Sustainability and Environment


Most of my work has centred on the belief that, though difficult to achieve in absolute terms, sustainability is measurable and easy to define conceptually. It is not essentially a ‘buzz-word’ or the ephemeral concept it is sometimes claimed to be.


At its heart sustainability relates to systems, resource flows through them and carrying capacity. Such systems can be defined at the level of the individual home, community, region or globally. It is often the difficulty of defining the boundaries of the system which create the problems of assessing sustainability. How strictly autonomous as an independent system does a ‘zero-carbon’ house have to be, for example?


People are at the centre of all drives towards greater sustainability and it is the relationship between people and their environments that forms the core of my work. People may be motivated by the spectre of global warming. Yet people throng to join the protests about petrol prices, virtually unchanged in real terms since 30 years ago, when environmental concerns scarcely showed up on the political radar.


We have improved the energy efficiency of our new buildings over this same period by a huge amount. Yet energy consumption per household has risen – albeit slightly – whilst the average number of people per household has fallen by 20%. It is our behaviour, how we choose to live and the way we use our houses which has perhaps the greatest impact on this aspect of their sustainability.


People hold the key to improving sustainability and studying the relationship between people and their environment is essential in achieving sustainability gains.