Leeds Sustainability Institute

Open Knowledge Exchange and Sharing

Earth Day 2015 – Beyond Sustainability

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Martin Brown is the Leeds Beckett Green Vision Ambassador, a Living Building Challenge Ambassador and through Fairsnape an innovative, leading consultant and advocate for built environment sustainability.

We are seeing the emergence of new sustainability thinking, one that is challenging our understanding of sustainability, one that uses expressions such as net positive, regenerative and restorative sustainability.

Patagonia company founder Yvonne Chounaird thinks we should not even use the term sustainability until we give the same or more back to nature than we take. 

At this free public EarthDay presentation Martin will provide an overview of EarthDay, from its origins back in the 70’s to its present day global celebration of the Earth, along with a backdrop for a new sustainability, focusing on how buildings and the built environment can deliver a restorative sustainability, starting to heal the future and to correct some of the sectors past environmental damage.

We are limited to 70 places on this event so secure you place now at this FREE event by email to ckeevents@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

 

Getting serious about water

On 11th March we held the second in a series of workshops exploring the seven key performance areas of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), otherwise known as petals (more about Petals & the Petal workshops here). This session focussed on the water petal.

The purpose of the water petal is to realign how people use water and to redefine “waste” in the built evironment so that water is respected as a precious resource. Attendees to the petal workshop discussed how elements of the water standard can practically be applied using real life examples from the Bullitt Centre in Seattle. This was presented via weblink by Martin Brown, Green Vision Ambassador, who happened to be visiting the centre at the time, more info here .

We asked one of the attendees to the session to summarise some of the current thinking & initiatives around water management & conversation in the UK.

 

LouiseWalkerGuest Post by Louise Walker, Innovation Manager, water@leeds, University of Leeds

The launch of the new UK Water Partnership signals a growing awareness of the need to think seriously about this most precious of our natural resources.

Launching the new body in February, its chair Lord Smith of Finsbury said:

“There’s nothing more important than water. With expanding urban concentrations around the world and the growing impacts of climate change, we need to get better at managing water, conserving it, cleaning it, delivering it, and using it. That’s where innovation is going to be so important. The UK Water Partnership will bring together people across the UK water community to stimulate ideas and develop the products and services that will take on these challenges for the future.”

I am the Innovation Manager for water@leeds, the cross-disciplinary water research centre at the University of Leeds. With over 150 members from across the different faculties of the university, we have a wealth of talent thinking about water in all its forms and for all its purposes. We work internationally and with the UK water community to incorporate the latest research findings in those products and services that will help to meet the challenges Lord Smith mentions.

My particular interest is in ‘water sensitive design’ – that is how we can better incorporate water into our thinking for new developments, and in retrofitting, to help improve water quality, reduce flooding, provide water resources and create better places to live.

The concept of ‘Water Sensitivity’ has been embraced through holistic philosophies such as Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) in Australia and Low Impact Development (LID) in the USA. Currently, water management in the UK is compartmentalised, and surface water management in particular is not prioritised. This is not surprising, given the way in which our water services have evolved over time along with urban development. We have ensured in the UK that our cities are supplied with water, that wastewater is removed and treated to a high standard and we do our best to keep our cities well-drained (though are often thwarted by nature on this last point).

This is summarised in a neat diagram by Rebekah Brown at Monash University[1], who has considered in depth how we can move towards caring for the water resource in our urban environments whilst continuing to utilise it for our needs.

water@leeds

 

If this illustration is seen as a timeline, we can see that we somewhere around waterways cities where we are working hard to tackle pollution, but we are a way off the future vision of a Water Sensitive City.

Innovation in the built environment will help us get better at managing our water resources and this is supported by initiatives such as the The Living Building Challenge, which is described by its American developers as ‘a building certification program, advocacy tool and philosophy that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today…’

The Challenge comprises seven performance categories called Petals: Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty.

The aim of the ‘Water Petal’ is ‘to meet all water demands within the carrying capacity of the site and mimic natural hydrological conditions, using appropriately-sized and climate-specific water management systems that treat, infiltrate or reuse all water resources on-site’.

So this is not just about getting better at managing water, but about being the best we can. The idea is to make sure all the needs for the development are met by the site. Used water must be reintroduced so that it does not compromise natural systems in any way.

Green Vision is currently looking at developing the methodology for a UK landscape. This type of thinking lays down the gauntlet for innovation in the built environment. When integrated into a holistic catchment scale approach of water management, linked to green and blue infrastructure, embracing the flexibility and adaptability to deal with future changes and aligned with the aims of each of the petals, It will help us move toward the vision of water sensitive cities. This is getting serious about water.

[1] Brown, R.R., Keath, N., Wong, T., 2009, Urban water management in cities: historical, current and future regimes, Water Science And Technology [P], vol 59, issue 5, IWA Publishing 2009, England, pp. 847-855.

