This first quarter of 2021 has felt like a whirlwind in terms of seeing more and more people wake up to the severity of the climate and biodiversity emergencies and be prepared to act. We think it is because people have been asking questions….

Following the release of the IPCC report in 2018, a young and determined Swedish girl did a School Strike for Climate asking “what is the point of learning facts in the school system when the most important facts, given by the finest science of that school system clearly means nothing to our politicians and our society?”

This gave fresh energy to burnt out campaigners and encouraged new activists, asking similar questions, to demonstrate their frustrations. Together we totalled 10 million people – yes, we joined in too. We then saw our government declare a Climate Emergency and set a legally binding goal to deliver a Net Zero Carbon Britain by 2050.

The government are now asking their stakeholders how this can be achieved and subsequently the corporate world is reacting.  Investors are asking if their investments are exacerbating the climate and ecological emergency. They are recognising the reputational damage and the risk of not understanding their supply chains. Insurers are asking whether insured assets are futureproofed. As a result, we are now seeing businesses leave “CSR days” behind and focus on embedding ESG strategies throughout their operations, in decisions made, and in advocating for changes beyond.

The door has been opened. Studies have suggested that it takes 25% of the population to stand up for an issue to make a change. So, let’s ask for it!

As Architects we can ask a lot of questions to incite change. With so many plates spinning it may be easy to forget the power we have. There has been a lot of interest in Chetwoods materials R+D process over the last few months and so, in alignment with the Architects Declare pledge, we would like to share the questions we ask materials manufacturers and suppliers.

First, some background. In order to produce this list of questions we asked the Architecture & Design Scotland’s Materials Considerations Library what they ask manufacturers to determine if their products be displayed in the library. We then topped and tailed the list with our own questions and asked others for their input. In the absence of an industry recognised holistic materials passport that covers all bases, we ask these questions at CPDs and when selecting materials as part of a specification. We ask that you do the same. Furthermore, we ask that materials manufacturers use these questions as a guide to improve transparency.

 

The Questions We Ask:

CARBON CONTROL

  • What is the material’s origin – location of manufacturing / processing plant?
  • What is the Embodied Carbon expended from Cradle to Gate? (kWh per annum or kgCO2)
  • How is your manufacturing plant powered?
  • What is the Thermal Conductivity (k) W/m °C or Thermal Transmittance (U-value) – W/m2 °C (if applicable)?

WATER

  • How much water is used in the production of the material?

RESOURCES

  • What is the breakdown of the product (% of each component part)?
  • What is the % of Recycled Content?
  • Is BIM Data available?
  • What is the lifespan of materials if maintained correctly (years)? What is the maintenance required?
  • Deconstruction and Re-use – Can the component be easily deconstructed, or re-used?
  • Disposal/ End of Life – if it cannot be reused, can this product be recycled or composted at the end of its life? If not how should the product be disposed of when no longer required?

HEALTH and WELLBEING

  • Does the product contain any Red List materials?
  • Does the product contain any materials mentioned on the REACH restricted substances list
  • Do you have a modern day slavery policy?
  • Do you have a minimum labour standard for labour providers? The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Base Code for example.
  • Do you have an Ethical Trade Policy or Guide?
  • Do you have an Equality and Diversity Policy?
  • How do you deal with data protection?
  • Do you have a shared value charter or initiative?

BIODIVERSITY

  • Is this product certified? (Does this product comply with a standard such as FSC, Cradle 2 Cradle or NaturePlus?)
  • Are you ISO 14001 accredited?

RESILIENCE

  • Is offsetting part of your carbon strategy? What % of carbon is offset?
  • Is the resource renewable or finite?
  • Has your firm declared a climate emergency?

 

We have already asked the NBS to incorporate these themes as filters in NBS Source. All we need are 25% of Architects to ask these questions at CPDs, conferences and during specification and to use the NBS filters. Materials salespeople now recognise that these questions are a barrier to entry for conversations with the Thrive team at Chetwoods. When we do get the responses back it is much more exciting than a branded scale ruler.

If this topic interests you we would invite you to watch our webinar for the NBS called “Holistic Specification of Materials” https://www.thenbs.com/events

If there are any questions you suggest we add, let us know. Contact our Thrive team:

Philippa Birch-Wood, Thrive Director Philippa.Birch-Wood@chetwoods.com

Taleen Josefsson, Thrive Project Leader Taleen.Josefsson@chetwoods.com

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