community involvement: 2 out of 10

Food and Farming: 1 out of 10

and Overall : 6 out of 10


on going local – part one

Mel Starrs over at Elemental has a great and useful article on local resources as seen from the LEED and BREEAM perspectives. Local materials, for local people (or a review of LEED credit MR5.1)  Essential reading for those using these standards and grapling with the concept of local resources.

And yet there is another local resource debate emerging that may well eclipse these standards:

The transition movement approach based on the concepts of peak oil and local resilience necessitates the use of local labour and resources. Rob Hopkins within the Transition Handbook includes building materials as one of the key products, along with food, that can be produced locally.  Re-localisation calls for the production of the means to produce locally – something lost in the cheap transport, cheap oil economies.

A recent presentation from Tom Woolley advocating the use of hempcrete and other cropped based construction products as the  material of the future, paints the picture of the hemp being grown fields local to the new housing project.

Within the UK regeneration projects there is often KPI requirements on the use of local resources and labour, as high as 70%  in an attempt to keep spend local to regenerate the regional and local construction markets.  It remains a key selection criteria on most if not all public procurement PQQ’s.  Corporate organisations often have grand CSR statements on positive approaches to using local labour and organisations. 

And yet a simple plotting of supplier / subcontractor locations on a google map can reveal to clients the visual distribution of spend away from the local area. 

Re-localisation is a debate that will continue, driven by the drive for low or zero carbon, the economy, politics and concepts such as transition and peak oil.  How the standards, LEED /BRREAM and the CSB / CSH influence or reflect this will be of great interest.

… off now to view the Hanham Hall sublitted application plans for their intentions for use of local labour and resources … part 2 to follow.

local authority in peak oil tranisition

Last week, Somerset County Council voted unanimously to endorse a motion that they become the UK’s first ‘Transition Local Authority’ reported the Transition Culture blog yesterday

What this means is that SCC will take a more integrated approach to its planning processes, putting peak oil, sustainable communities and climate change at the heart of its forward planning, which would/should/will include its construction and maintenance procurement and management.

Is this the start of local authorities adopting a wider and longer term view of sustainability?  It will be very interesting now to see the PQQ (preliminary qualification questionnaire) issues the county ask of its bidders, the selection criteria used in procurement and the performance indicators.  One big impact should be the real focus on local labour, local materials and construction miles.

Just as the built environment sector is (slowly) getting to grips with answering basic environmental questions with in bidding documents, this may not only move the goal posts but put them on a different playing field.  Try addressing a PQQ question along the lines  “What steps have you taken to address peak oil”

At last we may have some real effort in addressing the impact we in the built environment have on the environment and climate change.

As the Transition Culture blog states: Something Wonderful Just Happened in Somerset

The proposal put before the Council ran as follows;

That this Council

  1. Acknowledges the work done by communities in Somerset on Transition Towns and that the independence of the Transition Movement is key to its grass roots appeal.
  2. As demonstrated in its Climate Change Strategy, fully endorses the Transition Town Movement and subscribes to the principles and ethos of the organisation’s goals to reduce dependence on fuel oil and create more sustainable communities.
  3. Commits to providing support and assistance to all towns in Somerset that wish to join this initiative to help them achieve the goals they set for themselves as local communities, as demonstrated under the ‘Community Initiatives’ section of the Climate Change Strategy.
  4. Therefore, requests the Scrutiny and Executive Committees to consider through the council’s strategic planning process; allocating funds to assist in achieving the outcomes of the Transition Towns Movement in Somerset and requiring all directorates to engage with and provide support for Transition Initiatives in Somerset

Through the work outlined above, seeks to become the first Transition Authority in the UK. Agrees to undertake a review of its budgets and services to achieve a reduction in dependence on fuel oil and produce an energy descent action plan in line with the principles of the Transition Initiative.

no limits … route to zero

The presentation for my recent Route2Zero event for No Limits (Constructing the Future @ Elevate East Lancs) is available here: No Limits Route2Zero.  The pdf is more print friendly than the actual slides used, with the images removed to reduce the size of the file.  Also the reference for the Transition Town movement discussed on the evening is included.

Organisations looking to sign up to the No Limits Route 2 Zero programme should contact Donna at No Limits directly.

If anyone is looking for route2zero images please contact me directly.

a second life transition town

Just joined a transition town group within second life:

a group for like minded people that are adopting a Transition Model (in RL or SL) for responding to the twin challenges of peak oil and climate change.

to develop a framework for the 2021 Energy Descent Action Plan, providing information and ultimately a 2021 sim city, a model town living an oil-free sustainable manner.

earth day presentation

Here are the slides /presentation I have made, in different formats, to a number of groups recently, pulling on a number of sources relating to sustainability in the built environment.