Displaying items by tag: environment
Friday, 12 March 2010 16:09

Carbon copy

CARBONBODYWith academics pulling the plug on each other’s findings, the non-believer media at the throat of the green crusaders, and too-hip-to-be-hippies having their pictures taken at climate camp, carbon reduction can seem like an arena with far more highfalutin players than on the ground policies.  Unless you are a power station, or steel works, it can seem like an up in the air, or voluntary issue: companies can take up the cause, or bury their head in the sand. The Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) energy efficiency scheme, coming into force this month, effecting around 20,000 UK public and private energy users (property owners and occupiers), puts a tangible, quantifiable cost on carbon consumption, designed to send the issue straight to boardroom level. Organisations that qualify can no longer pick and chose as to whether to take note of energy efficiency or not. Companies should by now know whether they will be part of the scheme; the Environment Agency sent letters to the billing addresses of those likely to be effected in October, and the build-up to it has been covered closely.

As an indication, any organisation with half hourly meters for their electricity, with an energy consumption of over 30,000 MWh in the year 2008 will be required, between April 1st and September 30th this year, to register with the Environment Agency online, making a disclosure about their energy consumption (fines of £5000 can apply for failing to comply). Those with a consumption level of 60,000 MWh or an electricity bill of more than £50,000 for the year 2008 will be required to fully participate in the scheme, that is to register (in the same period) and then report their energy consumption between April 2010 and March 2011 to the Environment Agency. As of April 2011, they must then estimate carbon consumption for the coming year, and purchase carbon credit (at a fixed rate of £12/tCO2 in the introductory period) to cover this consumption. At the end of the year this allowance must be surrendered according to how much carbon was or was not used. Allowances can be traded with other businesses, on a secondary market, if companies are over or under their original estimate.

The scheme applies to all businesses that qualify, not already covered by the EU Trading Scheme or a registered Climate Change Agreement (CCA). Energy used for transport is not counted as part of energy consumption, but for full participants of the scheme, everything from electricity, to gas, coal, and diesel will count. Using the information that is gathered, the Environment Agency will calculate (using a tiered metric system) and publish a public league table in October each year, of companies’ carbon cutting behaviour. The revenue that is generated through the purchasing of carbon credit will be distributed back to the companies in October (six months after it is paid in), according to their position on the league table. In the first year, those at the top of the table will receive a bonus of plus ten per cent of their share, while those at the bottom of the table will be penalised by receiving only 90 per cent. Rather than a carbon tax, this ‘revenue recycling’ rewards and penalises; it generates no revenue to the Treasury.

This introductory phase is to get organisations used to the scheme, (the policy design, piloted over the last couple of years, is built on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme). Come April 2013, the total carbon allowances available under the scheme will be capped and traded by the government, potentially pushing the price per tonne of CO2 allowance up, by a considerable amount (some models suggest the sums will come to represent 20-50% of utility bills by 2020). The weighting of the revenue recycling will also begin to raise the stakes, come 2013, when the reward/penalty percentages will rise by ten per cent, year on year, hitting fifty per cent in year five. “It’s a chance for pro-active companies to take revenue directly from their competitors, as well as top them in the league table,” explains Georgia Elliot-Smith, chartered environmentalist, and head sustainability consultant at Appleyards. “For many companies, with ethical investors or a visible public profile, the reputational incentive may be more important than the financial one. Now everyone, from stakeholders to the public, will be in the position to ask questions about carbon credentials.”

One of the complications arising with the scheme in the case of tenants and landlords is who CRC responsibilities fall with (it’s quite simply, whoever’s name is on the energy bill). Where new contracts are being made, CRC is often being passed onto FM companies, which, Elliot-Smith reckons, is a short-term outlook. “This is an exciting opportunity to profit from carbon cutting in an interesting and creative way that hasn’t existed before,” she explains. By 2020 the government estimates potential savings instigated by the scheme to be £1 billion a year.Registering and information disclosure for the scheme is carried out online. The process can be saved at any point if more information needs to be gathered - a clear user-guide is available on the Environment Agency website, where a dedicated (email only) customer response desk exists. However, the various administering, monitoring, sorting of responsibility, ‘weighting’ of the league table, and investing/trading expertise required by the scheme makes it by nature a complex one to implement, or to make clear cost-benefit analyses from, at the outset. The best advice, Elliot-Smith explains, is to get up to speed with the long-term implications of the scheme, and enter into it with a long-term carbon management strategy devised through a joined-up approach across the company.