You can find out more about Water@Leeds & connect with Louise and the team here

Net Positive Water – CANCELLED

PLEASE NOTE THAT DUE TO UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES WE HAVE HAD TO CANCEL THE EVENT BELOW. WE HOPE TO REARRANGE THE PRESENTATIONS FOR A LATER DATE, PLS KEEP CHECKING BACK HERE FOR DETAILS

(Excerpts of this text have been sourced from “Is Water the Next Carbon?” post by Andrew Winston and Will Sarni, Harvard Business Review)

We all take water for granted. Even though water is critical for human life, ecosystems and as a major process or product input for industry, it’s a resource that very few of us think actively about managing.

Water, often referred to as the “new Carbon” is arguably the next major sustainability hurdle the built environment faces. Recent reports have highlighted some key issues;

  • Water demand is increasing while water quality is decreasing
  • Impacts of Climate change will affect water availability
  • Price does not reflect the real value of water
  • We need to collectively develop new ways to manage water.

Now then is a perfect time to consider better, perhaps even radical, approaches to the design, management & conservation of this vital resource.

How could we, as emerging standards are suggesting, move towards net-positive or closed loop water systems where all water in a building is “captured, treated, used/reused and released clean within the boundaries of the building”. Buildings as water cleansing facilites rather than buildings as water polluting facilities?

On Wednesday 11th March Green Vision will be hosting the second is their Construction and Assemby spring series focussing on a number of current approaches to help us better understand the water challenge and to improve our thinking around water design, management & conservation.

Our speakers for this event will be Louise Walker, Innovation Manager at water@leeds who will be talking about how we can better incorporate water into our thinking for new buildings & retrofit to help improve water quality, reduce flooding, provide water resources & create better places to live. This sounds ambitious but it is all part of the concept of ‘Water Sensitivity’ and has been embraced through initiatives such as Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) in Australia. Currently, water management in the UK is compartmentalised & surface water management in particular is not prioritised. How can we improve the situation and will the Water Petal of the Living Building Challenge help?

Our second speaker for this event will be Martin Brown, Green Vision and Living Building Challenge Ambassador who will be joining us live from the Bullitt Centre in Seattle for a short audio update with insights into to his visit to the “Greenest Building in the World” including their water management strategies.  “The goal of the Bullitt Centre is to drive change in the property and built environment marketplace faster and further by showing what’s possible today. The era of harm reduction, half steps and lesser evils is behind us… we need to be bold in ways that were once unimaginable”

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It’s time to Learn from Nature

Last Wednesday, 11th February, we hosted the first in our Green Vision Construction & Assembly Series, a lively event focussing on Learning from Nature introducing the concepts of biomimicry and biophilic design which generated much debate and food for thought. I think it’s fair to say we all left having learnt something new… even it is was purely the existance of dog vomit slime mould as a building tool!

Our combined write-up & storify of the event is detailed below although we encourage anyone interested in this topic & themes around it to get in touch with the team to carry on the debate. Also follow the hashtag #gvis2015 to join in the discussion online.

Our next event on 11th March is entitled Net Positive Water where we will be continuing the discussions around the circular economy & “closing the loop”, in terms of water management strategies. Full details & booking here

 

The Greenest Buildings in the World? – the Living Building Challenge

By Mark Warner, Sustainability Manager, Leeds Beckett University (first posted on Low Carbon Leeds)

George Monbiot, via his book ‘Heat’, first introduced me to the absolute truth that:

Efficiency just means you can do more with less, which equals growth!”

Or, at best, we will maintain current levels of consumption which we know is already too much (three planets to much).

Coupled with the fact that we all need to pay the mortgage, feed ourselves and our families and put clothes on our backs; how do we continue to prosper on an economic basis, reduce our environmental impact and have a positive social impact (through our buildings in this instance)?

Enter the concept of The Living Building Challenge. An American standard. A tough one at that. There are three levels of certification, listed here from easiest to toughest;

  1. The Net Zero Energy Certification
  2. Petal Certification
  3. Living Building CertificationLiving Building Challenge logo

My stats on this will be slightly wrong but there are roughly 250 projects that have achieved Net Zero or Petal certifications. But no one has achieved the Living Building Certification.

So, what’s so good about this standard? For me it’s the philosophy of buildings being restorative rather than just ‘less bad’. To get the top slot you have to generate 105% of the electrical energy consumed by the building, treat and produce 105% of the water consumed and you can only build on brownfield sites (unless you can demonstrate an educational need to be fulfilled).

There are more challenges, but these three examples highlight the point of the restorative philosophy. Simply put, you are putting more energy and water back in than you take out. Building on a brownfield site is a brave move for any organisation as there will be a number of issues that will not be attractive; hazardous waste to deal with (old gas sites for example), run down surrounding areas, potential issues of crime to name a few.

