Environmental Sustainability Guidelines for Production of Project What If
This guide is intended to ensure that all exhibits, delivery spaces and installations made for We The Curious are fabricated in a way that minimises harmful impacts on the environment and safeguards environmental resources for future generations. Please see attached document entitled ‘Sustainable Futures in We The Curious: An introduction for partners and suppliers’ for information on our sustainability mission.
1.1 Energy strategy
We The Curious is on track to be carbon neutral by 2030. The energy source for all exhibits must be electricity – no other fuel type is permitted. The exhibit must be designed in a way that minimises electricity consumption in every way.
1.2 Energy modes
Exhibits should have three energy modes:
- Off – where energy usage should be at zero or as low as is possible
- Standby – exhibit should have the ability to go into a reduced power mode when not in use for a period of time
- Operational – when the exhibit is in normal use
Control for switching between standby and operational mode should be local to each exhibit or set of exhibits. Control for switching between off and standby mode is via the whole building exhibit control software that allows zones of the exhibition to be turned on and off.
1.3 Electrical components and devices
Electrical components and devices should be chosen and used with the aim of keeping energy consumption to a minimum. When choosing a component, the environmental impact of its whole lifecycle should be considered. This includes the materials and embodied carbon used to make it, the distance it has travelled and its longevity. Components should be chosen to have a long lifetime and be reusable at the end of the exhibit’s life. Components should be chosen that minimise release of heat as this can reduce the lifetime of other components and increase energy demand on building systems.
All lighting contained within exhibits should be LED and should be controlled as per section 1.2. Lighting of the exhibition itself should be LED and must be controlled by the whole building exhibit control software. In areas where natural light is a potential resource, lighting should be on light-level sensors so that natural light can be used instead when suitable.
1.5 Advanced energy management
At the innovation level, exhibits with relatively high energy consumption could be able to generate or recover energy from their surroundings or activity, e.g. kinetic recovery. Exhibits with very high energy consumption could investigate energy storage to store night electricity for daytime use. Innovative exhibits of this type should include energy monitoring facility.
1.6 Energy Efficient Coding Practises
All effort should be taken to reduce the energy overhead of running any code. Taken into consideration CPU/GPU cycles, memory overhead and IO’s. This lends itself to good coding practises and software testing reducing and/or eliminating memory leaks, infinite loops etc.
1.7 Energy use in fabrication
Extra credit will be given to fabricators whose exhibit construction facilities use renewable energy, either generated onsite or purchased from the grid, and which use a range of onsite energy reduction measures.
2.1 Water consumption
Exhibits that use water should be designed to minimise consumption of fresh water and employ water efficiency measures. Where safe and practical, water should be cycled within the exhibit rather than fresh water being constantly used. Water usage should follow the usage modes outlined in section 1.2 to mean that water consumption reduces or ceases when the exhibit is not in use or turned off.
2.2 Waste water
Where an exhibit produces waste water, steps should be taken to remove contaminants and solid waste before it enters sewerage.
2.3 Linking to building systems
Exhibits that use large quantities of water should consider utilising grey water from building systems and/or providing greywater to building systems.
2.4 Water use in fabrication
Extra credit will be given to fabricators whose exhibit construction facilities have rainwater harvesting and/or employ measures to reduce water consumption onsite.
3.1 Principles of circular economy
As part of its commitment to sustainability We The Curious is adopting a circular economy philosophy to reduce use of new materials, reduce waste, extend lifetime of exhibits and minimise environmental impacts. A ‘cradle to grave’ design process should be used to consider the full lifecycle of the exhibit and materials within it. Ideally the exhibit will be constructed from parts of old exhibits rather than new materials. Repurposing and reusing materials is preferable, and where new materials do need to be used these should be natural, such as wood, or made from recycled materials. An exhibit should be modular so that it can be repaired, adapted, relocated and upgraded during its lifetime and then potentially repurposed at the end of its lifetime. The amount of materials should be minimised, and the range of materials used should be kept to a minimum to make it easier to separate materials at the end of the exhibit’s life. Materials should be selected that can be easily recycled. Exhibits should not feature single use consumables as part of their operation.
