‘We cannot move to a positive future without revolutionizing construction’
During the forum the group had to answer two key questions
What is the impact of Construction on the state of the world and how has the economic crisis impacted this issue? and What should be done to improve the state of the world on Construction?
We started by reminding ourselves of the definition of the construction process; A cyclical activity being Planning – Design – Build – Use – Retrofit – Demolish – Recycle – and back again to planning.
Globally, the construction industry has a significant impact on the world economy, resource uptake and economic performance
- Up to 44% of world GDP
- Affects 40% of the global GHG emissions
- Affects 70% of cities GHG
- Consumes 12% of the world’s water
- Employ’s 10% of the world’s work force
In this context the answers to our questions took on a new importance and in response to the first question we concluded two principle outcomes.
The global financial crisis will have a major impact on the industry
Create a significant slow-down in private sector development and focus attention on short-term horizons.
Initiate a redirection of capital into public infrastructure in an attempt to initiate economic recovery. This must be Positive Infrastructure (i.e., infrastructure that does not lock us into resource consumptive life-styles but reduces our resource dependency)
The first conclusion was unsurprising but should ring alarm bells none the less for it is clear that the present momentum for green needs to be accelerated not slowed down.
The second conclusion is less obvious and provides us both an opportunity to totally rethink how we develop the built envoironemnt but also a massive challenge. How do we ensure governments take the opportunity to develop with the long term ‘positive infrastructure’ in mind rather than going for a short term fix?
It was clear that this process must begin by recognising the difference between good (net positive impact) and bad ( net negative impact ) infrastructure solutions. Our goal should be to encourage investment into Positive Infrastructure Initiatives that improve society and reduce global impact.
And so onto our second challenge - What should be done to improve the state of the world on Construction?
It is clear that the future depends on developing a sustainable vision for urban renewal and growth and that any future must be founded on a revolution within the construction cycle that is integrative and regenerative. Decision makers will need to plan at a macro and micro level, monitor and report against those plans whilst respecting limits and embracing opportunities.
What is needed is a clear set of guiding principles that may be embraced by planners across the world. Our initial thoughts on this were based on biomimicry
1. Enhances the systems of which it is part
2. Runs on clean, renewable energy
3. Recycles and reuses everything
4. Uses only the resources it needs (better than zero carbon - Planet Positive, water neutral)
5. Contributes to biodiversity and food security
6. Celebrates form and function in response to environmental forces
7. Makes the best use of local resources
8. Adapts and evolves with climate, economic and social change
9. Ensures human health and well being
10. Facilitates the effective movement of people and goods
And so we came up with 2 key questions for future debate
- What is positive infrastructure and how can we make sure investments will flow to positive, rather than negative infrastructure projects?
- Is it possible to create a set of guiding and binding principles that can be adopted by government and planners worldwide.
Guy Battle 18.11.08
I have just returned from The World Economic Forum - Summit on the Global Agenda held in Dubai over the weekend.
The WEF identified more than 50 global challenges and put in place over 68 working groups to challenge the existing (& failed?) systems and to develop new and radical strategies to meet the global challenges ahead on finances, climate change and social issues. (www.weforum.org/globalagenda/reports)
At first sight many of the topics being discussed appear to be unrelated but as the global financial melt down has taught us, never has the world been so interconnected; the failure of one part of the network causing significant damage to all parts.
And so it seems that we are faced with a stark question – Do we continue to promote the present interdependence between nations or do we go it alone, erect the walls and try and insulate ourselves from the mistakes by others?
Given the complexity of the raging storms in front of us; climate change, poverty, resource depletion, the choice seems obvious; we must build and strengthen the multiple bonds between us so that when one fails the others compensate and structure stays strong.
A good analogy for this is the tree. A tree is a system that uses its leaves to convert sunshine and its roots to provide nutrients so it can grow. And yet if the tree loses a part of its branch network or a section of its root system it will regenerate and grow back stronger. It is resilient to most things that nature can throw at it.
If the financial crisis has taught us anything, it is that our present operating system is not nearly resilient enough and when one part fails the shocks are too great and the collateral damage too widespread.
In the short term it is obvious that we must repair and reboot the system. As a short term strategy this will get us through the immediate crisis. However, this will not provide a long term solution. It is clear that the present system has not worked and what is really needed is a total system redesign to be based on a new vision of sustainable living.
But before doing so we must all come to terms with one undeniable truth that is; ‘We sink or swim together’.
And so there is a silver lining to our present crisis for it has shown us just how interconnected we all are and how much stronger we all can be by collaborating across borders.
It provides us with a period of relative calm in which we may gather our senses and set our plans for the future. In doing so we must challenge the past in order to reinvent to the future, leverage our interconnectedness in order to build inclusive solutions that are resilient and positive for all – the planet, its ecosystems AND its people.
Guy Battle 11.11.08