Development research

For our purposes we are looking at building development and economic development in this section.  First we'll start with buildings - look further down the page for economic development, much of which revolves around the Circular Economy.

Sustainable buildings

Here we look at sustainability in terms of the buildings we use - our homes, our offices, our public buildings etc

What is the environmental cost of building a house?

How can we adapt our current buildings to be more energy efficient?

Is there an economic cost of going "green" and if so, what is it?

Definition of sustainable building

Sustainable buildings are those which meet the needs of people today, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Elements of Sustainable buildings

According to the World Green Building Council the following elements are needed to ensure a building is sustainable

1 - Minimise the building's energy requirements

2-  Minimise the water requirements of the building and build in harvesting systems

3 - Minimise waste and try to re-use where possible.

4 - Promote healthy living through good light sources, ventilation etc.

5 - Keep to building and surrounding area green and as ecologically diverse as possible.

6 - Explore how technology can be used to connect and manage the building for the use of the whole local community.

7 - Consider all of the above over the whole life-cycle of the building including potential future modifications.

examples of great sustainable buildings

It doesn't take long to search the internet and find some fantastic eco homes, which are more than enough to provide inspiration for anyone.

One of our favourite sites we found for this is

with it's top 10 list of homes they like in the UK.

Our personal favourite on the list is the Schoolmasters Eco-House, not because it is the most beautiful, but because it has such a wide range of eco friendly attributes, however, all of them provide great food for thought about what is possible when building sustainably.

Bloomberg Office London

At the extreme "money no object" end of the scale is the Bloomberg office in London, it has a huge swathe of eco friendly technology and resources at the very core of it's design, which reduce the water usage by 70% and energy by 40% when compared to similar sized buildings.

You can read all about it in this Guardian newspaper article.

Circular Economy

This a concept, which is gradually taking hold across industry.  Essentially it involves the inclusion of sustainability and waste reduction at every stage of the development of products and services.  Ideally we should be aiming to reuse old products to make new ones, only use renewable energy sources etc.

This will often mean that the original products will need designing a little differently - potentially allowing us to keep parts of a product and recycle other parts.  For example your mobile phone might become modular - the most obvious example might be that the battery may cease working and need recycling, but this shouldn't mean you need to throw away the whole phone.

This could be extrapolated from here - eg the phone my be great, but you might fancy a better camera - no problem, take the old one off and put a new one on, just recycling a small element of the overall product.

On a simpler level, if products to be grown (eg vegetables / trees etc) could be bought purely in compostable packaging you could plant the whole product with no waste and the packaging will actually supply nutrients to help the plants flourish.  Win win!

On a global scale this can be a useful way of thinking about climate change.  Assuming we believe that climate change is caused by man releasing vast quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (which almost everyone does now - except a few (sometimes very influential people with vested interests) - then we need to design our way out of this production.  Most importantly this means reducing the release of carbon - of which there are billions of tonnes in the atmosphere, or maybe (circularly) finding ways of recapturing this carbon.

With this in mind we can easily consider growing trees as part of the environmental circular economy - it is a way of allowing us to use some carbon and them recapture it going forwards.  Admittedly, we've used some much already that we need to pretty much stop and catch up with where we were - but you get the concept.  

The two sides of the way of rebalancing would be cuts emissions, whilst increasing carbon capture.

Images kindly provided by William Warby and Chris Lim under wikimedia commons. Files licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-share alike 2.0 Generic Licence