This article is the second part of a multi-part series looking into the world’s greenest buildings. It is based off the book of the same name by Yudelson and Meyer.

I thought the book was really interesting. The article last week was well received, so I will continue to pick out some more case studies over the coming weeks.

41 Cooper Square

Out of all the case studies, 41 Cooper Square jumped out at me for its stunning architecture. Sustainable buildings need not be compromised architecturally and this building is testament to that.

41 Cooper square is located in New York City and was the first academic building in New York to be LEED Platinum certified.

The building houses the School of Art, Architecture and Engineering. The idea behind the design was very much to inspire the students that pass through the building during its lifecycle. I know architecture can be very subjective, but I find the shapes aesthetically pleasing.

The building comes equipped with some less conventional features. These include: a sculpted mesh façade, a full height sky-lit atrium, aluminium window walls, a four-story central staircase and sky bridges. The aim of all of these was to create an inspiring workspace for students and staff.

The façade, which as well as being eye catching, serves a dual sustainability purpose. A semi-transparent layer of perforated metal panels wraps the exterior window walls. These create a continually varying façade, which insulates in the winter and provides the building with shade in the summer.

41 Cooper Square had several sustainability features that caught my eye.

Radiant heating and cooling panels introduce innovative HVAC technology that boosts the energy efficiency of the building. This is one of the key features that makes the building 40% more energy efficient than a comparable research building.

The full height atrium improves air flow and provides increased interior daylighting, saving electricity. Across the building this strategy has meant that 75% of the buildings regularly occupied spaces are lit by natural daylight.

The building also comes with a green roof, a feature that I am a big fan of. This insulates the building and reduces the heat island effect, reduces storm water runoff. Water harvested from the green roof is reused within the building.

In terms of power, the building comes equipped with a cogeneration plant that provides additional power to the building when required. The advantage of generating the power on site, is that it reduces transmission losses and it allows you to capture the waste heat and use it productively, reducing energy costs.

The performance data of the building comes in as follows. The building has a total energy use of 8,745,257 kWh, with an intensity of 538 kWh/sq m. Which is a strong performance for a building in its class.

What you need to know   

This article is the second part in a multi-part series where I am picking out my favourite sustainable buildings from Yudelson and Meyer’s book The World’s Most Sustainable Buildings.

Today was the turn of looking at 41 Cooper Square.

Architecturally, this is probably my favourite case study in the building. Looks are important. If sustainable Architecture is to become more mainstream it is important that the building is eye catching to passers by and inspirational to occupants. This building does just that.

I like the combination of aesthetic features with effective sustainability features, proving that it is possible to have both.

There is probably not as many technological breakthroughs this case study, but it ticks all the boxes for a green building and there is a lot to like about it.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think makes a building a sustainable building?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into the world’s greenest buildings. It is based off the book of the same name by Yudelson and Meyer. I just finished reading the book, which you can find in the picture below. I thought it was an interesting read and it was clearly a very well researched book.

The book takes a hard look at promise versus performance in sustainable design. Following up with building occupants and architects to see if superior performance was actually achieved.

Even though the book came out in 2013, I was amazed by how many innovative features, that resulted in real savings have yet to become commonplace within the built environment.

The book looked at 49 best in class case studies from around the world and over the next few weeks I will pick out what I considered to be my favourites.

Manitoba Hydro Place

This case study jumped out at me as it dispelled a lot of rumours about sustainable design and the climates that are more amenable to low carbon buildings.

Located in Winnipeg Canada, which the coldest city in the world with a population over 600,000 and which experiences sustained wind throughout the year. Despite these harsh conditions, the designers used a series of integrated solutions to deliver 66% energy savings compared to a traditional office building in Canada.

At the genesis of the project, an Integrated Design Process (IDP) was established. One outcome of this was a charter, signed by all of the companies working on the project. This committed everyone to achieve high levels of performance on sustainability, wellbeing, and urban regeneration whilst at the same time being cost effective.

Further intensive workshops at the start of the project revealed that an architecturally integrated solar chimney and winter gardens with water features, could be two unique features that would help the building to stand out.

I liked the phrase solar chimney as it linked a traditional feature of a chimney from the past, to the present with solar design.

