Investigating culture in LCAs

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(…) one could argue that culture is integrally tied into the notion of environmental sustainability (UNESCO 2009) given that human beings (and the societies within which they exist) have a relationship with the natural environment that transcends biophysical definitions (…) Chan et al. (2012b) argue that to value cultures entirely in economic terms “cannot reflect the full extent of their differences from other ecosystem services” and risks the unintended interpretation that different cultures can be bought or sold (…) There are a few examples of tools specifically designed to assess only cultural values (…) However, Alonso and Medici (2012) emphasise that the lack of assessment tools that specifically include cultural aspects alongside environmental, economic and social aspects directly contributes to the marginalisation of culture, particularly regarding development policies (…) “values are the building blocks of culture” (…) the notion of ‘value’ is arguably just as ambiguous as ‘culture’ (…) The role of values in the process of undertaking LCA studies has been recognised in relation to defining the problem, goal and scope; the selection of impact category indicators; the optional weighting element at impact assessment; and interpretation of results (…) values have an important—if largely unrecognised—role to play in influencing these choices about the inclusion of different processes on the basis that they are judged as more or less relevant to the decision situation (…) Accounting for differences in cultural perspectives will, in theory, help to “establish the seriousness” of environmental impacts (…) “broadening LCA towards social, cultural and economic aspects would move LCA from environmental towards sustainability assessments” (…) future research should focus on opportunities for the development of (a) a culturally inclusive LCSA process and (b) additional cultural indicators and/or dimensions of existing LCSA indicators that represent cultural values (…) Presenting decision makers with information about economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects will allow them to simultaneously consider a range of impacts associated with a given process

Pizzirani et al, 2014

References

Pizzirani, S., McLaren, S. & Seadon, J. (2014). Is there a place for culture in life cycle sustainability assessment? The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 19, 1316–1330, DOI: 10.1007/s11367-014-0722-5

The Amsterdam City Doughnut

 The Amsterdam city portrait was created by Doughnut Economics Action Lab, in collaboration with Biomimicry 3.8, Circle Economy, and C40. Photograph: Doughnut Economics Action Lab/ Image available here

The Amsterdam City Doughnut is intended as a stimulus for cross-departmental collaboration within the City, and for connecting a wide network of city actors in an iterative process of change, as set out in the eight ‘M’s: mirror/ mission/ mobilize/ map/ mindset/ momentum/ monitor/ mmm!

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The Doughnut’s ecological ceiling comprises nine planetary boundaries: ozone layer depletion/ climate change/ ocean acidification/ chemical pollution/ nitrogen & phosphorus loading/ freshwater withdrawals/ land conversion/ biodiversity loss/ air pollution in order to identify Earth’s critical life-supporting systems and the global limits of pressure that they can endure.

The classic image of the Doughnut; the extent to which boundaries are transgressed and social foundations are met are not visible on this diagram. Graphic via Wikipedia.com/ Image available here

The inner ring of her donut sets out the minimum we need to lead a good life, derived from the UN’s sustainable development goals and agreed by world leaders of every political stripe. It ranges from food and clean water to a certain level of housing, sanitation, energy, education, healthcare, gender equality, income and political voice. Anyone not attaining such minimum standards is living in the doughnut’s hole. The outer ring of the doughnut, where the sprinkles go, represents the ecological ceiling drawn up by earth-system scientists. It highlights the boundaries across which human kind should not go to avoid damaging the climate, soils, oceans, the ozone layer, freshwater and abundant biodiversity.

Between the social foundation and the ecological ceiling lies a doughnut-shaped space in which it is possible to meet the needs of all people within the means of the living planet – an ecologically safe and socially just space in which humanity can thrive (…) The Doughnut’s social foundation, which is derived from the social priorities in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, sets out the minimum standard of living to which every human being has a claim. No one should be left in the hole in the middle of the Doughnut, falling short on the essentials of life, ranging from food and water to gender equality and having political voice.