3.2 Selection of materials
In instances where repurposing of existing materials is not possible, and a new material needs to be purchased, environmental impact should be considered in the selection and procurement of that material. An assessment should be made of the environmental impact of a material, including: its use of raw resources; use of energy and water in its manufacture; release of toxins during its manufacture; transportation; release of harmful chemicals during its lifetime; reusability; and potential to be recycled. Materials should be chosen that have the least detrimental effect on the environment over their lifetime. Where applicable, appropriate accreditations and industry standards for material sustainability should be sought (e.g. Forest Stewardship Council), a list of global standards is available here: https://www.isealalliance.org/about-iseal/iseal-members.
In choosing a supplier for the material, the environmental credentials of the full supply chain should be considered and the distance that the material has travelled should be kept to a minimum.
3.3 Hierarchy of materials
Assuming that the main types of materials for consideration are wood, metal and plastic, our research has shown that when various environmental factors are considered, the environmental impact hierarchy for these is (from best choice to worst choice): Natural Wood > Non-toxic HDF or plywood > recycled steel/aluminium > recycled plastics > virgin plastics
We would expect a fabricator to use this environmental impact hierarchy in their choice of materials, but as environmental impact assessment is such a complex topic, we welcome debate if there are alternative views.
3.4 Wood products
Wood is our preferred material from a sustainability point of view as it is a form of carbon sequestration, it is renewable, it is low energy to produce, and in its natural form does not contain toxic chemicals. Wood products should be FSC (Forest Stewardship Commission) certified. Suppliers should be able to provide an FSC Chain of Custody Certification license code for their own company and FSC Forest Management Certifications for the companies from which they source raw materials. Other sustainability credentials of the product and supplier should also be examined. Processed wood products should be free of formaldehyde and chemicals containing VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Our suggested hierarchy for selecting wood products is:
Reclaimed > Timber > Ply (formaldehyde free) > HDF > MDF
The treatment and finish of the wood should also be chosen to reduce detriment to the environment and human health in manufacture, use and disposal.
3.5 Metal products
Compared to wood, metal has the disadvantages of being a finite resource on Earth and being more energy intensive to manufacture. However, most metal products are infinitely recyclable, and they take considerably less energy to recycle than to use virgin metal ore. Hierarchy of use:
Scrap metal > Recycled metal > Virgin metal
Heat treatment colouring (e.g. blue steel) should be avoided due to its high energy use in manufacture. Check suppliers for environmental credentials, especially around protecting water ecosystems from toxic chemicals in manufacture. Regarding treatments, powder coating is much preferred to liquid paints due to fewer toxic chemicals and VOCs, and being more energy efficient to cure onto products. Environmentally friendly powders are available.
3.6 Plastic products
All plastics are relatively low energy to produce but they are mostly made from a finite resource, oil, and have the following problems: Toxic to manufacture and dispose of, do not biodegrade, diminish during recycling process, can release VOCs (volatile organic compounds) during their lifetime that are detrimental to health. PVC (poly vinyl chloride) and polystyrene must be avoided. There are some plastics available that are biodegradable and derived from plants – these are preferable. If plastics must be used then choose plastics that are easily recyclable at the end of their life, ideally by returning to the original supplier. Our proposed hierarchy for plastics is:
Corian > Biodegradable plastic > Recycled acrylic > Recycled plastic (check with supplier that this has not been contaminated with toxic substances) > Virgin acrylic > PVC (do not use) > Polystyrene and PU (Polyurethane) foam (do not use)
The sustainability of chemicals used in treatments and finishes should also be considered.
Glass requires high energy use and harmful gas release during manufacture, but post production is nontoxic and 100% recyclable, so fits into a closed loop circular economy. Glass made from recycled glass is the preferred choice, and it should be finished in a way that means it can be recycled again at the end of its lifetime.