The building made use of passive solar design to maximise heat gains in winter and reduce heat losses in winter. For the façade, there is an aluminium double-glazed curtain wall that creates a buffer zone that traps heat. The building is equipped with two weather stations, that are linked to the outer curtain and these are opened or closed as appropriate to maintain a stable inside temperature.

If conditions are appropriate, the building management system is also configured to message employees to open the interior wall windows so that they can control temperatures in their local workspace. I was really impressed by these features.

The building is well equipped with smart sensors that make the most efficient use of lighting possible. In winter, fans draw air down the solar chimney to heat-recovery units. This helps to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature with a low amount of energy use.

Inside the offices, a geothermal heat pump system is the primary active heating and cooling system, providing 80% of the heating requirements.

In term of occupant wellbeing, the combination of the solar chimney, the winter garden and the water feature creates an indoor air quality and working environment that is extremely pleasant in all four seasons.

The building has a green roof that is accessible to employees that was planted with native species. Should their be a dry period, there is a collection system within the building that collects condensation from mechanical systems. If required, this can be pumped to the garden and distributed via a drip irrigation system. This was a very climate smart feature to deal with the increased potential of longer and hotter summer periods.

The culmination of all of these efforts resulted in the IDP achieving the goals that they set out to achieve and created a successful, sustainable building, that performs strongly for occupant wellbeing and that is also architecturally very nice to look at.

The energy intensity of the building comes in at 112 kWh/ sq m. Which when compared to other green buildings identified in the book and elsewhere is  a very strong performance. When the harsh climactic conditions are taken into account, this feat becomes even more impressive.

What you need to know   

This article is the first part in a series of articles where I am picking out my favourite sustainable buildings from Yudelson and Meyer’s book The World’s Greenest Buildings.

I really enjoyed the book and I think it is really important to look back at performance data to see if solutions actually worked and not just rely on projected performance data.

Overall, Manitoba Hydro Place as one of my favourite buildings from the book. I was really impressed by the teamwork aspect in creating the IDP.

The focus on passive systems to negate the reliance on active heating and cooling systems was impressive, as was the focus on technology, with a building management system that is set up to talk to building occupants to optimise performance. Sadly despite the time that has passed since publication, systems like this are not commonplace today, despite their effectiveness.

There is a lot that can be learned from studying Manitoba Hydro Place. In challenging climactic conditions, they managed to create a building which achieved significant energy savings. This shows how in less extreme conditions, even bigger savings should be expected.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think makes a building a sustainable building?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into circular economy principles. This is the final part in a three-part series looking into this topic.

It is based on the work of David Cheshire and his book Building Revolutions.

In part one, which you can find here, we looked into the principle of designing out waste. In part two, which you can find here, we looked into the principle of building to last and adapt. Both are crucial to delivering the circular economy within the built environment.

Principle 3: Obey the technical or biological cycle

This principle is about selecting building components that flow in either a technical or biological cycle. This will vary depending on their expected lifespan, what they are being used for and what is available.

Materials that are part of the technical cycle are durable and are suitable for reuse, remanufacture and disassembly.

Materials that are part of the biological cycle are less durable but are simpler to return to the biosphere at the end of their useful life.

The key is to select materials with the right lifecycle for the intended purpose.

Designing for disassembly is something that would make a really big difference for advancing the circular economy within the built environment. However, it is still something that there is a lot of room for improvement on. In Building Revolutions, David Cheshire had the following to say:

“It is conceivable, though rarely done, to have a strategy for reclaiming components and materials at end-of-life, and to enable disassembly of the building.

It is understandable why this is not seen as a priority. As when you are constructing a new building, the primary focus is on how it will perform for its primary function and the costs of doing so. But for achieving circularity in the built environment it is important that more emphasis is put on design for disassembly.

In a survey of demolition contractors, they point out that techniques such as having mechanical and reversible not chemical connections, ease of access to connections, independent a separable building elements and not using resins, adhesives or coatings on the elements can go a long way to making the deconstruction of the building simpler.

There are two really good examples in Building Revolutions. One is of the F87 Efficiency House Plus in Berlin by Werner Sobek, which is pictured below.

This project took the technical and biological materials cycle philosophy to the limit, meticulously selecting the correct material for its intended end use.

