Getting to zero carbon

Searching for a zero carbon future has focused our thinking on how buildings are made, where they come from and their disposal


Simon Sturgis is speaking at our Digital Thinking, Smart Building conference on 4th November.  

Click here to read the programme, view our 60 speakers and book your place.


It is said that in nature there is no waste, which suggests total resource efficiency. The current cycle of making, using and disposing of buildings is entirely counter to this principle. If we move onto a zero carbon trajectory for the life of buildings, then we have to change the way we make them. We will need to think of a building as an evolving process, rather than a box to be finished at a point in time.

Future buildings will be made of components that are 100% recyclable, either directly by re-using them ‘as is’, or indirectly, as in 'use what you have, to make what you will have'. Waste from consumable items will be used to manufacture building materials, and power this fabrication process. Total flexibility will be fundamental, buildings will be capable of being changed, dismantled, moved and reassembled. We have achieved this with a building in Slough, moving a 35,000 sq ft building a mile with substantial material, carbon and cost savings.

What sort of industrial processes will be needed to deliver buildings capable of constant change and evolution?

Traditional processes are linear, producing materials that are cut and assembled with ensuing waste. 3D printing is the closest we get to zero waste and is evolving fast. You use only the exact quantity you need to make something. Add that to ideas of ‘self-assembly’, reuse, and renewable materials, and you are closing in on a true zero carbon building typology.

So who will design these buildings?

The basic processes for zero carbon assembly, enabling 100% reuse, will be highly sophisticated. This points to the likes of advanced product designers and intelligent software. Assembling these elements into actual buildings will be determined by the sites available, and the collective intelligence of the occupants. They will decide and communicate their requirements through an artificial intelligence/human interface, ensuring what is required is what is delivered. Because total flexibility is inherent, change can be easily achieved. Environmental issues such as insulation, waterproofing and airtightness would respond to locality. To ensure beauty, and a human element, artists will creatively influence the design process.

What of traditional architects and engineers who are today’s building designers?

If they don’t adapt to the new zero carbon reality they will be consigned to history.


Read more from Simon Sturgis here

Simon Sturgis is speaking at our Digital Thinking, Smart Building conference on 4th November.  

Click here to read the programme, view our 60 speakers and book your place.