The sustainability of different textiles varies greatly so care must be taken in sourcing. Textiles made from renewable (e.g. plant) materials and recycled materials are preferable. Natural materials are best. Check that synthetic materials do not contain toxins or VOCs. All cotton should be Fair Trade. Local textile production reduces transportation. Different ISO certifications exist for different materials, and these should be sought.
Virgin rubber is toxic to manufacture. Check for health impacts, such as VOCs, in finished products. Recycled rubber is available from the automotive industry, and should be certified as not being contaminated with toxins. Select a rubber that is recycled and can also be recycled at the end of its life. Note that once an adhesive has been used on rubber it cannot be recycled. Natural cork is sometimes used as an alternative in flooring, depending on practical requirements.
Polyurethane (PU) should not be used due to its health impacts across all stages of its lifetime. Natural textiles should be used instead.
3.11 Palm oil
As part of an ongoing public conservation campaign, wherever We The Curious uses products that contain palm oil or its derivatives, they must be certified as being produced from sustainable palm oil. Identify whether any products you are using contain palm oil or its derivatives. These can have a number of different chemical names (listed here: https://greenpalm.org/about-palm-oil/what-is-palm-oil/what-is-palmoil-used-for). For all products containing palm oil or its derivatives, the oil must be certified as sustainable by the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil). Ideally, all palm oil or its derivatives should be RSPO certified as Segregated or Identity Preserved (details here: https://rspo.org/certification/supply-chains).
3.12 Other materials, combined products and eco-materials
Any other materials used must be chosen with environmental sustainability in mind. Energy and water use, ecological impacts, end of life disposal, transportation and human health impacts must be considered at all life stages, from manufacture and use to disposal. Specific certifications (such as FSC, RSPO, ISO) may exist for certain materials and these should be used to identify the more sustainable products (national accreditations should meet the standards of the UK equivalent). Where a product contains multiple materials, the environmental impact of each material should be considered separately, as well as considering their impact as a whole. Finally, there are a range of innovative eco-materials available that retain the functional qualities of metal, plastic and foam but are made from renewable or recyclable resources, these should be fully considered to meet the intentions of the exhibition.
4.1 Waste in exhibit lifetime
Through a circular economy approach to exhibit production, the exhibit, or materials within it, should be relocated, reused, repurposed or recycled into new exhibits or products at the end of its life. This can be made possible by correct selection of materials and construction techniques at the start of the exhibit’s life. Exhibits should not employ any single use consumables in their function, so no waste should be produced in their daily operation.
4.2 Waste in exhibit fabrication
Exhibit fabrication techniques and facilities should be designed to reduce waste at all stages of production. Measures can include reducing wastage in processes, reusing materials within production process, giving away unwanted materials to other organisations, ensuring all appropriate recycling streams are in place, compacting waste onsite to reduce collection volume, and ensuring zero waste to landfill. Special care should be taken in dealing with materials harmful to ecosystems. Waste monitoring should be in place.
5.1 Travel strategy and monitoring
Transportation of people and goods is a significant contributor to global climate change and local air pollution. These impacts can be significantly reduced by good planning and travel choices. Reducing geographic distance at each stage between material source, manufacturer, supplier, fabricator and client is the first step in reducing environmental impact. Organisations should then have a sustainable travel policy in place to assess, firstly whether a journey should take place, secondly how many people or how much goods need to be transported, and thirdly what the most appropriate mode of transport is. This policy should could be combined with monitoring so that travel is recorded and reported, ideally with CO2 emissions as a component.
5.2 Alternatives to travel
Through planning and technology there are ways in which journeys can be avoided. This can include consolidating or extending work visits, as well as considering who needs to travel. Video conferencing technology can be used to reduce trips in person. Electronic documents and software such as DocuSign can be used to reduce the need for physical mail. In some instances, 3D printing can be an alternative to transporting components (although a sustainable, recyclable 3D printing substrate should be used).
