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Advocating for zero carbon design in IT and AV

Sustainability By Steven Fry-Harris, Associate Director, IT and AV – 18 January 2022

GenZero Crawley. Image credit: Ares Landscape Architects and Lyall Bills & Young Architects
CGI image of a landscaped garden path winding between two buildings and under a glass bridge that joins the two buildings.


Stephen Fry-Harris on sofa arm with marble backgrounf

Steven Fry-Harris

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Cundall’s Zero Carbon Design 2030 journey is something that is very personal to me. In fact, our approach to sustainability and net zero was a key reason I joined Cundall last year. So naturally when I heard the call to arms for zero carbon design advocates shortly after I joined, I couldn’t volunteer fast enough!

I am very aware of my personal impact on our environment, the impact of my discipline (IT and AV) and that of our industry. I’m conscious of the world we create and the one we leave behind. I have always tried to live sustainably, travel consciously, and share with others simple steps to save energy and make greener choices, as well as tips on interrogating misinformation or over complicated data.

The total impact of IT on the environment is the same as air travel. This is an alarming fact for my discipline but considering how reliant we are on IT for all aspects of our lives, it should be no surprise. My recent blog, Information technology and its journey to net zero, started in this very vein.

With Cundall’s zero carbon design journey though there is real hope. The response from the Building Automation team has been excellent, with Chris Cameron and Peter Papp creating our own Building Automation Net Zero Framework, training trackers, resources and working with our internal Sustainability team to validate all their hard work.

In projects too, Rory Donoghue, Horacio Pineda Sanchez, Lazslo Karsai and I have assessed Zero Carbon Design approaches in Smart Buildings and IT, creating databases of embodied and operational carbon in IT products. We’ve also built on the amazing work on the UK Department of Education’s GenZero Schools Research Project by further investigating the impact of IT.

As part of our ongoing focus on innovation, Duncan Cox, Lee French, Alan Fogarty, Callum Smith and I have also been reviewing options for electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) flying cars and the Internet of Things (IoT) for a smart city initiative. This involves converting an existing contaminated site with our architectural client to create a zero-carbon design with meaningful social values and zero carbon research facilities.

As a Zero Carbon Design Advocate, I have also encountered the gap between our own ambitious journey and other elements of the industry. When discussing this with my industry peers, I have been met with encouragement, but also with scepticism and a minority with a poor attitude towards zero carbon design. This hasn’t deterred me. The importance of the journey we are undertaking is clear; we have a responsibility to encourage a global shift in action, and to act as leaders by helping to drive the industry towards a more accountable pathway.

With the strategic leadership of Cundall’s zero carbon design core team, the inspiring work of my fellow Advocates, and the passion of the entire business, we will be sharing resources from across all disciplines for a coordinated approach: one which incorporates our databases and concepts such as our own Building Automation Net Zero Framework, and also also extends to reducing wastage.

I am looking forward to seeing many more projects exploring incremental steps towards net zero as we reach our first milestone – achieving zero carbon pathways on all our projects by December 2022.