But what better way to have a positive impact on society than to build a building (and surrounding biodiverse area) that is a shining example of what can be achieved by individuals who want to make a difference?

There are advantages, lower rates and financial incentives from councils to build in these areas. Imagine starting a trend and turning an area around into a thriving, sought after, business park and making a profit as a result? This would seem to suggest that doing the right thing could be profitable…

Living Building Challenge Aspects - Petals

Sitting within the Estates Team at Leeds Beckett University we are continually pushing sustainability. All of our contractors are achieving recycling rates of 95% plus and energy efficiency is a key factor in all designs. We have made it clear that we want investment appraisals (not cost savings on the project budget) and every option is considered from a whole-life-costing point of view, we specify recycled content in materials (information on this is surprisingly scarce when you dig into the detail) and space options are filled down to ensure buildings are the right size for their purpose. We’ve achieved BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) and Passivhaus standards and everyone is pleased. Rightly so, but… I’m hoping we get the go ahead for a building that will get us the Living Building Challenge full certification for the Leeds Sustainability Institute.

If we get the go ahead I’m looking forward to challenging current standards and taking my team, the wider estates team, and the design team on an educational journey that will be continued by our post graduate and research teams as well as the people who use the facility.

The New Zealand Education Act specifically states that one of the purposes of a university is to ‘be the social conscience and critic of society’. A building built to such high standards is a good public statement of this purpose.

There are already some good examples around, with one of my favourites being the Packard Foundation HQ.

Restorative has to be the way to go. To the construction industry it must seem like the vegan equivalent for building standards but after the Living Buildings Challenge there is Biomimicary………and the truly organic building.

Mark Warner

Mark Warner is the Sustainability Manager at Leeds Beckett University.  He works within the Estates Team advising on sustainable construction, energy efficiency/carbon reduction, sustainable transport and sustainable purchasing of goods, services and materials.

It’s time to “Learn from Nature” #gvis2015

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“Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything” Albert Einstein

Green Vision recommences with our Green Construction and Assembly Spring Series

Our Spring GreenVision series will explore sustainability issues relating to the Construction and Assembly processes within the Built Environment. Aligned to our Living Building Challenge UK collaborative, the topics in this series will consider innovative restorative sustainability and net positive approaches. Join us on our evening seminars with leading sustainability thinkers and our half day GreenBIM conference in association with thinkBIM in April.

Our first twilight event on 11th February will focus on learning from our natural environment & will feature presentations & discussions around biomimicry. Biomimicry seeks solutions from nature to address sustainability in the construction life cycle, not only for materials but also systems and processes. Our speakers are;

Richard James MacCowan (Director and Co-Founder,Biomimicry UK )

Re-thinking Nature

The world that we live in faces enormous challenges such as climate change, food security, biosphere integrity and freshwater use. Nature can play a strong role to tackle some of the most pressing challenges of our time. Solutions are at our fingertips, they are cost effective and we know how to implement them. Richard’s talk will focus on developments, research, case studies and future opportunities that this vital strand of sustainability can offer our industry.

Yaniv Peer (Associate – Exploration)

Radical Nature

At a time when architecture and society urgently need to reconsider their relationship to the natural world there are few more exciting and innovative ways to find solutions to our current and future challenges than the discipline known as Biomimicry. This field uses nature as a mentor, learning from its ingenious adaptations that have undergone 3.8 billion years of research and development to produce exceptionally well evolved solutions. This talk will explore three projects of the London based Exploration Architecture Ltd and how it is that they use biomimicry in their work to offer new solutions to some of the biggest challenges we face today. 

 

“Stimulating and open discussion make the events a must for construction professionals who wish to improve the performance of buildings”

Jonathan Lindh – Leda Ltd

Bookhere

Other dates for your diary

Water the new carbon

Wednesday 11th March 15, 17:30-19:30

Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP, 2 Park Lane, Leeds

 

GreenBIM Half-day Conference

Wednesday 1st April 15, 13:00-17:30

Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP, 2 Park Lane, Leeds

Free support available to help SMEs “go greener”

Green Gain are an environmental consultancy who have recently secured some ERDF funding enabling them to provide SMEs with free assistance to reduce their environmental impacts & save money. To find out more & to see how you can benefit see details from Green Gain below;

 

greengain

Green Gain – About us

Green Gain can provide support to Yorkshire-based ‘built environment’ sector SMEs for free.  An ERDF framework funds our expertise so that we can help you to take new initiatives forward to reduce both energy consumption and waste where you may lack the time, skills or resources in-house.

Our support is designed to be hassle free. We will handle all the paperwork and there is no match funding requirement.

