Designing a lower carbon Scotland

A blog post by Claire Herbst

Claire Herbst
Acting Climate Emergency Training Coordinator

Posted 29/07/2021

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We were delighted to partner with Architecture and Design Scotland recently to develop and deliver a bespoke version of our online Climate Emergency Training which focused on the built environment. In this blog two of our Training and Accreditation Officers, Claire Herbst and Magdalena Trifonova explain the importance of designing a lower carbon country.

Climate change is happening now and increases the likelihood, frequency and intensity of extreme weather across the globe.

We’ve seen harrowing news stories about extreme weather events in places far from home including the recent heatwave in the USA and Canada and the severe floods in western Europe. Homes were dangerously overheated. Infrastructure was severely damaged. And many people died.

Such extreme events are taking place closer to home too - such as the damaging downpours and flooding in London last week, the flooding experienced in Scotland last August, and the recent record-breaking temperatures just over the Irish sea in County Down.  

It’s clear that climate change poses multiple challenges to our built environment and the people that rely on it. And with UK-wide figures showing the built environment is currently responsible for up to 40% of the UK’s climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions, it’s clear that the sector has an important part to play.

Floods threaten homes and infrastructure in Fife after severe thunderstorms in August 2020.

That’s why we were delighted to partner with Architecture and Design Scotland (A&DS) to develop and deliver a bespoke version of our online Climate Emergency Training which helps people understand the climate emergency and respond to the risks, opportunities and responsibilities ahead.

The training sessions explored the science and impacts of climate change; unpacked the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, and highlighted practical actions that individuals and the organisation could take to reduce emissions and adapt. A&DS staff reviewed their organisational footprint and discussed ways to use their influence to reduce emissions in the sector and help design a lower carbon Scotland. Independently accredited by the award-winning Carbon Literacy Project, the course ran over a series of four weeks, combining a weekly live online session with self-study tasks and study group activities.

A&DS is ideally placed to influence carbon reduction in Scotland directly through its own organisational emission reduction commitments, but also indirectly through its work with a variety of partners including local authorities, communities, construction professionals, architects, builders, homeowners and students.

Think of a building – architects and designers can influence carbon reduction at every stage of the building lifecycle. Choices made at the design and construction stages can improve the energy efficiency of the building which can significantly reduce emissions, while buildings can be designed to cope better with extreme weather events such as heatwaves. And using sustainable building materials that can be re-used or recycled at the end of a buildings’ life can contribute to a more circular economy. It’s also important to remember that we can retrofit our existing buildings to improve their sustainability, and to ensure they are adapted to suit our changing climate. The A&DS Materials library is a fantastic resource to help builders, construction professionals and individuals choose more sustainable building materials for their projects.

Think of a place – the way our places are designed could reduce emissions from transport through our places having services available locally and more safe active travel infrastructure. Designing carbon conscious places where the ethos of reusing and repurposing is at the core can significantly reduce consumption and waste emissions. And planning our places for climate change impacts such as more flooding and heatwaves is vital. Making changes, such as planting more trees and adding green space around watercourses in our urban areas, can help to decrease temperatures in heatwaves, slow surface runoff of rain and help to reduce flood risk of our buildings and infrastructure. Changing our places in these ways can also have a positive impact on our health and wellbeing.

A shop in Perth displays a ‘closed due to flooding’ sign in the window after severe thunderstorms in August 2020.

We were delighted to receive a variety of positive feedback from

The collaborative nature of this bespoke course, provided a supportive space for A&DS to engage in positive climate conversations and commit to meaningful actions in response to the climate emergency.

Such conversations are vital to achieving a lower carbon Scotland and it’s clear that A&DS have laid sustainable foundations that they can build upon.


Find out more about how our Climate Emergency Training can help your organisation understand and take action on climate change here.

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