Sustainability inside and out: shifting the mindset of building users
Ash Buchanan, Cohere | 12 September 2016
So you’re using Green Star, Living Building Challenge or a house energy ratings scheme to design and build a new high performance green building. Or maybe you’ve just done a round of sustainability upgrades.
It used to be enough to just make the changes. Simply hire a specialist consultant, add some sustainable design features and you’re away. But no longer. Because what our green building pioneers are discovering is that building features alone are not enough to promote enduring performance.
Enduring performance comes from something much deeper than well-intentioned design. To realise the potential of green building design and make a meaningful difference, organisations need to be willing, and able, to fundamentally shift the mindsets of building users.
Mindset: The source of our everyday performance
Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits drive the real world potential of your sustainability projects.
Real world sustainability performance comes from the inside out. It needs to be true to who your building users are and authentically reflect why they use their building every day.
Treating sustainability as a problem that can be solved using expertise, rating tools and building architecture won’t get you very far. Because, below the surface of any green building project – in what could be called today’s sustainability blind spot – are a number of deeply human elements that are often overlooked. In this article we focus on one of these important human elements – the mindset of building users.
Mindsets – our deeply held beliefs, values and higher purpose – are integral to enduring sustainability performance. In the words of Donella Meadows, “mindsets are the sources of systems.” They shape the lives we lead and the actions we take, which in turn drives the real world potential of green building projects.
What is a mindset? The different mindsets we can choose to adopt for ourselves can broadly be grouped into three categories:
Which mindset do you and your organisation regularly adopt?
What our sustainability pioneers are realising is that you can’t just focus on the physical architecture, because what’s going on in our inner lives – our beliefs, values and higher purpose – always finds a way through to drive building performance. Unless organisations are authentically aligned, inside and out, the potential of any green building project will fade. This means that regardless of how well-intentioned the design is, or which ratings you pursue, the building users need to be genuinely aligned and consciously living the potential of their development every day.
In particular, high-performance green buildings require a culture of everyday leadership – people who genuinely come to work to be of value – to themselves, others, nature and the future. People who see every day as an opportunity to question everything, promoting more sustainable ways of living and working.
These features are the hallmarks of a Benefit Mindset. Anything less is simply insufficient for nurturing the long-term potential of a high-performance green building.
Nowadays, people can see straight through you. They can tell if you’re not walking the talk, and walking the talk is where the business value of sustainability is. Therefore, if you’re in the business of creating a sustainable future – guess what, you’re also in the business of developing mindsets. It’s where the real leverage lies for infusing sustainability and everyday leadership into your organisation.
The key takeaway here is this: if you want enduring sustainability performance, what’s going on in people’s inner lives matters. It’s no longer enough to just build a green building – organisations need to also consider how they can best develop their people, and infuse everyday leadership into their organisation. The future of sustainability is becoming less about the building, and more about helping people discover how they can make an everyday difference.
Want to find out more about developing mindsets? Check out this post on becoming an everyday leader.
Ash Buchanan is director of adaptive development at Cohere.