New London Architecture

Five minutes with… Golnaz Ighany

Tuesday 09 February 2021

David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly

David Taylor talks to Stanton Williams sustainability manager Golnaz Ighany about the practice’s move to Carbon Neutral Plus certification, climate, competitive advantage and perhaps cycling up to the Lake District to see its offset planting in the flesh…

David Taylor: Hi! How are you doing?

Golnaz Ighany: Very good, thank you!

DT: Could you tell me a little bit about the carbon neutral plus programme that you've enrolled in? How long did it take? And what was the chief motivation for doing it in the first place? 

GI: Sure! Yes, I'm very pleased and excited about the fact that we have been awarded Carbon Neutral Plus certification. It happened after a vigorous professional carbon emission assessment of the activities basically related to our studio. They carried out this assessment with the assistance of an independent organisation; it took us two months from data collection to calculation and to the final report findings. Just to give you an introduction, basically carbon calculation covers three types of emissions which are defined as scope one, two and three. Scope one is the direct emissions from activities and scope two is the indirect emissions – for instance associated to the electricity that we purchase. And scope three emissions are indirect emissions that are out of the control of our organisation, and they are quite difficult to define; things like transportation to paper supplies… it is quite complex. 

So defining and identifying scope three emissions is challenging. However, it was really important for us to have a complete picture and address the full emissions. That's why we tried to include full upstream and downstream operations. 

And then, to mark the beginning of the journey that we started and to mitigate our emissions, we decided to support two globally recognised and verified offsetting schemes with big environmental and social benefits as well as deciding to contribute to woodland creation within the UK.

Marshgate atrium, part of UCL East © Stanton Williams
DT: Yes, and is it the case that you chose Kenya, the Amazon rainforest and the Lake District? How does that work?

GI: Yeah, interesting. So, we consulted with everyone in the practice, we gave a studio-wide presentation and sent a poll. We selected certain schemes and asked everyone to vote, basically, launching a poll within the practise. And that was the result that came out of it. So that was how we decided to go for these schemes.

DT: Do you think the industry as a whole does enough on this line of thinking and acting?

GI: So, just to continue what we did first, I think that the second part is the most important thing that we did. I think you know we are on the first part of our journey so the best way to actually tackle the climate change is to reduce our emissions to the direct action. That's why they decided to identify those reductions and set a long-term target.  I think that's the most important initiative we took in terms of our long-term target. We are very pleased that our target aligned with keeping the global temperature below 1.5 has been approved. You can apply for two different paths - one is keeping the global warming below 2 degree and the other, which is more difficult, is keeping it at 1.5 – and that's the one that we chose.

In terms of if we're doing enough, as an industry, in this line? I don't think we are there yet.  I was looking at the Science Based Target Initiative which was launched internationally in 2015 at the Paris Agreement, looking at the number of practices and organisations that had approval of this target. And there are actually less than 400 worldwide that have got this approval. 

The Science Based Target Initiative helps you to set targets in line with the latest climate science studies. This choice of going for a science-based target is very important because we thought it was one of the best ways to go for having this, longer term.

Model UCL site © Stanton Williams
DT: Yeah, that's very interesting, and that absolutely underlines that we as a… well…as a world, are not doing enough on this topic. Do you think that having this certification will present you a competitive advantage as well as a sort of moral and ethical one?

IG:  Definitely. You know, climate change - it is a challenge that embraces everything we do. We are an architecture practice, but it is not only what an architect can do but as a society as a whole. For us, it is not only about being competitive in the environment – of course it will make us more competitive and really have some advantages – but I think it's about playing that part in tackling climate change and having that holistic vision and having that holistic approach. So this certification is actually part of our own ongoing journey of excellent climate action and advanced technology and pushing environmental boundaries of building and everything we do basically as a practice. We also need others to take similar action. Of course it gives us advantage, but also, it is the start of our journey. At the same time we want to be part of this movement of accelerating climate action 

DT: Yeah. Final question: will you be going up to see any of your planting up in the Lake District? Is that part of the agenda?

GI: Yes. After the lockdown; we were planning a trip. We talked about it, and definitely we would love to go and see it.

DT: And how will you travel there? By train, I'm presuming…

GI: (laughs) Perhaps, yeah! We’ll find a less polluted way…

DT: Maybe cycle?

GI: Yeah, cycle! Why not? We have a lot of cyclists in the practice. Many of our employees are really forward in that. So perhaps. That's a good idea! (laughs)

DT: Let's do it! Okay, lovely to speak to you and thank you very much for outlining it all.

GI: Thank you so much, David. Bye!




David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly

Net Zero


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