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The Green Urbanist

Author: Ross O'Ceallaigh

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The podcast for urbanists fighting climate change. Hosted by Ross O'Ceallaigh, a planner and urban designer based in London, this show explores how architects, planners, policy makers and designers can make cities more sustainable, healthy and happy.
21 Episodes
Today's episode is a conversation with Jonny McKenna and Dhruv Sookhoo of Metropolitan Workshop, a leading practice of architects and urban designers based in London and Dublin. Jonny McKenna is Director of their Dublin office, an architect and urban designer and has played a lead role in masterplanning and residential projects since joining Metropolitan Workshop in 2006.Dhruv Sookhoo is Head of Research and Practice Innovation at Metropolitan Workshop. He is both a chartered Architect and town planner, and a social researcher.The focus of our conversation today is suburbia. As urbanists we can sometimes be dismissive or snobbish about the suburbs, and often they are portrayed as being unsustainable and soulless places. However, the fact is that they still remain the residential typology of choice for many people in cities. If we want to reconsider the suburbs for modern life and the era of climate change, we need to think about them quite honestly and openly.Metropolitan Workshop have been designing suburban development and challenging the status quo for years, and they have just finished a long research project on the topic called A New Kind of Suburbia, that brings together their thinking approach with a broad range of perspectives. In this episode, Jonny and Dhruv reflect on what are some aspects of the suburbs we would want to replicate in future and what aspects need to be reconsidered. They then provide some ideas on how we could reimagine the suburbs as mixed, sustainable communities with a great quality of life, particularly in the post-covid world.Towards the end of the podcast, they offer some advice for other practitioners who want to engage in practice-based research and how this can benefit their work.Metropolitan Workshop: Podcast: New Kind of Suburbia: Media: the Green Urbanist: the Green
Today's episode is a conversation with Virginia Cinquemani.Virginia is the founder and director of Green Gorilla Consultants, a unique training and coaching company focusing exclusively on empowering sustainability professionals to become the most confident and assertive version of themselves, and to successfully accomplish their sustainability projects even when their stakeholders think sustainability is a waste of time and money!Virginia is a qualified architect, project manager and BREEAM AP, with a life long passion for sustainability.She is the author of SustainABLE: How to Find Success as a Sustainability Professional in a Rapidly Changing World, a practical guide for those that have a passion for sustainability but cannot make an impact.In this episode Virginia shares advice for anyone who is trying to integrate sustainability into their work and projects but is coming up against barriers. So whether you are just starting out on your sustainability journey or you're an experienced professional, this episode is relevant for you.Virginia explains how we can better communicate about sustainability, and how we can sell sustainable solutions to clients by appealing to their needs and concerns. This episode is all about the soft skills that we a professionals need every day beyond technical knowledge.She also gives advice for urbanists who don't necessarily have a sustainability background but who want to bring sustainability into their work. The key message is: just get started, no matter how small or imperfect your first steps are, just get started because we need everyone working towards this.Learn more about Virginia and Green Gorilla Consultants: the Green Urbanist: the Green
 Liza is a business consultant, social innovator and advocate for regenerative economy. She's a member of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership network and has extensive experience working in several industries and countries as project manager and consultant. Today she runs her own business called 4D Sustainability helping small and medium businesses on their sustainability journey. She and her co-founder developed a simplified methodology that enables small companies to adopt sustainability measures, as she believes that without small and medium enterprises on board the transition to net zero and better future will not be possible. We talk about:The huge role that small and medium businesses can play in achieving sustainabilityWhy sustainability must address social issuesRegenerative economyThe UN Sustainable Development Goals, and how Liza uses these to help businesses take actionCarbon pricing and putting a price a environmental degradationLearn more about Liza and 4D Sustainability: the Green Urbanist: the Green
James grows urban forests around the UK with his company Wild Urban Spaces and with rewilding organisation SUGi. He is an expert in the use of the Miyawaki Method of afforestation, which is a Japanese approach to rapidly creating healthy, native forest ecosystems, and can be applied to small sites in urban contexts. In this episode we discuss:The Miyawaki MethodThe Forest of Thanks, a Miyawaki forest recently planted in London to express gratitude to NHS workers during the pandemicHow trees make it rain and also alleviate floodingThe mystery of Biodynamics in soilTrees as tsunami defense And lots more!Contact James: the Green Urbanist: the Green