Our support is therefore 100% risk free and can be tailored exactly to your needs. As way of example this support may help you to:

  • Improve your energy efficient
  • Minimise your waste generation;
  • Get better value from your waste contractors;
  • Find higher value end-markets for your waste materials;
  • Communicate on environmental issues within your business;
  • Increase profitability.

The funded support places are limited, so contact us now to secure your free support!

You can reach me on steven@greengain.co.uk or 07519 428475.

“We really couldn’t have done it without you so thank you for your expertise and time – it really is appreciated.” Abi Lawrence, Front of House Operations Manager, Chapter Arts Centre.

#GreenBIM – bringing the two concepts together

On Wednesday 3rd December, a full house of attendees joined us at WSP in Leeds for our inaugural GreenBIM event. The conference was extremely well recieved and we are delighted to be able to present you with our storify summary of the event below. Our storify includes tweets, images and PDFs of all the presentations from the event.

“It was such an amazing and informative #GreenBIM today! Thank you!”

“Brilliant experience – learnt a lot very quickly”

Our next ThinkBIM & Green Vision series start in February with twilight seminars on 4th February (ThinkBIM) and 11th February (Green Vision). Also look out for details our of first Constructing Excellence breakfast event of 2015 on 28th January.

BDE Podcast on Passivhaus with Elrond Burrell & Chris Herring

We are delighted to be able to share with you the podcast of a unique interview conducted by Mark Wilson from Building Design Expert at our recent Constructing Excellence YH Passivhaus breakfast seminar with Elrond Burrell from Architype Architects and Chris Herring from Green Building Store . This interview explored the entire design & build process of Passivhaus with some interesting insights from our two event speakers.

BDEPodcast

Architype Architects are based in Hereford and have a passion for sustainable architecture. Hand in glover with sustainable building design is the need to reduce energy use. Architype have achieved this by adopting the Passivhaus design and building standard; with a growing reputation for use of the standard on a commercial scale with offices and school buildings, in addition to large scale and one off housing projects.

The Green Building Store represents Passivhaus design development from the contracting side of the industry, and their reputation has grown around not only their on site attention to detail with their ability to successfully implement the Passivhaus standard, but their sourcing of products and technology that will meet the rigorous performance requirements that the standard demands.

Living Building Challenge UK

LBC_logo_clear_no2The UK Living Building Challenge Collaborative met this week at Squire Patton Boggs in Leeds and saw construction professionals, architects, landscape architects, software vendors, sustainability experts and representatives from Leeds Beckett University discuss Standard V3 and the future of the UK Collaboratives.

Martin Brown gave an inspiring introduction to version 3.0, launched earlier in the year, covering the standards principles, petals and key imperatives. This was followed with a great discussion on the Living Building Challenge and relevance in the UK sector.

Martin emphasised that the Challenge is ‘A visionary path to a regenerative future’. Whereas other standards are focused on doing ‘less bad,’ the Living Building Challenge is based on the philosophy of doing more good, that is, restorative sustainability. We should no longer be satisfied with creating buildings that have negative impacts however small they may be, but look to create buildings, structures, and communities that contribute back to the environment and nature.

The Living Building Challenge uses a less technical, but more powerful, softer language than most standards, and puts topics such as beauty, education and biophilic design back into the equation.

Many present commented that a welcomed aspect was the inclusion of ‘health, happiness, beauty, nature’ within the standard.

Indeed the standard uses a metaphor of a flower, with seven petals, each of which comprises of several imperatives, 20 in total. All of these must be met in order to obtain full certification and the status of a Living Building.  We heard there are currently 201 registered projects worldwide.

2015 Plans

We are currently the only collaborative in the UK, however, we will be sharing this status with London due to launch in the spring and interest is growing elsewhere across the country.

During 2015 we will explore each of the Petals individually through workshops which will be held on the second Wednesday of each month, before the Green Vision evening and half day sessions. The timetable will be:

February 11th – Place

March 11th – Water

April 22nd- Energy

May 13th – Health & Happiness

June 10th – Materials

July 8th – Equity

August 5th – Beauty

To drive these workshops, we are looking for ‘champions’ to head each ‘petal’. If you feel that you are an expert on any of the standard areas, or passionate about specific imperatives, or just want to get involved please send us an email at CKEEvents@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

We will also deepen the relationship with projects interested in registering and pursuing certification. And the exciting news here is that we have one potential project ready to register and other in development. Other activities will include design competitions, project charrette support, and a UK overlay to the International Standard with terminology, regulations and standards appropriate to the UK sector.

We are also compiling a library of UK building case studies that illustrate Living Building Challenge concepts. If you are aware of any projects, your own perhaps that addresses any of the standard imperatives or philosophies please do let us know for inclusion into our library.

We look forward to you joining our Collaboratives and getting involved, with your projects perhaps, in this exciting new era for built environment sustainability.

As Martin has said many times, ‘it’s time to heal the future’…

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