FORESTRY ≠ DEFORESTATION

This article looks into forestry and deforestation. These are often confused as being the same thing, when in fact they are very different.

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This article is based on the work of Patrick Moore and his excellent book Green Spirit: trees are the answer, which I read recently. I don’t agree with him on everything, but I respect his opinions as he backs them up with evidence. But on forestry, he is a major authority in this field, with significant experience.

In his book, Patrick explains the following:

It is not surprising that many people associate deforestation and destruction of forests with logging. After all, the first stage of deforestation is the removal of trees. But deforestation is a two-stage process and the second stage is by far the most critical in determining the fate of the forest. The second stage involves human activity directed at making sure the forest is not allowed to grow back after it has been cut.”

Patrick brings thing closer to home, with the following helpful explanation:

We tend to think of deforestation as something that happens in other countries when in truth most of us live in and are surrounded by areas where forests once thrived, but are now occupied by cities and farms.

Patrick goes on to explain that:

It is important to remember that the initial clearing of land is not sufficient in itself to cause deforestation. Left alone, land that was forested will eventually return to forest after it is cut down. It is only by determined and continuous effort that our farms, cities, and industrial areas are prevented from returning to a forest similar to the one that was removed.”

What you need to know

This article looked into forestry and deforestation.

What should be clear from everything that we have looked at, is that forestry and deforestation are not the same thing.

The deforestation occurs when the land that was once forested is converted to another permanent use.

An ideal situation is for seeds to be planted in the area where logging has taken place. But even if nothing is done, trees will once again emerge and grow to maturity.

Deforestation has far more in common with agriculture, urbanisation and primary industries such as mining and quarrying than it does with forestry. If managed sustainably, a forest can supply timber in perpetuity.

To be sure, there is some forestry that leads to deforestation. But instead of widespread and incorrect linkages between forestry and deforestation, we should be encouraging the increased use of wood and be planting more trees as it is the world’s most abundant renewable resource.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to promote sustainable forestry?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

KEY CONSIDERATIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE BUILDINGS

This article looks into some of the key areas that need to be considered in order to make a building as sustainable as possible.

Sawyer Bengtson

It is once again based on the analysis of Simon Sturgis and his excellent book Targeting Zero.

If you look at the chart below from ourworldindata.org sustainable buildings have the potential to influence carbon emissions in the residential buildings segment, the manufacturing industries & construction segment and the electricity & heat production segment. It is not unusual for buildings to be connected to 40% of a countries carbon emissions. Therefore, a strategy that focusses on buildings that are low carbon in their construction and operational phases is likely to prove to be a successful one to tackle carbon emissions at a global scale.

carbon-dioxide-co2-emissions-by-sector-or-source

There are a number of design choices which will affect how sustainable a building is, we will go through each of these in turn.

Existing resources

Simon explains that you should:

Establish which materials, structure and fabric already on site are suitable for reuse within the project.”

Simon goes on to explain that:

Part of the conceptual approach is to consider what the next architect/ engineer would do with your building when it comes to future refurbishment. Can your building be dismantled and recycled in its entirety? Can the components be reused at the same level, i.e. not just at a lower use level? The ideal is for nothing to be wasted, and everything to be reusable.”

This is a level of thinking that needs to become commonplace as soon as possible.

Environmental strategy

Simon begins with the following excellent explanation:

The relationship between operational and embodied emissions and their collective mitigation is key to a low carbon building.”

Simon then explains what services should be omitted to improve the sustainability of the building:

Omitting mechanical systems omits a large part of a building’s regulated operational energy use, and the embodied costs of the plant.

Primary structure

Simon begins by highlighting that:

The key to a low carbon structural system is to select the optimal system not just for the immediate requirement, and for the desired life expectancy, but also for future flexibility.”

Simon then expands on that with the following statement:

Some solutions such as steel or timber can be designed for easy dismantling and reuse. Concrete, using cement replacements, recycled content in steel, and recycled aggregate can be relatively carbon-efficient, particularly if durability and long life are required.

External walls and cladding

Simon explains the key parameters for this area:

These are the initial embodied carbon costs construction, the lifetime carbon costs through maintenance and disposal, the potential for deconstruction and reuse, and the lifetime operational performance costs consequent on the design. The relationship between these parameters depends on required life expectancy and desired lifetime performance. Inappropriate choices can have significant unnecessary carbon costs.”

Interiors

Simon begins by explaining how interiors can become a carbon hotspot over time:

While the initial carbon cost of fitout may be comparatively small in relation to structure or cladding, the aggregate carbon cost can exceed these large initial capital cost items over the life of a building.”

