Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds Good morning, everyone. This is the sustainability MOOC with Dave Hampton. It’s great to welcome Dave, the Carbon Coach and fellow of CIOB. Dave has been a thought leader in sustainability since before the word “S.” Was in common use. He was appointed head of BREEAM team at BRE in the mid 1990s. He chaired the Construction Industry Council Sustainability Group in the early 2000s. And he’s currently the chair of the CIOB New Sustainability Special Interest Group. Hello, Dave. Hi, Ami. Good to be with you. It’s lovely to have you on the line. So let’s start with our first question. What do you think– what do you see, sorry, as the main challenges in the organisation’s embracing the principles and practises of sustainability?
Skip to 1 minute and 10 seconds Thank you, Ami. Main ones– I mean, sustainability can sound like quite a scary subject, quite a long word. The truth underneath the S-word– and I was pleased you used the S-word– the truth beneath that, of course, is much simpler. And some people are referring to it as “susti.” But for me, it’s about being eco-friendly, ecology friendly, planet friendly. And it’s also about justice. It’s about justice across time and space, so justice for future generations, being future friendly.
Skip to 1 minute and 44 seconds At the end of the day, I think the challenge is to communicate sustainability in a way that makes it fresh and fun and alive, because it really is about how we interact with this planet of ours and how we respond to some pretty big challenges. Not everyone responds well to big challenges. But it isn’t something we’ve got an option about. So yeah, I think keeping it simple, keeping it real, keeping it transparent, and being honest with each other. Thank you for that, Dave. And what do you see as the main factors that support the take-up of sustainability by organisations? Yeah, I think it’s– one of the things I do in my spare time is a radio show.
Skip to 2 minutes and 30 seconds I think it’s about having conversations. I think it’s about having brave and honest conversations. There’s a big gap that’s often talked about in the construction industry between what the design team intended and what the client ends up getting. It’s called the performance gap. But I think there’s some other gaps that are interesting. Perhaps the gap between the rhetoric and the reality, the gap between the deeds and the words, and also, perhaps most important, the gap between how ambitious we need to be and how ambitious we currently are. People often refer to what happened during the war years as an example. But we really need to pull our finger– not pull our finger out.
Skip to 3 minutes and 17 seconds We really need to pull out of the bag something spectacular. We need to raise the height of the bar in terms of our sustainability actions quite dramatically, not because of any scary reason, but simply because we have the opportunity to do so, and future generations will thank us for it. So yeah, quite a long answer. But I think that the main factor is just being honest about those gaps and trying to close them. Sounds like we have to walk the talk, and also leave a big impact, isn’t it, for future generations? Yeah, absolutely, walk the talk. And I like leaving a big impact in a positive sense.
Skip to 3 minutes and 59 seconds We’ve been leaving a big impact in terms of piles of trash on the planet for a while. But leaving a big impact by how we influence the people we’re working with in any one moment. Thank you for that, Dave. And in your view, what more should professional bodies and leaders in the construction industry do to further encourage the take-up and implementation of sustainability initiatives by construction organisations? Interesting, yeah. Encouraging is something we often see that we’re doing other to other people. I actually quite like encouraging myself. Actually, it’s sometimes not so easy. But it isn’t just down to any particular sectors. I don’t look for leadership from any particular institute or from any particular organisation.
Skip to 4 minutes and 57 seconds I think leadership comes from within. There’s a phrase about, “We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for.”
Skip to 5 minutes and 4 seconds And I think leadership can be in a moment. I think it’s an act of leadership when someone around the boardroom table questions why the water is being delivered in plastic bottles– hopefully not in a self-righteous, virtue-signalling way, but in a way that says, look, there are alternatives to this. And it’s an act of leadership when someone on a construction site says, do we have to get these products pre-wrapped in five layers of plastic. Can we have a conversation with the supplier to tell them we don’t need all of this plastic waste. Just two random examples– or perhaps a third example would be someone questioning the need for frequent flying.