The scheme was based on the concept of doughnut economics as explained in 2017 Kate Raworth’s book: “Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist.” Raworth, who is part of the team responsible for this initiative commented: “Who would expect in a portrait of the city of Amsterdam that you would include labour rights in west Africa? And that is the value of the tool.”

References

The Amsterdam City Doughnut, full report available here

Amsterdam to embrace ‘doughnut’ model to mend post-coronavirus economy, full article on Guardian available here

LCA-LCI-LCIA according to EN ISO 14040:2006

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Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) can assist in:
identifying opportunities to improve the environmental performance of products at various points in their life cycle
informing decision-makers in industry, government or non-government organizations (e.g. for the purpose of strategic planning, priority setting, product or process design or redesign),
the selection of relevant indicators of environmental performance, including measurement techniques, and
marketing (e.g. implementing an eco-labelling scheme, making an environmental claim, or producing an environmental product declaration).

There are four phases in an LCA study:
a) the goal and scope definition phase: The scope, including the system boundary and level of detail, of an LCA depends on the subject and the intended use of the study. The depth and the breadth of LCA can differ considerably depending on the goal of a particular LCA.
b) the inventory analysis phase: The life cycle inventory analysis phase (LCI phase) is the second phase of LCA. It is an inventory of input/output data with regard to the system being studied. It involves collection of the data necessary to meet the goals of the defined study
c) the impact assessment phase: The life cycle impact assessment phase (LCIA) is the third phase of the LCA. The purpose of LCIA is to provide additional information to help assess a product system’s LCI results so as to better understand their environmental significance.
d) the interpretation phase: Life cycle interpretation is the final phase of the LCA procedure, in which the results of an LCI or an LCIA, or both, are summarized and discussed as a basis for conclusions, recommendations and decision-making in accordance with the goal and scope definition.

EN ISO 14040: 2006 available here

Notes from Peder Anker’s ‘The closed world of ecological architecture’

Whole World Catalogue Magazine, editor Stewart Brand, a firm believer in colonizing space. The image of Earth as seen form outer space allowed the ability to it as a whole. Image available here

astronauts’ cabins as models for environmentally responsible landscape design and architecture/ space colonization has been the underlying ethic/ living in harmony with Earth’s ecosystem became a question of adopting space technologies, analytical tools and ways of living/ their aim was to escape industrial society/ life in a future ecologically designed world was focused on biological survival at the expense of wider cultural, aesthetic and social values of the humanist legacy/ their work was based on diagrams of energy flows as input and output circuits in a cybernetic ecosystem/ construction of self-efficient closed ecological systems within submarines and underground bomb shelters/ the turn towards space ecology emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the light of of alarming reports such as The Population Bomb (Paul Elrich, 1968) and Limits to Growth (Club of Rome, 1972) reinforced by the 1973-1974 Arab oil embargo/ a way of designing which fed on its own ideas and gradually closed itself off
from developments in the rest of the architectural community. Its followers sense of self-sufficiency resulted in a sect-design for the believers whose
recycling of resources and ideas led to a lack of interest in an outside world simply described as ‘industrial’ and thus not worth listening to

ecological design is inspired by a biologically informed vision of humankind embedded in an Arcadian dream of building in harmony with nature