Simon then explains what should be done about this:

From the outset, interiors decisions need to be strategic from a future maintenance perspective as much as aesthetic and cost driven. Natural finishes such as brick, which do not need a finishing layer or regular maintenance, fit a low carbon strategy on both counts.”

What you need to know

This article looked into the key considerations that need to be addressed in order to design and build a sustainable building.

They each need to be addressed in their own way to ensure that emissions reductions in one area or not replaced by emissions increases in another area.

What should be clear is that globally, buildings are a very significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. This will require significant change in order to make this sector less carbon intensive.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be addressed to create a low carbon building?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

WHOLE LIFE CARBON THROUGH THE RIBA STAGES

This article looks into whole life carbon through the RIBA stages. It is based on the excellent book Targeting Zero by Simon Sturgis. It is not just one of the best books that I have read on sustainable buildings, but is potentially one of the most important books on sustainability that I have come across, given the large percentage of carbon emissions associated with buildings.

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Whole life carbon is an analysis based on the sum of the embodied and operational carbon emissions.

Embodied carbon emissions relate to the sourcing of raw materials, their transportation and fabrication into building components which are then delivered to site and  assembled.

Operational carbon emissions are the emissions of carbon dioxide during the operational or in-use phase of a building.

The thinking is that by considering these two aspects simultaneously as part of a whole life carbon analysis, you optimise trade-offs between the two, to maximise carbon emissions reductions. Looking at them in isolation can lead to decisions which may actually increase carbon emissions.

The RIBA Plan of Work is a document that outlines all stages in the planning, design and building process, from conception to completion on site.

This article will go through each of these stages in turn and look at Simon Sturgis’s analysis of how whole life carbon can be considered at each turn.

RIBA Stage 0 – Strategic Definition

Simon provides a number of reasons why a client would be interested in whole life carbon analysis.

  • Producing a specifically low carbon building
  • Pre-empting changes in standards and legislation to future proof the asset
  • Marketing advantages
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Circular economic considerations
  • Added value
  • Resource efficiency
  • A desire to mitigate climate change impacts

RIBA Stage 1 – Preparation and Brief

At this stage, a whole life carbon assessment would require a life cycle assessment. This encourages long term thinking about the building’s fabric and functional performance past practical completion.

RIBA Stage 2 – Concept Design

To be successful, whole life carbon thinking should be embedded within the design process from the outset.

The following life cycle considerations should be taken into account at this stage:

  • Climate change
  • Future building flexibility
  • Intended life and durability
  • Materiality
  • Deconstruction
  • Disposal

RIBA Stage 3 – Developed Design

The carbon intensity of the various structural and envelope options should be taken into consideration. Carbon budgets can be created using cost data available at this stage. This can be used as a baseline which improvements can be judged against.

RIBA Stage 4 – Technical Design

At this stage, building on the work done in the previous stages, low carbon choices are now integrated into the detailed drawings and documentation. It is important that the contractors selected are clear about the low carbon aims and aspirations of the project and are able to deliver on these during the construction phase.

RIBA Stage 5 – Construction

A key issue here is monitoring the actual carbon impacts of the project and how they relate to the carbon budget.

Reporting would be required at intervals of 3 to 6 months to ensure that contractors stay on top of the data and the project stays on track and within the carbon budget.

RIBA Stage 6 – Handover and Close Out

At this stage a final carbon review of the as built information would be undertaken to create an assessment of the whole life carbon impacts of the project.

There is an opportunity to learn lessons from any variations between the design stage carbon budget and the as built records.

RIBA Stage 7 – In Use

At this stage a post occupancy evaluation should be done to take account of the whole life carbon impacts.

How a building evolves over its life is very much down to decisions made at the design stages.

What you need to know

This article looked into whole life carbon through the RIBA stages. It was based on the excellent work of Simon Sturgis and I encourage all my readers to buy and read a copy of his book Targeting Zero.

What I hoped to show in this article is that there are opportunities to reduce whole life carbon throughout the RIBA stages. It begins with a client who is interested in the subject matter and willing to expend resources to investigate low carbon opportunities.

All of the gateways flow into one another and it is important that a decision is taken at the beginning to prioritise whole life carbon impacts.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to better promote understanding of the whole life carbon impact of buildings?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

BAMBOO APPLICATIONS

This article looks into the applications that bamboo can be used for as a sustainable construction material. This will be the last part in the series on bamboo and its sustainable properties. This week is again based on the analysis of Pablo van der Lugt and his book Booming Bamboo.

bamboo-with-engravings

Structural Applications

As touched upon in last weeks article, engineered bamboo products are suitable for a number of structural purposes. We will go through a few examples here.