CARBONLEADThose who were at the workshops run by the Environment Agency in the early stages noted that some companies were not sure as to where the scheme should be dealt with in the organisational structure, as it will touch on marketing, financial, corporate responsibility, facility management, and energy management issues (renewable energy used by a company will be included separately on the league table). While some companies feel they have all the resources to take on board the new initiative and make it work in a way that is profitable to them, there are a wealth of sustainability consultants, lawyers, energy and financial experts gemmed up on the regulations, ready to supply companies with implementation advice.The ‘Early Action Metric’, Elliot-Smith points out, gets 100% weighting in the first year. Those who can prove by end of December this year that they either already have Carbon Trading Standard accreditation, or, by March 2011, have voluntarily installed Automatic Meter Reading (AMR), can help secure themselves a place at the top of the 2011 league table. “For those who have made efforts over the last three years to cut carbon emissions by around 2-2.5% per year, this measure may well be worth taking. The fee for a Carbon Trust assessment, around £5,000, is a small outlay in terms of long term strategy.

“Doing nothing until the first reports are submitted in 2011 guarantees you sink to the bottom on the table in the first year, and puts you on the back foot for the first three,” Elliot-Smith explains. The scheme fits into a much bigger strategy, for example, to have zero-carbon new homes by 2016, to link higher education funding to carbon performance, and to see an 80% cut in emissions by 2050. These are all linked to the Climate Change Bill, passed in 2008, giving ministers the power to introduce the emission reduction measures they see necessary to hit goals.

Before, emissions trading schemes applied only to energy-intensive organisations; CRC signifies that threshold is being lowered, whilst aspirations and targets, Elliot-Smith predicts, are only going to get “higher and tougher”. Companies not fully participating, but disclosing energy consumption, means the government can build a broad picture of where future cuts could best be made. CRC policy has been built to drive good carbon behaviour, making it more profitable to reduce consumption than to up carbon purchase allowance. Before, however considerable energy costs were, they often reflected a relatively small percentage of companies’ outgoings and were overlooked at a senior strategy level. The new policy is bent on forcing the issue up the management agenda, creating more immediate returns on action taken on carbon reduction, and making the carbon behaviour of large companies fully transparent.If putting a rising price on carbon is something the government is this ready to push, businesses may have to pull their heads out of the sand, sharpish.www.carbontrust.co.ukwww.appleyards.co.ukwww.kpmgcarbonadvisory.com

Published in Features
Monday, 18 January 2010 16:48

The Hoi magazine chair-JULES & JEREMY

Jules--JeremyThe Hoi magazine chair, designed by Jules & Jeremy, was originally made for an advertisement campaign and is now on show in Jules & Jeremy’s showroom. It is made from MDF and finished with a matt-white, glossy, spray-painted lacquer. The seating is upholstered and the magazines are laid on a hardened glass shelf. This versatile chair is suitable for any environment.


Published in Seating
Monday, 18 January 2010 16:43


Relay-Design-AgencyRoom dividers like Buzzizone and Buzziscreen (pictured) create an island of calm, especially in an open-plan environment and are contemporary additions to an interior. Ecology, acoustics and flexibility are combined to produce a contemporary range of products that can transform a work or home environment with no effort. Waste PET plastic is recycled to form a soft, sound-absorbing felt, which is at the core of the Buzzispace range.


Friday, 18 September 2009 10:25


Henry_EllisExhibiting for the first time at Designersblock this year, Henry Ellis-Paul will be showing his new furniture, Stripped (pictured) and his first range of greeting cards, Short and Sweet. Stripped is a modular chair and table that has various arrangements of seats and armrests, which can be easily moved, altered or added-to in order to fit into any environment. Currently based in London, Henry has previously designed packaging, toys and lighting, and believes that an understanding of different areas of the industry helps to create a healthy approach to new projects.


Published in Seating
Wednesday, 22 July 2009 10:50


Pictured is the Tan Bridle wrapped standard light switch, which is one of the unique products available from Spooner+Watts. Naturally fire retardant, the light switch can be colour-matched to suit any environment and is handmade, therefore individualised to the client’s specifications. Spooner+Watts offer a range of different products from tables and chairs to animal skin envelopes and cake boxes.



