Engaging with our community is a favorite past time at Better Building Works. We have partnered with Hannah Godsey on her project: “Natural Capital: Perception, Reality and Conversation.” The project is her final Thesis towards her Masters of Natural Resources in Global Leadership in Sustainability at Virginia Tech.

According to the Natural Capital Coalition, Natural Capital is defined as “the stock of renewable and non-renewable resources (e.g. plants, animals, air, water, soils, minerals) that combine to yield a flow of benefits to people.”

After each participant’s answers to a brief online survey about the buildings we occupy, we had an enlightening and invigorating round-table discussion. What is The Natural Capital Approach and how are we as business owners, financial investors, building inspectors, builders, homeowners, parents, all of us, responsible? Can understanding ‘nature’ in terms of actual dollar values help us understand the costs and benefits of the decisions we make about our buildings? Will we do things differently?

Our conversation was eye opening – even to those of us who have practiced in the sustainable building sector for many years. Quality of life is perceived differently by all of us, influenced by our roles, biases, histories and habits. It is time to not only listen to one another but to hear one another. Several of us were able to connect dots that we hadn’t connected before by communication and participation in this focus group.

By role-playing unfamiliar perspectives, walking in the shoes of others, we were able to think differently from how we normally think. We all went away with additional insight and in some cases different points of view than from whence we came. The result is a renewed appreciation for how simple conversations can have profound impacts. The key is allowing for different voices than we ‘normally’ engage. In this way, concepts we may take for granted are enriched and enlivened.

Our take-away? We need a common language when talking about Natural Capital that engages our feelings as well as our minds. We need to understand and talk about not only “out there” or outside environmental issues but also “in here” or inside our buildings’ environment, health and safety issues. We also discovered that ‘Resiliency’ is not just emergency preparedness, but an attitude towards here and now quality of life.

“Everything is Connected”. We know this. Scientists, economists, financial institutions and the legal profession are beginning to incorporate the concept of Natural Capital into decision making about risks and opportunities. Likewise, these concepts impact our lives. Being intentional about how we understand and relate to the world makes us wiser, more resilient and, ultimately, happier.

To learn more and to help with starting your own discussions with others about Natural Capital, go to https://naturalcapitalcoalition.org/natural-capital/

Be sure to watch for “Pop-Up” discussions around town, you never know when or where you will see us!


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