For materials that are recyclable at the end of their life, this included: cellulose insulation, recycled rubber as protective matting, wooden bearers for the structure of the roof and upper floors, hemp insulation and cork board.

At the end of the construction period, a manual was prepared that detailed the various materials that were used and the potential for reclamation or recycling.

Another example was project XX in Delft, which is pictured below.

The aim was to design an office building with a 20-year lifetime, on the basis that such buildings often undergo a major refurbishment roughly around this time.

The following criteria were used to select materials; they should be simple to reclaim as uncontaminated raw materials. They should be reusable without any alteration. They should be fully seperable and recyclable.

Interestingly on this project, they used ventilation ducts made of cardboard, which I have never seen or heard of before, with sand fill used on the first floor for sound insulation. It has proven to be very popular with occupants, showing that the focus on sustainability and circular principles enhanced value.

What you need to know

This article looked into circular economy principles.

This week we looked into biological and technical cycles and why it is important to select the correct material for a specific purpose.

No building is designed to last forever, so it is sensible to design buildings so that they can be demolished easily, and the parts sent for recycling and recovery to the greatest extent possible.

We looked at two highly successful, sustainable buildings which prove if circular economy principles are acted upon, that the result is a building that is highly desirable and sustainable at the same time.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make the circular economy a reality in the built environment?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into circular economy principles. This is the second part in a three-part series looking into this topic.

It is based on the work of David Cheshire and his book Building Revolutions.

In part one, which you can find here, we looked at how the principle of designing out waste is fundamental to achieving a circular economy within the built environment.

Principle 2: Build to Last & Adapt

The second principle is about creating structures that are built to last and that are adaptable. This should be no surprise, as if we go back to the original meaning of sustainability, it is about the capacity to endure or continue.

The adaptability part is probably what is less common, as it is probably not something that a significant amount of attention is paid to when the structure is being designed and built. This will have to change if progress is to be made on the circular economy within the built environment.

 Something that I found really interesting in the book was the Multispace concept. This is an idea where you construct a building with a set of parameters, so that it would be suitable for retail, leisure or office space, should that be required during the building’s lifetime.

Most of the building uses had pretty similar floor-to-ceiling height requirements, except retail, which had larger requirements. This can be accommodated by putting a higher ceiling on the ground floor, as that is the floor that is most likely to be converted to retail, if required.

In order to build buildings that can be reconfigured during their lifetimes, they need to be designed to be adaptable from the outset. David points towards a layered approach, which can help to make this possible:

“The use of a layered approach allows buildings to be flexed and adapted more readily. In particular, a separation between the primary structure, the facades, the services and the interiors of the building allows the structure to be retained whilst the façade is replaced, or the interiors be changed into new layouts whilst not being dictated by structural walls in awkward location.”

This seems like a sensible approach, that can prevent buildings being demolished well inside their lifecycle because of lack of planned in adaptability.

But although this is an approach which many would assume is intuitive, there are reasons and challenges for why this is not the case, which David alludes to:

“Designing for adaptability or deconstruction is hard to justify and is unlikely to happen unless it is part of a wider story that starts with reducing construction time on site, continues with the ability to retain value by adapting buildings to changing markets and concludes with the attractive idea of providing residual value rather than demolition costs.”

I thought this was nicely put by David. Overall, designing buildings that are built to last and be adaptable, is but one part of an overall strategy, that should look to take advantage of modern methods of construction and put sustainability at the heart of decision making.

What you need to know

This article was part two of my series looking into circular economy principles in the built environment.

Designing buildings that are built to last and that are adaptable is crucial to creating structures that last over time through multiple occupancies and end uses.

Strategies like paying attention to celling heights and using a layered approach should be used so that buildings can be reconfigured throughout their lifetimes, should that be required.

As is often the case it comes down to farsighted leadership which is required to make this happen.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make the circular economy a reality in the built environment?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article is the first part in a three part series looking into circular economy principles and how they can be applied to the built environment.

I just finished reading Building Revolutions by David Cheshire, which I though was a really good book that I highly recommend. Even if you don’t work in the built environment, we all engage with an interact with buildings on a daily basis, and we all share a common interest that they be designed, built, used and demolished in the most efficient way possible. This book is packed full of ideas that will help to make this a reality.