5.3 Mode of transport for staff travelling for work
When people are travelling, the mode of transport should be carefully considered from an environmental point of view to minimise emissions of CO2 and pollutants such as CO, NO2 and particulate matter. Vehicle journeys should be kept as short as possible. Public transport is preferable to private transport. We The Curious has a policy of no flying within the UK mainland. The general hierarchy for mode of public transport (context dependent) is:
Rail > Road > Air
If a private vehicle has to be used, then vehicle sharing between staff should be used instead of taking separate vehicles. Sustainability hierarchy for vehicle type is:
Electric > Hybrid > Autogas (liquefied petroleum gas) > Petrol > Diesel
5.4 Transportation of goods
The environmental impact of transporting goods can be reduced through logistics. Consolidation of freight can be used to reduce number of journeys. Journeys should be made at a time to avoid peak traffic in cities. Vehicles should be chosen with low emissions ratings. A no engine-idling policy should be in place before departure and after arrival. Packaging should be chosen that minimises weight and volume for transit. Reusable packaging, rather than single use packaging, is a way to reduce further environmental impact from freight.
5.5 Staff commuting to and from workplace
The travel of staff and contractors to and from their place of work should be included in the environmental impact of exhibition fabrication. Employers can support staff to make sustainable travel choices through providing cycling facilities, showers, public transport subsidies, electric vehicle charging, and flexible working patterns.
5.6 Carbon offsetting
Where carbon intensive journeys, such as flying, are unavoidable, carbon offsetting can be used to counteract the CO2 emissions globally. We The Curious has a policy of carbon offsetting for all its work flights. Carbon offsetting is most important for flying, due to the relatively high carbon emissions per passenger, however offsetting can be considered for other modes of transport as well.
6 Habitats and biodiversity
6.1 Impacts on natural environment through fabrication of exhibit
In selection of materials, fabrication processes and disposal of waste it is important to minimise detriment to ecosystems, in water, land and air. Suppliers should be screened for their environmental practices. As well as reducing negative environmental impacts, positive impacts can be achieved by taking steps to support local biodiversity at the fabrication facilities. Employing an Environmental Management System is the best way to identify and mitigate risk to the natural environment. Primary and secondary contractors will ideally be accredited by the ISO 14001 standard.
6.2 Exhibit creates a local environment beneficial to human health and wellbeing
Material choice for, and operation of, the exhibit should create a healthy local environment for people in the building where the finished exhibition is installed. Materials should not give off harmful chemicals through off-gassing (e.g. volatile organic compounds), as by-products of operation (e.g. ozone), through skin contact, or through reaction with cleaning chemicals. Using natural materials is the best way to avoid toxins in the local environment. Treatments and finishes, such as paints, should be carefully considered for health and environmental impacts.
6.3 Living things in exhibits
If an exhibit is to contain a living organism, e.g. plants, then care must be taken in the selection of species. It must be taken from a sustainably managed source, provision for its care must be designed in, and it must be appropriately disposed of at end of life. Invasive species or species detrimental to local ecosystems must not be used. Inclusion of organisms in an exhibit must adhere to the We The Curious Living Things Policy.
7 Sustainability partnerships
7.1 Having a positive sustainability impact within your network
Creating more environmentally sustainable ways of working cannot be achieved by one organisation alone. It involves coordination and collaboration between organisations towards a shared goal of protecting and preserving the environment upon which our businesses and wellbeing depends. Fabricators should work to influence their supply chain in terms of sustainability, asking for the most sustainable products and practices. Employers should train and engage their staff and contactors around the importance of sustainable behaviours and choices. Organisations should share knowledge and support each other in making sustainable working the norm.
7.2 Management of secondary contractors
Where a secondary contractor (or subcontractor) is appointed to complete any part of the strip-out, fabrication, transportation or installation of exhibits, then it is the responsibility of the primary contractor to ensure that the secondary contractor adheres to the contents of these sustainability guidelines fully and maintains the same quality of environmental sustainability and reporting.