Skip to 5 minutes and 48 seconds Flying is a very significant area of the construction industry’s overall footprint. And we can’t build buildings globally without flying to places. But we can actually keep an eye on how much we fly. And that will probably improve the quality of people’s lives as well. So many small acts of leadership, starting from within, leading ourselves, encouraging ourselves, questioning everything as well, I’d say. And I think also, Dave, it sounds like we need to have that confidence to be able to ask those questions, isn’t it? Yeah, yeah. I don’t know where that confidence comes from. And sometimes, I guess, the culture of an organisation can’t hear or doesn’t want to hear that confidence.
Skip to 6 minutes and 30 seconds Or perhaps sometimes the confidence isn’t expressed as constructively or as diplomatically as it can be. We are all in the same boat, literally, this planet. Being proud of the planet we come from, rather than nation we come from, would be a great form of xenophobia, perhaps.
Skip to 6 minutes and 53 seconds And in your view, what countries would you say are making great strides in regard to sustainability in construction, and what lesson could the UK industry, construction industry, glean from those countries? Interesting, yeah. And I’m thinking immediately of the different leadership styles in different nation-states. But in terms of how we learn from it, I think it’s probably just keeping a close eye on each other in a friendly way, not trying to score points, but actually watching what works in different cities. There’s a tremendous amount of good progress being made in cities around the world, probably more progress than at the national level.
Skip to 7 minutes and 44 seconds Equally going further down the local level to village level, there’s the transition town movement, where some really good things are happening when communities are empowering themselves to get on with it and not wait for local government to ask them to do things. So yeah, where was I going with that? In terms of leading nations, I’ll be diplomatic and not name any particular ones. But there’s a lot of good stuff happening in Europe in Germany and France. And Scandinavian countries have always been very good on sustainability. There’s some really good progress being made by China and I think UK and USA are going to have to catch up with everyone else at the moment.
Skip to 8 minutes and 26 seconds So let’s watch our neighbours and learn from them. Yeah, yeah, nice summary. OK. And as a last question, given the move towards digital construction and modern methods of construction, how might they support the take-up of sustainability practises? Yeah, digital– I’m quite old, so digital is going to be the question that catches me out, perhaps. But I like to think of random examples on my app, where one thing digital seems to be really good at is keeping things simple and giving us useful, honest feedback quickly. So it’s speeding up feedback loops. And perhaps an example of that would be something like the little app where you can rate your hotel– TripAdvisor. Sorry, I couldn’t think of the name– TripAdvisor.
Skip to 9 minutes and 20 seconds And if you imagine something like TripAdvisor for the construction industry, you could end up with a big construction project rated by the general public. And although that could be skewed one way or the other, you probably can’t fool all the people all the time. So you might end up with a more visible level of approval for new construction, which could be part of the feedback loop.
Skip to 9 minutes and 44 seconds And we could learn quicker from mistakes, in the same way the energy consumption of a building, instead of waiting 10 years to discover that the building was using twice as much energy as it needed to because someone hadn’t commissioned it as it should be, that could be picked up on the very first day of operation. So speeding things up, learning from each other quicker, all those things that we have fun with on digital apps– I think they’re all part of making sustainability more user-friendly and having that conversation wherever we’re at, and not holding back because we think that question’s inappropriate.
Skip to 10 minutes and 24 seconds We really do need each of us all the time to get better at asking questions– why are we doing it this way. And it’s exciting for me this year the way things are changing about plastic. We’ve got to change a lot more than just plastic. But the way people’s attitudes to plastic have changed almost overnight have been dramatic, and something I’ve been hoping for for many decades. If the same thing happens with carbon, then we’re laughing. Thank you very much, Dave. This concludes our discussion on the sustainability MOOC. Thank you. Thank you, Ami.
Expert View Part 2: Dave Hampton
In this step Dave Hampton, Chair of the CIOB Sustainability Special Interest Group offers his thoughts to Ami Ankrah on what we have covered over the 5 weeks and how we move forward. He emphasises the need for a positive attitude towards sustainability, the need for continuous dialogue between stakeholders, and to take practical steps rather than just talk. There is also a focus on the role of leadership from organisations and professional bodies. Even local leadership projects such as the Transition Town Movement are mentioned as well as digital technology innovations.
Do you have examples of either you, a colleague or friend leading on sustainability, no matter how small?
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