Chermayeff/ Alexander, Community and Privacy (1963): advocated for self contained ecological capsules, ecologically autonomous buildings to stop exploitation of natural resources/destruction of natural scenery. Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1969): cabin ecology as a model for understanding life on earth/ Earth as a huge mechanical ship travelling in space/ Doxiadis, Ecumenopolis: humanity was heading towards a universal city/ Ian Mc Harg, Design with Nature (1969): science-based modernist architecture and planning with respect for nature/ ecological crisis was caused by reckless laissez-faire economy, industrialization, greed chaotic urbanization, social structures fragmentation and lack of planning/ he pointed to the holistic ecology of the ‘Orient’, human would build and settle in a space buoy located between the Moon and the Earth/ one should make an ecosystem inventory of an environment, investigating its changing processes and then attribute values to the ecological aspects and determine a. what changes would be permitted and prohibited and b. identify indicators of stability and instability/ (influenced by) John Phillips, Ecology in Design issue of Via Journal (1968): holistic approach to architects and region planners/ they ought to include all forms of life in their designs/ John Todd & William McLarney, New Alchemy Institute and From Eco-Cities to Living Machines: Principles of Ecological Design (1980/ 1984/1994): how to survive an impeding catastrophe, closed ecological life boats that would keep afloat/ New Alchemists aimed at solar-heated and wind-powered greenhouse-aquaculture buildings/ Grumman Corporation, Grumman Lunar Module (1960s): they also developed other household system prototypes: a waste disposal system inspired by space recirculation technology, a sewage system inspired by the astronaut’s lavatory, and an energy efficiency system for homes that incorporated solar cells/ Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in California also developed related technology/ Integral Urban House (1972)/ BioShelter/ Alexander Pike: austerity in place of plenty/ his aim was to use ambient solar and wind energy, to reduce energy requirements, and to utilise human household and waste material/ Brenda &Robert Vale, Autonomous House, a shelter for the coming doom/ Kenneth Yeang: by imitating processes in nature, architects could find new environmentally
friendly designs for human life/ biological analogies for optimum survival/ a building was to be sealed off both environmentally and culturally from industrialism/ Phil Haws, Biosphere 2 in Arizona (completed in 1991): the first fully enclosed ecosystem, tested for a period of over a year

Grumman Lunar Module. Image available here

Anker, P. (2005). The closed world of ecological architecture. In Journal of Architecture, Vol. 10, no.5. DOI: 10.1080/13602360500463230

Schoonschip Amsterdam

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Schoonschip (space&matter) consists of a total of 30 water plots, with 46 unique water dwellings for more than 100 residents (…) Each separate house is insulated and equipped with solar panels. Water pumps extract heat from the water in the canal to heat the homes. There is only one connection to the national energy grid, through which residents of Schoonschip trade their generated solar power. Each home has a battery which stores the energy surplus. Waste water from toilets and showers is treated separately and converted back into energy. Many homes also have a green roof, where residents can grow their own food (…) Schoonschip is not only sustainable in an ecological sense, but also socially: the residents work closely together to realize their residential area and coordinate their plans. They have agreed to renounce their personal cars and instead share electric cars together. The group also made a conscious search for diversity in the composition of residents. On that note, there are two ‘kangaroo houses’ in Schoonschip, where two households live together on one boat. Meanwhile, the houses are connected by a ‘smart jetty’ that serves as a pavement and meeting place (…) The district is connected with a smart grid, which is linked to a blockchain. With their own crypto coin – the Jouliette – the Schoonschip residents can trade the solar power that they generate with the neighbourhood’s 500 solar panels. They can also pay with it in other places around the Buiksloterham area, such as the cafe and restaurant at De Ceuvel, a circularity incubator which Space&Matter also initiated, developed and designed.

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Rehabilitation as reconciliation

Delfgauwse Weije in Delft (regeneration plans: Hank van Schagen), image available here

Rehabilitation refers to developing new architectural designs which are coherent with the existing architecture. The analysis of the design is primarily concerned with the required program changes, ie. the construction of the shell. But it is also concerned with the changes which have to be made in the way in which buildings connect with their surroundings. If the design aims to accept the past then you have to develop a positive relationship between the old and the new, and illustrate the continuity between them. In that case we are not rejecting what exists, instead we see it as a necessary step towards the future. It is an attempt at reconciliation. Two moments of creativity touch -they can coexist (…) Rehabilitation respects the history of the use of a building; if changes are required then these are based on the continuity of the architecture. That is transformation without alienation.

Lecture by Henk van Schagen for Delft Design, 7 October 2004. Retrieved from Hielkje Zijlstra, Analysing Buildings from Context to Detail in Time: ABCD Research Method, IOS Press (2009)