The BMW Solar Carport is one of my favourite examples of bamboo being used for a structural purpose. It is made from laminated bamboo beams and stainless steel.

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It looks great and it allows electric vehicles to be fully charged using on site renewable energy.

Another stunning use of bamboo is the Zeri Pavilion that was on display at the EXPO 2000 in Hannover. This was designed by Colombian architect Simon Velez, and he is well known for being one of the most accomplished bamboo architects.

Zeri

The South American bamboo Guadua provided material for the beams, the flooring, the internal columns and the roof supports.

Architectural Applications

Beyond structural purposes, which can be made both practical and sustainable, bamboo can be used to create architecturally stunning buildings.

One of my favourite examples is the Parkhaus Zoo in Leipzig. As you can see from the picture below, the building is wrapped in thousands of bamboo stems, which are nice to look at.

Leipzig Zoo

Interior Applications

Just as bamboo can be used on the exterior of a building to create stunning facades, it can be used on the interior to create eye catching finishes.

One of my favourite interior finishes examples is the ceiling of T4 at Madrid International Airport. It consists of 200,000 m2 of gently curved laminated bamboo laths. To make them suitable for an aviation environment they have been impregnated with fire retardants. They are particularly eye catching as they have been able to warp the material in two directions, to create a memorable finish.

Madrid international Airport

What you need to know

This article looked into the applications that bamboo can be used for.

We looked at examples of bamboo being used for structural purposes. These were both eye catching and sustainable.

We looked at bamboo’s use in architectural practice, which can create stunning external finishes.

We looked at an example of bamboo being used for internal finishes to great effect.

Overall, the key takeaway should be that bamboo is both highly sustainable, has incredible properties of strength and can also be used to great effect to create truly memorable buildings and infrastructure.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to raise the profile of this sustainable resource?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

BAMBOO AS A SUSTAINABLE CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL

This article looks into bamboo as a sustainable construction material. It is a continuation of my series on bamboo and its sustainable properties. This week it is again based on the analysis of Pablo van der Lugt and his book Booming Bamboo.

red-bamboo-texture

For people in Europe, the idea of using bamboo as a construction material may seem far fetched. But for people in Asia and Africa, this is a common building material that has been used for centuries.

Pablo explains that:

In Asia, stems of bamboo are still being used extensively in scaffolding because of its light weight combined with excellent tensile and bending strength.”

What has been a game changer for the development of bamboo is engineered materials which mimic wood-based products. As you can see from thee graphs below, whether on hardness or durability, the bamboo products come out as equal or superior to their wood-based competitors.

hardness

These manufactured bamboo products make them suitable for structural use. As you can see from the chart below, they perform very strongly in a stress comparison with wood-based products.

stress comparison

In terms of carbon, we have touched on this before but I think that it is worth mentioning again, as this should be a key selling point when it comes to bamboo. Bamboo’s are able to store very large quantities of carbon, both in their biomass and soil and in the durable products that come about through harvesting. As you can see from the chart below, one species in particular, the South American Guadua bamboo can store amazing quantities of carbon when grown in managed plantations.

carbon per hectare

What is most important though, is how bamboo performs to other commonly used, often non-renewable resources used by the construction industry. What becomes clear when looking at the charts below, is that bamboo performs very strongly. What this shows, is that there are significant benefits to be had from substituting high-carbon non-renewable materials for low-carbon and in some cases carbon-negative bio-based construction materials, the most promising of which is bamboo.

Carbon compared to other materials

What you need to know

This article looked at bamboo as a sustainable construction material.

We looked at how engineered products have opened up the possibility of using bamboo for a variety of construction purposes.

In terms of hardness and durability, we looked at how bamboo performed very strongly in this category.

We looked at how bamboo can be used for structural purposes in construction.

Lastly, we looked into how bamboo is a plant that can store large amounts of carbon per hectare and performs very strongly in terms of its carbon footprint when compared to other comparable construction materials.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to raise the profile of this sustainable resource?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

BAMBOO AS A CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTION

This article looks into Bamboo as a climate change solution. It is based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative to map the top 100 most effective climate change solutions.

Alex Keda

In my series earlier in the year, I looked into each of the top 20 in turn. You can find a link to this series below.

Project Drawdown

Bamboo was not ranked high enough to make it into the top 20, but it was still ranked at a respectable 35.