Principles are something that is really important and are probably not talked about enough in sustainability.

I am minded to quote from Ray Dalio and his book Principles, which I thought was one of the best non-fiction books of recent years. He explained that:

Principles are fundamental truths that serve as the foundations for behaviour that gets you what you want out of life. They can be applied again and again in similar situations to help you achieve your goals.”

Whether we need more principles in sustainability is a good question, it is probably more the case that we just need to make better use of ones that already exist and make sure that they are properly applied in all cases.

Principle 1: Design out Waste

This is the sort of principle that is commonly associated with circular economy thinking. It is also the sort of principle that is really easy to pay lip service to and to not actually deliver in real life.

This principle is all about refitting and refurbishing buildings as opposed to demolishing the existing structure and starting again. Exponents of this principle see waste as a resource, that can be extracted and then put to productive use again. It is also about using lean design methodologies to create buildings that require fewer resources, with reduced complexity.

In the book, there is a really important figure from a RIBA paper called What colour is your building? Their research showed the following:

Roughly speaking, half the embodied carbon in a building is tied up in the foundations and the structure.”

For people wanting to adhere to the design out waste principle, this should make them think about whether they can retain the substructure and superstructure of the existing building and refurbish it. Rather than demolishing these and building new ones from scratch. These two elements are high carbon investments and should be treated as such.

A little later on there was a good observation about the conflict between a desire to build developments with low embodied carbon as well as strict adherence to circular economy principles. David Cheshire had the following to say:

Focusing only on reducing embodied carbon does not necessarily fit into the circular economy ideal, as it can drive designers to substitute highly recyclable (and recycled) materials, such as metals, with materials with lower embodied carbon – for example thermoset plastics, which are difficult to recycle. Also, focusing on embodied carbon does not consider the other impacts associated with mining and processing the raw materials, such as its scarcity or the impact on biodiversity of mining or drilling operations.”

This was an interesting perspective that I had not though much about before. It calls for a balanced approach, where circular economy principles and embodied carbon are traded off, with win-win solutions being the ideal outcome.

The section that was dedicated to designing out waste was really good and was packed full of useful information.

We already touched upon the need to refit and refurbish buildings where this is possible, because of the high amounts of carbon locked inside the building’s frame and foundations.

In terms of designing out waste on site, this can be achieved by moving from construction to production, with components made in factory settings and then delivered to site. It is important to always check that the waste created in the factory is put to good use.

Designing to match the standard size of sheets and panels is another way that waste can be substantially reduced on site.

Reusing components and materials is another hallmark of the designing out waste principle. Disappointingly there is a downward trend in using reclaimed materials in the UK.

The advice from David is that this cannot be an ad hock pursuit, but rather needs to be a primary consideration from the beginning of the project. From fit out components to bricks, kerbs and roof tiles, it is amazing what can be reclaimed from another site for use on a project. It is certainly not an easy thing to make happen, but it is worthwhile.

Another technique is lean design. This has a number of benefits. Each component in a building has its own lifecycle, with associated environmental costs, by aiming to have only the bare essentials, means that these costs can be reduced. This is something which if done correctly can reduce the embodied and operational carbon footprints simultaneously.

What you need to know

This article looked into designing out waste as a circular economy principle.

We looked into how the frame and the foundations are responsible for a significant proportion of a building’s carbon footprint, so if they can be retained, then savings can be made.

The we looked into a number of focus areas that are important if the design out waste principle is to be out into action, these include: refitting and refurbishing where possible, using offsite manufacturing techniques, reusing materials from other sites or industries and lean design.

Overall, I thought Building Revolutions was a great book and I will go into more detail on creating structures that are built to last in part two of this three-part series.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make the circular economy a reality in the built environment?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This book review looks into Fanocracy by David Meerman Scott and Reiko Scott.

As soon as I heard that David Meerman Scott had a new book coming out in 2020 I was immediately excited. It is very rare for me to buy a book more than once, but for The New Rules of Marketing & PR I bought the updated edition in 2017 after having previously read the second edition.

I probably make more notes in David’s books than in books by any other author, which you can see by the large number of sticky notes that I have placed in all three books.