In today's episode we are asking, are tall buildings sustainable? It is often argued that because of their density, tall buildings are essential for sustainable cities to support public transport, walking, cycling and thriving communities. However, once you start looking into it, it is far more complicated than that.In this episode, tall buildings are analysed based on their environmental, social and economic sustainability with some surprising results.Follow the Green Urbanist: the Green Urbanist:greenurbanistpod@gmail.comSources: The Psychology of City Living
This episode pulls heavily from two excellent books, The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells and The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac. I look at the cognitive biases that prevent us from thinking logically and honestly about climate change, and therefore limit our actions, as presented in The Uninhabitable Earth. Following this I discuss the three "mindsets" put forward in The Future We Choose, that can help us to reframe the problem in our minds and take meaningful action.Follow the Green Urbanist: the Green
Welcome to the Green Urbanist, the podcast for urbanists fighting climate change. I'm Ross.The premise of this episode is that the way we currently produce most of our meat, using factory farms and feedlots, is a disaster from an environmental point of view and contributes a small but significant amount to global greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is a potential solution to this problem beyond simply eating less meat, which involves managing livestock in such a way that it contributes to ecosystem restoration and carbon sequestration in soil. That's why the title of this episode is Why Cows aren't Necessarily Evil.Follow the Green Urbanist: the Green Urbanist:greenurbanistpod@gmail.comSources for this episode:Stanley et al (2018) Impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems (,to%20a%20new%20genetic%20study.FAO - Tackling Climate Change through Livestock ( and Wolf (2020) Sacred Cow: The Case for Better Meat (Book)
Today's episode is a collaboration with the Human City podcast. The Human City is a podcast hosted by Stig Terrebonne that focuses on making cities, well, more human. Making people healthier, happier and facilitating community through urbanism.In this episode Stig has joined me to share his top lessons learned from interviewing some of the leading urbanists in the USA. We cover some really interesting topics including why urbanism needs branding, how communities are formed on interaction and why the solutions for towns or villages are the not the same as those for big cities. This episode is a collaboration because I am also appearing on Stigs podcast, the Human City, to talk about my lessons learned from hosting the Green Urbanist. That episode is out right now so please head over to the Human City podcast, if not to listen to me, to listen to all the other amazing guests he has had.Human City Podcast is available on the website below or on all the podcast apps.Human City Podcast: the Green Urbanist: the Green
Salem is a Sustainability Engineer who has worked on projects in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. Originally from Amman Jordan, he moved to England to study civil and environmental engineering, and has spent the last 6 years working on exciting international projects. Salem is a good friend of mine, we used to work together and he was probably one of the first people I met when I first moved to London. With this episode, I really wanted to bring out important insights and lessons he has learned about sustainability in general and more specifically about sustainability in the Middle Eastern context. Being from the Jordan himself and having worked on projects in several Middle Eastern countries, he has some important messages about this often misunderstood region.We talk about why the Middle East is not just one place, it is very diverse and complex. We talk about how the region is adapting to the impact of climate change and how modern innovative solutions are not always the way forward.We also discuss the concept of resilience and how cities around the world can bounce forward to a new equilibrium, a new normal, after Covid-19.Contact Salem:salemqunsol@live.com the podcast: the
This is a mini-episode covering one very interesting topic: Increased atmospheric carbon is making food grow with less nutrients. I cover the research and some of the implications for global health.This is a fascinating story I wanted to share but couldn't fit it into a larger episode. So here it is in a short podcast bite. Let me know what you think of this shorter format on social media:
Justin Hunt is a Canadian engineer and entrepreneur, and CEO of an exciting company called Blaise Transit. Blaise is an AI-based software platform that allows transit operators to run on-demand bus services using their existing vehicles. What does that mean? Well essentially, instead of running a traditional bus route on a fixed line, passengers can open a smartphone app and request to picked up. The bus will then alter its route to pick up passengers on the most convenient and efficient route. You may be thinking that this sounds crazy but Justin explains how using this demand-driven system makes it possible to provide bus services in areas where traditional bus routes do not get enough ridership and don't provide people with a good alternative to using private cars. It can also save money for bus operators because you have less empty buses on the roads.The discussion also goes more broadly into the wider field of Future of Mobility, how technology is revolutionising movement and how we can leverage this to make cities more sustainable while also offering a better service for passengers and serving more members of society. Topics include autonomous vehicles, V2X Communication and Mobility as a Service.We talk about some pretty nerdy stuff but don't worry, you don't need a degree in computer science to follow along. A lot of these topics are fairly new to me too and Justin explains them in a very clear, jargon-free way.Learn more about Blaise: the podcast on social media:
Today we are taking a step outside cities to explore reforestation and rewilding in a conversation with biologist Tiago de Zoeten.Tiago is a conservation biologist at Mossy Earth, a social enterprise on a mission to restore nature and fight climate change. He studied biology at the University of Edinburgh and Biostatistics at UCM in Madrid and has research experience in ecology and conservation genetics.At Mossy Earth he is working on bringing exciting rewilding projects to life and on applying his love for data to develop resources to help people live more sustainably.In this episode, we discuss:The importance of planting native species and letting forests grow wild.What rewilding is all about and how it plays a role in fighting climate change.Why we need to create and restore ecosystems.The role of wild places and animals in our cultures and history.Mossy Earth's projects, including using livestock guarding dogs to protect farms from wolves.And finally, how you can approach reducing your own carbon footprint.Mossy Earth restores wilderness through rewilding and reforestation projects across a variety of ecosystems around the globe. They are currently engaged in tree planting and rewilding projects in Scotland, Ireland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia. To give you a sense of the scale of their operations, earlier this year, they planted 3000 trees in the Scottish highlands, they are on track to plant 25,000 trees this year in Slovakia and a further 30,000 trees in Romania.Learn more at the podcast on social media: Monbiot Rewilding Ted Talk: Ireland - Mossy Earth Project: Guarding Dogs - Mossy Earth Project: Nest Platforms - Mossy Earth Project:
This episode provides a summary of the main proposals in the UK government White Paper, Planning for the Future, which sets out a new planning system for England. I discuss the move away from a discretionary planning system to one based on zoning, how the new system intends to promote design quality and delivering more housing and the changing role of technology in planning.Read the full White Paper here: webpage: the podcast on social media: Reading:
This episode is a conversation with Niall McEvoy.Niall is Business Development Manager at Scotscape, a leading green infrastructure and living wall provider. He is an educator and speaker with expertise in urban greening, horticulture and the science behind how plants and trees can improve our cities.Niall leads training courses on the design, construction and maintenance of living walls, provides continuing professional development programmes for architects and designers globally and regularly speaks on these subjects at industry events.We talk about:How "urban greening" is not about planting anything - you have to plant the right species for the right situation.How nature works as a system, not as individual elements.The importance of plants for air quality, biophilia and biodiversity.The economics of green infrastructure.The advantages of living walls (or "green walls").How to convince people of the necessity for greener cities!And if you love Irish accents, then this episode is definitely for you!Learn more about Scotscape and Niall: the podcast on social media: music by Tanoi
Welcome to the Green Urbanist Podcast. My name is Ross and this podcast is about how urbanists of all kinds can step up the climate emergency.This episode is Part 2 in a series on Climate Change is affecting and reshaping our cities. The topic is sea level rise and some of the points covered include:Why the sea level is rising more in some cities, and dropping in others.How melting ice caps shift Earth's rotation.The effect of melting glaciars on the oceanic circulation system, and what this could mean, andThe story of Jakarta, the megacity that is being consumed by the rising tide.Follow the podcast on social media music by Tanoi Level Rise