Published in Accessories
Monday, 20 July 2009 15:55

Time for change

For some, the deep-rooted power of a corporation like Microsoft prompts feelings of intense irritation and mistrust. It’s the curse of providing a product that people need and that is by most standards more efficient than anything else on the market. Customers (not to mention competitors) feel disheartened by a lack of real choice and presume that they are victims of a mounting monopoly. In fact, it’s kind of like shopping at Tesco. You don’t particularly want to, but it is by far the easiest option. And that is where Microsoft’s reputation was when it decided to make a change at its Dutch headquarters.Since heaps of design innovation can be traced back to the Netherlands, it makes sense that Microsoft’s Amsterdam office is the one to trial the new way of working – a radical experiment to show the world that the multinational beast was human, accessible and best of all, a living example of how its products can change the workplace.In essence, we’re talking about a six storey corporate building, 950 employees and no desks. Logistically speaking, it is a recipe for disaster. But Microsoft was intent on a new way of doing things. The latest terminology is ‘non-territorial work’ or ‘activity-based working’. This project goes beyond established ideas of hot-desking because the underpinning philosophy is that employees need not show up at the office at all. Microsoft uses its digital technology so fluently that a person can do their job from home, outside of the office, or in any nook or cranny inbetween. This build project needed to provide real incentive for human interaction and collaboration. It needed to draw people to it.We’ve heard these buzz words before – and we’ve certainly heard companies talk about flexibility and a collaborative culture replacing being glued to a desk for a specific period of time – but we don’t usually see it implemented so drastically, in a company of this scale, or with such militaristic precision.Designer Sevil Peach was on board from the start, directing base build architects Cepezed on changes that would suit the clients’ need for transparency. Rearranging voids and introducing a central staircase made horizontal and vertical connections between the floors. A central courtyard with glazed meeting pods is visible throughout the first floor, the social heart of the building. This communal floor, with its many work and leisure spaces, introduces visitors (there are 500 – 1000 each week) to the way the company operates. Coffee bar, cantina, work carousels, relaxation zones, sleeping pods, meeting rooms, boardrooms, auditoriums and work benches are all available for employees to use.The goal was to encourage movement and a feeling of freedom, says Peach. There is no clock-watching and people are measured by the quality of their output rather than simply showing up and sitting at their desks. If a space isn’t used for an hour, it needs to be cleared for someone else. Managers are encouraged to establish a ‘physical minimum’ with their teams – so one team may decide to work together at a particular table on Mondays, while another team might have a day-long meeting once a month in the cafe. It’s revolutionary in the sense that it demands people let go of their traditional ideas of work.“We approached this whole change, and the building, as a journey,” says Gonnie Been, spokesperson for Microsoft and who was on the steering committee during the design process. “We take steps and then look to see if they are working.” Aside from a reputation overhaul, one of the core ideas was also to implement sustainable growth, she adds. “The move into this building was one of the biggest interventions in order to get the change going. You take people out of their normal comfort zone and put them into a new environment, and chaos is the best way to change patterns.”Chaos indeed – with 950 people milling around and no designated workspace (including the most senior management) – it could seriously backfire. For one, it presents specific human resources and management issues. But, Sevil points out, it’s an evolution. “You can’t just sit back and be comfortable when you’re working on such an experimental environment,” she says. It has shown positive results from anonymous surveys, which is a good thing since the flexibility is essential to sustainable growth in a company of this magnitude. It means less bulk, less furniture, less paper, less stuff. (99% of all Microsoft work processes are paperless and lockers are available if anything needs to be stored.) Clever ways of dividing space visually, using textured panels to control acoustics and carving out a variety of mini-environments suitable to different kinds of work is what the scheme is based on. Each office floor has a designated colour to help with navigation and a series of informal meeting areas, tables and chairs, concentration rooms, booths, soft seating, couches, etc. The idea is that a Microsoft staffer need only ask him or herself what the mood calls for. “Design isn’t a stylistic intervention,” Peach says. “It is actually an enabling process that makes things happen and brings changes to people, which is exactly what they are trying to do.”And ultimately, it is the ideal marketing tool. “We’re not showing you the technology as a demo – you see people using it from human perspective. It’s much stronger,” says Gonnie. “That’s what we’re trying to do here – to create a showcase of how we believe the world of work is going to evolve.”
Published in Projects
Thursday, 18 June 2009 11:50


Alumina is a table made of environmentally friendly, forested hardwoods and 19mm toughened glass, which creates a meditative ambience. The image is sandblasted onto the reverse of the glass and highlighted by the coloured LED lights in the base, which can be phased through a spectrum of colours or set to suit the environment. The image can be sandblasted with any design including a company logo. It is especially suited for bars, clubs or reception areas and can be made to bespoke requirements.



Thursday, 27 November 2008 14:35


Bloxx, pictured, is a small stool made from 400- to 600-year-old matured oak with a stainless steel base. It measures 40cm x 40 cm x 46cm. Run by designer René Mueller and forest expert Nina Griesshammer, woodloops – just nature! has been FSC-certified since 2003, and its aim is to try and protect the environment while producing furniture.


Published in Seating
Wednesday, 15 October 2008 11:35

Art at work

The Sotheby’s auction of Damien Hirst’s back catalogue achieved record prices in September, reinforcing the view that contemporary art has proved an excellent investment, despite the difficult economic climate. Art in the workplace can also offer significant benefits, most of which, while more difficult to quantify, can contribute to higher profits for all the stakeholders.
Published in Projects
Monday, 22 September 2008 14:04

M table_IXII

Designers Hideyuki Kishimoto and Jiinyi Hwang created the M Table for Japan-based design practice IXII. The table is an innovative single-surface piece of furniture inspired by the Möbius strip – a surface with only one side and one boundary component. By using the Möbius strip as a concept, laminated wood can be curved into a new structure with the inside and outside looking identical. The M Table, which is made from wood and urethane paint, is 120cm long, 60cm wide and 38cm high. It is available in customised colours and textures, making it suitable for any environment.


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