There is just so much useful information on each page. Not just useful business or personal branding advice, but good life advice too.

This new book Fanocracy continues in a similar vein, with lots of great advice for the reader to take onboard an implement in their own life.

In the beginning, David and Reiko provide the following helpful explanation of what a fanocracy is:

Fandom is everywhere. It’s the key for any organisation, artist, solopreneur, or other entity to be successful in bringing people together. Fandom spans generations and subject matter to bind individuals together in excitement, purpose, and buying power. No matter whom you’re dealing with, understanding fandom is the cornerstone to your success.

We call this act of consciously bringing people together through a shared endeavour a fanocracy: an organization or person that honors fans and consciously fosters meaningful connections among them.

In a later chapter called The Power of a Fan-Centric Business they share another piece of helpful advice, with the following:

The relationships we build with our customers are more important than the products and services we sell to them.

I think this piece of advice is really important and it goes to the heart of what David teaches about in his books and seminars. Especially with the advent of the internet with pay per click advertising and online shopping, the internet can make the world seem like a more lonely place.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, the internet and social media can lead to more meaningful relationships than would be possible without. It just depends how you choose to use it.

A short while later, in another good chapter called Get Closer Than Usual there was a really interesting section on mirror neurons. This is a psychological phenomenon whereby neurons in our brain fire off when we observe others performing an activity, as if we were performing it ourselves.

An understanding of mirror neurons can help an individual or business gain fans. A lesson learned is that gaining fans is about gaining an understanding of what it is they need and want, and then delivering it. It is about serving others.

Later on, in a chapter called Give More Than You Have To, there was some really good advice on reciprocation and how it can help people and businesses to develop fans:

Fandom is built on human connection, and when you’re given something of value completely free and with no obligation, you tend to share your appreciation with others.”

A short while later there was a really good chapter called Tell the Truth, Especially When It Hurts. In it there were some good examples of how clickbait and use of misleading marketing online, may drive traffic in the short term, but is not a strategy that can drive sustained long-term engagement to develop real fans. As soon as people realise, they have been tricked, it is likely to leave them with a negative impression of that person or organisation.

In a later chapter called Develop Employees Who Are Fans, there was some really good advice on how important it is to hire and develop people who are passionate about what they do:

Authentic advocacy from inside your organisation will inspire the enthusiasm, enjoyment, and passion that create a fanocracy.”

In the penultimate chapter called A Passionate Life there is further advice on the same topic:

The best person at any job is the person who loves it the most.”

This is all really good advice to help people not only be successful at business and to develop a legion of fans, but also to lead fulfilling lives at the same time.

What you need to know

This book review looked into Fanocracy by David Meerman Scott and Reiko Scott.

I thought this was another good offering and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in marketing and branding. But there is plenty of good advice in the book that makes it applicable to anyone looking for something interesting to read.

There was a definite theme and story that was woven throughout the book, which I liked.

If I was going to be critical, I would say that the chapters by David were quite a bit better than his daughter Reiko’s ones. The chapters were at times somewhat lengthy and I am a fan of short sharp chapters.

But overall, I thought this book was excellent and I anticipate that I will be reaching for it on my bookshelf to find the relevant pages with the sticky notes that I left inside.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What is your favourite book on marketing?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This book review looks into Green Swans by John Elkington. I have not done many book reviews for a while, so I was looking forward to reading this as anything that John puts his name to is normally high quality.

John Elkington provides the following helpful explanation of what a green swan is:

“A Green Swan is a profound market shift, generally catalysed by some combination of Black or Gray Swan challenges and changing paradigms, values, mind sets, politics, policies, technologies, business models, and other key factors. A Green Swan delivers exponential progress in the form of economic, social, and environmental wealth creation. At worst, it achieves this outcome in two dimensions while holding the third steady. There may be a period of adjustment where one or more dimensions underperform, but the aim is an integrated breakthrough in all three dimensions.”

The next chapter is called Diving into Tomorrow, which I though was pretty good. In it John reveals the following eye opening figure, which took me by surprise:

Who knew that the combined mass of the 23 billion chickens alive at any point in time now outweighs all other birds earth?”