Welcome to the Green Urbanist Podcast, hosted by Ross O'Ceallaigh. This podcast is all about how we can design and manage cities to reduce our carbon emissions, adapt to the climate emergency and live happier, healthier lives.Today's episode is a conversation with Conrad Richardson.Conrad is a mobility and climate activist with an international academic and professional background in urban and transport planning, engineering and design across Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East. His experiences span the transport spectrum – he has worked on traditional infrastructure projects, such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as well as on cutting-edge projects, like the RTA Big Data Platform Project in Dubai, UAE. He also lectures in Universities on a wide variety of transport engineering and ‘Future of Mobility’ topics. Conrad travels far and frequently, increasingly off the beaten track... shooting photographs and creating short videos telling the stories of different places, which he shares on his instagram account ( This conversation is very wide ranging but some of the topics covered include:Why skateboarders make good urbanists. How getting involved in student politics led to Conrad attending the United Nations Climate Conference in Warsaw.The magic of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems.Why every city has to get walking and cycling right. What it means to be a truly Smart City. How public transport can facilitate sustainable urban growth.Urban technological innovation in the developing world.Follow the podcast on social media traffic robot: on potential to build housing on car parks in England:
Today's episode is Part 1 of a series about how climate change is affecting our cities. There are four episodes in this series, coming out over the coming months, with a different topic for each.Today's topic is heat and I cover the following issues:What is "Degrees Warming"?Extreme heat / heatwaves (Case study: Paris)Water shortages (Case studies: Nigeria and England)Correlation between heat and increased crime ratesFuture episodes in this series will cover water (sea level rise and flooding), food and society. Follow/subscribe to the podcast to stay up to date! Follow us on social media for additional content and news. Follow the podcast on social media music by Tanoi of the facts and figures come from The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace Wells - an amazing book. Specific internet-based resources are shown below.Heat, Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report, Summary for Policy MakersWater,is%20influenced%20by%20several%20factors.Crime
Welcome to the Green Urbanist. The podcast for urbanists fighting climate change. I'm Ross.Today's episode is an interview with Giulia Mori. Giulia is a Senior Energy and Sustainability Consultant with Tuffin Ferraby Taylor in London. One of her areas of expertise is wellbeing in the built environment. The focus of our conversation is how architecture and urban design affects our health.Wellbeing is a huge topic. To keep this conversation to a reasonable length, we've chosen to focus on three topics: Air Quality, Thermal Comfort and Sedentary lifestyle. If you're unfamiliar with the term, Thermal Comfort is to do with how we experience temperature and the effect of this on our productivity and health.There are many many more aspects of wellbeing that we didn't have time to cover. For instance we didn't talk about nutrition, mental health, the importance of community or biophilia, our innate connection with the natural world. If you enjoy this episode, and you want to know more, Giulia can come back for another episode to talk about these topics.We are recording this in July 2020, when Covid-19 is still very much present in the world so we do talk about infectious disease towards the end of the podcast.Finally, just a point on some terminology. Giulia mentions two things you may be unfamiliar with - these are the Well Building Standard and the Fitwell standard. These are rating systems that you can follow when designing or retrofitting a building to make it as healthy as possible. A lot of what Giulia does is helping architects and developers to apply these standards to their buildings so they can be certified under Well or Fitwell. We don't go into depth on the standards, but just be aware that they exist as we do mention them in passing a few times.Contact Giulia on LinkedIn: the podcast on social media music by Tanoi
Many cities around the world have declared a climate emergency and have committed to reducing their carbon emissions to zero. But where should they start? How do cities make the transition from business as usual to meaningful action on climate change? In this episode, I discuss three actions that all cities need to take as they transition to carbon neutrality.Sources: the podcast on social media music by Tanoi
In this episode, I take a look at one scenario for Britain achieving zero carbon emissions put forward by the Centre for Alternative Energy (CAT) in their report called Zero Carbon Britain.CAT describe the report like this:"Incorporating work from the last 12 years of Zero Carbon Britain research and the latest scientific and technological developments, the report presents a technically feasible scenario showcasing a future Zero Carbon Britain using only proven technology."I present a summary of the report with a focus on the elements of most interest to urbanists. Think of it as a primer for understanding the high level actions that need to be taken as we transition to zero carbon emissions.Read the full report here: the podcast on social media music by Tanoi
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