Following the conversations in the construction media, you may think that clients are forced to make a choice between BREEAM or Passiv Haus or One Planet Living, or that the youngster on the block, Living Building Challenge, is setting itself in competition with the established standards.
Sustainable design and construction professionals in the Green Vision debating area at Leeds Eco Fair on 22nd May 2014 heard that whilst all these approaches provide tools, guidance and certification, the future is collaborative, and that these standards can compliment each other.
Chair John Alker (UKGBC) kicked off the panel debate with an audience poll, checking who has used the tools represented today, few hands were raised, and secondly who is here to learn more, most hands were raised.
John then invited the panel, Martin Brown UK (Fairsnape / Living Building Challenge UK Ambassador), Chris Herring (Passiv Haus Trust), Martin Townsend (BRE/BREEAM) and Sue Riddlestone (BioRegional / One Planet Living) to introduce the standards.
Sue Riddlestone reminded us of the concept of living within planetary boundaries, and how the One Planet Living scheme, based on 10 principles of sustainability, creates a common language for holistic living.
Martin Townsend reminded us that the popular BREEAM assessment method and rating system for building sets the standard for best practice in sustainable building design.
Chris Herring described Passiv Haus as a leading approach to low energy buildings focusing solely on the need to get our buildings performing efficiently, and that there is really no point designing buildings that look great if they do not perform correctly and efficiently.
Martin Brown introduced the Living Building Challenge as a regenerative sustainability philosophy and advocacy tool, based on required practices, not just current best practice, to stir the pot with other green standards, as arguably they are not challenging enough to address the broader sustainability agenda.
Questions from the audience included zero carbon homes for 2016, and how to value sustainable buildings by more than just financial measures.
Martin Brown saw the industry as being too unresponsive on the 2016 issue, that even after 8 years to prepare for the target we are still awaiting Government lead rather stepping forward with industry solutions. But importantly taking a broader look at benefits of health is essential, looking at health and social issues which we need to value alongside energy costs.
Chris Herring saw Passiv Haus being driven by those with vision, initially by passionate individuals but now a mixture ranging from schools to offices.
Martin Townsend commented on the need to understand where the government is at the moment with the Housing Standards Review, and really examine how we get to the ambitious 2016 targets, and bring the consumer on board to say I want lower energy bills.
Sue Riddlestone stated if we are serious about being sustainable get zero carbon in the building regulations, train the sector and alert the consumer.
John Alker invited comments and questions from the audience:
“I see the Living Building Challenge as a way of being, but it has to be the client that decides, so let’s have things from a client’s perspective rather than to beat a particular standard”
“How does Passiv Haus advocate healthy building products”
“Competition is a good thing, but are we competing against each other? Is there a danger that the standards are starting to compete and the vision of sustainability is lost?”
“The whole process is key”
“Speaking from a contractors point of view we need to see it as a driver for change and not the extra cost”
John Alker challenged the panel members to address these great comments , adding that you are all working in the same space, so, if we wanted to use all the standards, could we, should you not be doing this together?
Martin Brown commented its not just about tools, standards or accreditations, but a mindset for real and wider sustainability, and that whilst LBC is stirring the pot, it both compliments and challenges the other standards to reach farther.
Martin Townsend saw competition between standards as healthy, giving the customer choice, but that we need a common way to measure the same things, have consistency in systems, noting that the pace of change is not as quick as it needs to be.
Chris Herring reinforced the focusing on building performance; focus on the Passiv Haus standard “all the rest, including healthy building products is just fluff”
Bringing realism to the discussion Sue Riddlestone said we have to take a whole lifestyles approach, for example we use as much energy driving a car as a house.
A point picked up by Martin Brown – that we focus too much on ‘the building’, forgetting the community, social equality, human and diversity issues central to sustainability, observing the unacceptable and unjust practices in Qatar were producing high performing building “Lets not loose sight of the purpose of sustainability here”.
John Alker challenged the panel on how would you persuade a client to use your tool and how do you get across a business case.
Chris Herring saw the most important sell was to get people to visit a Passiv Haus, see first hand, consult the website and speak to somebody who actually live in one of the houses.
Martin Brown said we are selling the future built environment – healthy buildings that contain no harmful materials, have fresh air, using only sunlight are energy efficient but importantly, foster creativity and are a joy to live or work in. Martin suggested reading the LBC standard over the long weekend (Version 3 is out today) there will be something in there that will challenge your thinking, make you say wow.
Martin Townsend would ask clients the question “do you want a happy, healthy workforce, happy staff with water and energy savings”.
John Alker observed the obvious in that the people on this panel are passionate about this suggesting as leaders they come together regularly to discuss common ground, in panels and around the table, exploring future collaboration.
Author – Claire Bowles