In this chapter John provides more detail on his product recall of a management concept, which he performed on the triple bottom line in 2018. I think John should get a lot of credit for this. It is too easy to just layer management concepts on top of each other, without much visibility on whether this is actually leading to improvements. If more thinkers took John’s lead the world would be a simpler and better place.

The following chapter called Miracles on Demand was quite forgettable. But there was one quotation on fossil fuel subsidies that stood out:

“The world spent an appalling $4.7 trillion on fossil fuel subsidies in 2015, for example which grew to $5.7 trillion in 2017. China was ‘by far, the largest subsidiser’ in 2015 at $1.4 trillion, with the Unites States spending more on such subsidies than it did on its bloated Pentagon budget.”

For me, this made two things really clear. One is that the money is out there if it was required. The other is that attempting to solve a problem by subsidising the thing creating it is a recipe for disaster.

The next chapter called A Wicked World was what I considered to be the best in the book. If there was a consistent narrative throughout the book focussed on wicked problems and how they can be overcome, I think the book would have been better.

The sub section on the Anthropocene was particularly good, but I thought it could have been bigger and been the central focus. Whilst the timing of the Anthropocene is highly debated, humans are clearly having an outsized impact on the environment and driving a number of environmental trends in a negative direction globally.

This led into another chapter called Black Swan Capitalism, which had a good sub section on plastics. This included the following interesting statistic:

By 2015 we humans had generated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics, 6.3 billion tons of which had already become waste. Of that waste total, only 9% was recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.”

A couple of chapters later, there was a good chapter called Getting Future Fit. In it there was a good line on the proliferation of management buzzwords within the field of sustainability:

Still, there are times when I wonder whether we are building a modern-day Tower of Babel. As we worked through the early stages of our Tomorrow’s Capitalism Inquiry, the Volans team was repeatedly struck by the multitude of initiatives and languages in this space. Indeed, some business leaders use the very fragmentation of change movements as an alibi for no, or slow, change. Come back when you have sorted yourselves out, they say.”

This is something that I can definitely agree with. We don’t need more buzzwords or language changes, what we need is real change.

For me, the next couple of chapters were again quite forgettable. There was lots of information on each page, but it was hard to see where the overall narrative and storyline was.

In the chapter called Green Swans Take Off, there was a reference to Orsted, the Danish company that made a 180 degree turn from fossil fuel extractor to renewable energy giant. Again I thought the book would have benefited from more case studies on companies that have made such changes.

A little bit later on there was a chapter called Exponential Migrations, which I thought was pretty good. This would have been another angle, that if magnified would have improved the book.

John shares the following important insight:

For the necessary market breakthroughs to happen in good time and good order, though, we must move way beyond incremental change, way beyond ‘change as usual.’”

I thought this was interesting and highlights just how much more there is to be done.

What you need to know

I have tried to highlight the positive bits in this book review, and there are quite a few good sections contained within it. But I will say compared to the high standards that John sets for himself based on his previous work, this was quite disappointing.

This is certainly not a classic. Message discipline is hard. This book felt a lot more like a book with information on sustainability, rather than a story that grabs you.

By comparison after reading anything written by Amory Lovins, I am imparted both with useful information and a belief that anything is possible.

After reading this I cannot say I felt the same.

If you have never read anything by John Elkington and you want to learn more about corporate sustainability in 2020, this is an accessible entry point.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What is your favourite book on sustainability?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into wooden buildings and sustainability. What does this material have to offer sustainability?

It seems poignant on the 3-year anniversary of the Grenfell fire in London to look again at this material and its potential. Following the fire, the UK government banned timber as well as other combustible materials from the exterior of residential buildings more than 18 metres high.

Instead of being reviewed with a pathway towards supporting wood in the construction of buildings, the government is planning to reduce the maximum height of wood-framed buildings from six storeys to four.

This does not seem to be a balanced interpretation of the science, which would indicate that wooden buildings can be constructed to the highest fire safety standards and would perform very strongly on sustainability at the same time.

Wooden buildings lock up carbon that was stored in the trees during their lifetime. If this wood is not turned into durable products, the carbon can re enter the carbon cycle as the wood decomposes and contribute towards anthropogenic climate change.

