An empowering and collaborative approach to sustainability underpins this Cambridge institute's EnerPHit-standard refurbishment and the leadership programmes that it runs
It may be obvious to some, but not yet apparent to others, that the built environment sector is experiencing a seismic shift.
For decades it has been among the slowest sectors to adapt and innovate, while it has remained a principal driver of carbon emissions, and therefore climate change, countless forms of pollution, depletion of natural capital and labour and social concerns the world over.
Yet it now faces a new reality in which changes in consumer demand, finance, regulations, government policy and in society’s expectations of corporate responsibility, mean the viability of business-as-usual practices is waning.
Unchecked climate and nature emergencies are bringing larger and more frequent weather extremes and calamitous events. Built environments need to be made more resilient if they are to be sustainable - financially, ecologically and physically.
Patterns of working and living are changing and major technological and social shifts are emerging at increasing rates.
As our demands of built environments evolve, new realities are shaping: how people use built assets and land, how they interact within communities and spaces and how we transport ourselves and our goods.
These new realities call for new ways of building, operating and valuing assets, of exchanging information, and for new definitions of the roles of built environment professionals.
With world governments and industry setting incredibly ambitious targets for energy, carbon, waste and natural capital, the sector’s path to a sustainable future is virtually cliff-like.
Unsurprisingly, demand is soaring for those who can do things differently - whether it be planning, designing, constructing, operating or, critically, adapting, reusing, retrofitting and conserving built assets.
Change is being led across disciplines, at all levels and, noticeably, by the scaling of innovations achieved through collaboration.
Case study: Entopia, the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
A shared leadership approach was central to the refurbishment and deep retrofit of a 100-year-old building - renamed Entopia – that serves as the new home for the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) at the University of Cambridge.
Originally built to house a telephone exchange, the building now provides newly refurbished flexible office space for the Institute’s 140 staff and Canopy, a dynamic network of start-ups and innovators.
The project embodies a type of collaboration that is vital to navigating the new reality of the built environment sector. It was delivered through a deep green refurbishment and retrofit to optimise energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality and address myriad sustainability targets.
The refurbishment employed circular design, used bio-based, reused and recycled materials where possible, followed responsible practices and, as a result, it produced a fraction of the embodied carbon associated with new construction (and many refurbishments).
The building has received the EnerPHit standard and data are being collected for achievement of WELL Gold and BREAAM Outstanding certification too.
This empowering and collaborative approach to sustainability underpins CISL’s part-time programmes for built environment professionals. Meaningful, timely change and scaling of innovation are enormous challenges only surmountable when professionals develop and apply new knowledge and expertise through effective collaboration. The built environment sector’s future is here now.
For more information about CISL's built environment postgraduate programmes, visit cisl.cam.ac.uk/sustainability
Tim Forman is senior teaching associate and deputy director of the Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment (IDBE) postgraduate courses at the University of Cambridge's Institute for Sustainability Leadership.