In its inaugural list of the top 50 most influential people for sustainability in the UK, Building Design magazine has listed three Cambridge academics.
At the moment, a truly vast amount of world’s energy consumption - around 38% of its total - is accounted for in buildings."—Professor Koen Steemers
The UK government’s Climate Change Act of 2008 committed this nation to an ambitious but essential aim – an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. That this goal has been set is an important step, showing the UK’s commitment to edging humanity back from the ecological brink, but the absolutely critical step will be meeting it.
The demand and consumption of energy that leads to the annual pumping of millions of tonnes of carbon and other damaging gases into the atmosphere is beginning to render our existence as a species quite literally unsustainable.
’Sustainability’ is often used as common parlance for vague notions of eco-friendly activity – but in truth it is far more fundamental. Internet godhead Wikipedia describes sustainability as "the capacity to endure" – essentially, ensuring our future. Sustainability is the best humanity can hope for – and it’s going to be an uphill struggle all the way.
Central to the human fight for the "capacity to endure" will be the people who design and build the stuff that facilitates our lives – and consequently requires the energy – the infrastructure, buildings and materials that millions rely on in the 21st century.
In March of this year, to coincide with the Ecobuild 2012 – the world’s biggest sustainable construction design conference – the architecture newspaper Building Design drew up a list of the UK’s 50 most influential figures in sustainability: three of whom are Cambridge academics – Peter Guthrie, Koen Steemers and Julian Allwood.
Peter Guthrie is the first Professor in Engineering for Sustainable Development in the UK, a post he has held since 2000. With a background in civil engineering, Guthrie has worked on road networks and major infrastructure projects in developing countries, and around the world, for decades. In 1980, after working in a refugee camp during the Vietnamese Boat People crisis, he founded of RedR, a charity that provides engineers to relief agencies in disasters.
At Cambridge, Guthrie is Director of the Centre for Sustainable Development, where he directs research on the Energy Policy and Efficiency in the Built Environment programme among others. He has advised on environmental policy for many countries and worked on many major projects including London 2012, Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester Airports.
"In the Centre, our research seeks to grapple with the many facets and multi-disciplinary nature of†sustainable development, embracing and addressing social, economic and environmental aspects together and in their complex interaction," says Guthrie. "Achieving moves towards the change in the way development is delivered requires new approaches and we are seeking to define these and work with new approaches."