Similar to the articles that I have written about bamboo. There is a dual benefit to using low-carbon natural materials such as timber and bamboo. Where these replace high-carbon non-renewable materials such as steel and concrete, you can achieve significant carbon reductions by targeting carbon hotspots in a buildings design.

Wood has a lot of other benefits in that it does not contribute to the urban heat island effect as much as comparable materials and aesthetically it can be used to create stunning buildings.

No other governments around the world have taken the steps that the UK government has. Around the world there is a wooden building arms race as developers compete to build the world’s tallest wooden structure. Unfortunately, the UK is being held back by regulations that bear no resemblance to the risks posed.

I appreciate that to the lay person it may seem that wooden buildings are incredibly risky, but engineered timber can be created that has excellent fire proof properties. There is an excellent video here that was produced by the Estonian government.

What you need to know

This article looked into wooden buildings and sustainability.

3 years on from the Grenfell tragedy, it does very much appear that wooden buildings have been a casualty of an overly strict regulation.

I am sure it was designed with the best of intentions, but when wooden buildings can be designed to exacting fire safety standards, the regulation really needed to be reviewed and not enhanced.

Perhaps it has something to do with the relative paucity of forests remaining in the UK. When you look at the list of countries that are making great strides in wooden buildings they all have significant forest resources. Whereas the UK is a significant importer of wood products.

People are looking for hope and looking for change. We don’t need bad regulations standing in the way of progress.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to encourage the development of more renewable energy?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into green electricity and asks if this is actually as green as it is made out to be?

The good news is, that on the supply side the UK electricity system just recorded its greenest ever month in May 2020, with 0 coal burned for an entire month. Sunday 24th May was also the greenest ever day for the electricity grid. Both of these accomplishments were helped by record low demand, coupled with abundant wind and sunshine.

As you can see from the National Grid chart from Friday 5th June, in terms of wind and solar, the UK is able to produce more than 40% of its electricity from these two sources alone. This is a good thing and is a cause for celebration.

This is all excellent, but there are two things that I think do a disservice to the overall goal that renewable energy is trying to achieve. One is misleading marketing claims and the other is the murky world of renewable energy certificates (RECs). Both of these piggyback off of the good work done by others, without contributing anything positive for the environment.

Misleading marketing

I am singling Ovo out purely because there is a recent example of them being exposed. Please see here for more details. There are other providers who have been guilty of such claims in the past.

Regarding their standard rate tariff, this has been shown to have a higher carbon intensity than the UK grid average.

Then for their supposedly 100% renewable premium tariff, this allows Ovo to submit enough Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGOs) to the energy regulator Ofgem each year to cover that used by the consumer.

The only problem is, that for a £60 premium, only £1 goes to pay for these REGOs. Ovo also spend some money via the Woodland Trust, but it is not clear how much.

Unfortunately, what this means is that customers of Ovo are spending money on a premium product that does not support the growth of renewable energy in the UK.

Renewable energy certificate (REC) accounting

When a lot of people see that a company is claiming to have purchased 100% of their electricity from a renewable source, they would assume that they have a contract with a provider who matched their demand with an equivalent amount of renewable supply. Unfortunately, this is not the case and there is a significant aftermarket, where certificates are traded and the additionality can become weak.

For more information there is a great article on clean energy hub here.

The main problem stems from the unbundled RECs, as the link between the electricity and the renewable certificates is broken, making it open to abuse. This makes it very hard to verify whether the money being paid for the certificates actually led to the development of new renewable energy production.

What you need to know

This article looked into renewable energy and the green claims that surround this industry.

From a UK perspective, particularly wind power and to a lesser extent solar have been a great success story of late.

Low demand, coupled with abundant wind and sun has seen record after record broken. This proves that the technology does work at scale and can lead to real and meaningful emissions reductions at a grid level.

There are two things that I identified as being problematic. One was that of so-called green tariffs sold to customers which offer little towards sustainable outcomes. The other is the REC aftermarket, where certificates are traded and used to make claims of being 100% renewable energy, but where it is not clear this actually led to the development of new renewable energy generation.

Whilst the technology is both necessary and desirable, like with anything consumers and businesses need to do their own research to make sure what they are buying is actually sustainable.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to encourage the development of more renewable energy?

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