The authors behind the Drawdown section on bamboo open with the following statement:

Bamboo rapidly sequesters carbon in biomass and soil, taking it out of the air faster than almost any other plant, and can thrive on inhospitable degraded lands.”

Let’s look into the numbers that allowed bamboo to be ranked as the 35th most effective climate change solution by Project Drawdown. Their research showed that bamboo could reduce CO2 emissions by 7.22 gigatons, for a net cost of $23.8 billion, but produce $234.8 billion in net savings. This makes it a powerful climate change solution that should not be overlooked.

The authors point towards the properties that make bamboo a special resource:

“Just a grass, bamboo has the compressive strength of concrete and the tensile strength of steel.”

Bamboo can become an invasive species if released into the wrong areas. The authors point towards this as well as its many positive features in their closing statement:

By focussing on commercial se on degraded lands, especially those with steep slopes or significant erosion, it is possible to maximise the positive impacts of bamboo – useful products, carbon sequestration and avoided emissions from alternative materials – while minimising the negatives.”

What you need to know

This article looked into bamboo as a climate change solution.

In 2017 Project Drawdown ranked bamboo as the 35th most effective solution to reverse global warming.

Bamboo is a resource that grows quickly and is an excellent storer of carbon.It is also strong and stiff, making it ideal for multiple uses in construction where it can displace non-renewable and high-carbon resources that are currently used.

It does present challenges with its invasiveness, but these can be overcome. The positives vastly outweigh the negatives and the future looks bright for this resource.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to raise the profile of this sustainable resource?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

 

 

 

BAMBOO AS A SUSTAINABLE RESOURCE

This article looks into bamboo as a sustainable resource. This is probably the article that I have wanted to write for the longest amount of time, without actually getting around to it. There is a lot of material to cover so there will probably be a couple of parts to this series.

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What inspired me to finally write this was reading Pablo van der Lugt’s excellent book Booming Bamboo. I have put a picture of the cover below.

Booming Bamboo

Pablo shares lots of interesting ideas and information throughout the book. It is pretty accessible, whether you know nothing about bamboo before reading it, or if you already knew a lot, both sets of readers would get something from the book.

Probably the first and most important thing to point out about bamboo is that it is a grass and not a tree. It is estimated that there are 1600 different species of bamboo.

The fact that bamboo is a grass is the starting point for why it is different and more sustainable than timber from trees.

For the most part bamboo stems are hollow, which makes them different from tree trunks.

As Pablo explains:

Unlike a tree trunk, the bamboo stem does not grow in thickness. The thickness of the sprouting shoot determines the thickness of the mature stem, as cell growth only occurs in longitudinal direction.”

What makes bamboo a sustainable resource is its fast-growing speed. This is needed to cope with the demands of a large and growing world population and to displace many less sustainable materials from industries where they have been commonly used.

Of bamboo’s growing pattern Pablo writes that:

During the growing season, the bamboo shoots will sprout from the ground and reach their final length of up to 30m in height within a couple of months… maturity is attained after about 5 years, which is the moment the stem is ready for harvesting and for use in durable products in the building industry.”

Another common myth about bamboo is that it is primarily an Asian plant. This is not true, as it is found all over the world, with large quantities in South America and Africa.

Bamboo is also different from timber from trees which are harvested by way of clear cutting. With a bamboo plantation, they are harvested annually, as Pablo explains:

In general 20-25% of the poles in a bamboo forest or plantation can be sustainably harvested annually without decreasing the size of the plantation or the number of poles per hectare. The plant does not die after harvesting. On the contrary, by harvesting the mature poles, the yield and quality of the plantation actually increases.”

Interestingly, it is often thought that the fact that bamboo stems come in hollow tubular form makes them unsuitable for use as a structural material. However, nothing could be further from the truth. This is an incredibly efficient design that provides it with a naturally advantageous strength to weight ratio.

As the figure below shows, whether analysed on a strength / mass per volume or stiffness / mass per volume bamboo comes out as a very robust material when compared to other materials used for similar purposes. Bamboo brings many sustainable properties to the table as well, which is not the case for concrete or steel.

Bamboo vs steel

What you need to know

This article looked into bamboo as a sustainable resource.

We looked into some key differences between bamboo and trees. These include the fact that bamboo is a grass, it’s fast-growing speed and its suitability for annual harvesting. We also looked into the incredible strength of this material, which makes it suitable for a number of important and high value end uses. We will look into these in next week’s article.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to raise the profile of this sustainable resource?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby