We believe in The Climate Crisis

We want to be part of the solution

Sustainability Statement – February 2023


We believe in The Climate Crisis and want to be part of the solution. We feel it’s so important it’s firmly embedded as one of the core values of our company. Good sustainability isn’t just about designing and delivering environmentally friendly buildings it’s also about how we, as a business, operate and manage our activities.

This is our company statement so far and outlines our sustainability goals, our current approach and attitude. We understand we are on a journey and the destination is still some way in the future. We also recognise we are not perfect; we are falling short and need to improve in many ways. We will be reviewing and updating our Sustainability Strategy each year and aim to improve it, year on year.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out in September 2019, ‘the climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win’.

Sustainability Goals

  1. Continue designing and constructing amazing buildings that have a low impact on the planet and society.
  2. Operate a successful business that has a low environmental impact.
  3. Raise awareness and try to work with customers, collaborators, manufacturers, suppliers and other stakeholders, who also share this vision of low environmental impact.
  4. Ensure that every design and business decision made is underpinned by how it will affect society and environment positively, in the short term and the long term.
  5. Become a Certified B Corp.
  6. Become a genuine carbon neutral company, possibly a carbon negative company, if this is realistic and feasible.
  7. Establish a sustainability road map with certainty about how and when to achieve these goals. We will probably need to enlist the help of a specialist consultant to complete this.

United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals [SDG’s]

We support and wish to help achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals [SDG’s] of the United Nations. These are:


1 – No Poverty
2 – Zero Hunger
3 – Good Health and Well-being
4 – Quality Education
5 – Gender Equality
6 – Clean Water and Sanitation


7 – Affordable and Clean Energy
8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth
9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10 – Reduced Inequalities
11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities


12 – Responsible Consumption and Production
13 – Climate Action
14 – Life below Water
15 – Life on Land
16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
17 – Partnerships for the Goals

Sustainable Architecture – our journey so far

Many years ago, during the architectural education and studies of Ikonografik Design director, Nathan Oliver, in the 1990’s, it was becoming obvious that buildings consumed huge amounts of energy and emitted significant amounts of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases. This concerned Nathan and he wanted to help reduce this. While at The University of Huddersfield there was an optional study module called ‘Low Energy Design’ and Nathan chose it to find out more and how to help. Nathan felt so strongly about this that his undergraduate dissertation concerned low energy, specifically limits to domestic energy conservation. Interestingly, the biggest discovery at that time from his dissertation was that the biggest limit to energy conservation was energy management and the overlooked issue is often embodied energy. The biggest problem is often that end users of buildings rarely use the energy they have, wisely or well, simple changes to human behaviour and mindset can often result in the biggest benefits. This was possibly several years before the Passivhaus standards for design and build formally existed in the UK.

After graduating and entering the real world of work in the late 1990’s Nathan tried to promote the benefits of low energy design and construction to his peers and colleagues. Nathan quickly discovered that many people weren’t interested or didn’t understand the benefits or need for this ‘new’ way of doing things, especially as the cost of the building works usually increased. As a result of this Nathan’s interest felt a bit stifled, he pulled back on promoting the benefits of low energy design and continued to work on large scale commercial buildings. These buildings were [still are] constructed from vast amounts of concrete, steel, glass, plastics and aluminium etc. often obtained from petrochemicals, where the bare minimum was done to comply with the Building Regulations. Nathan decided to qualify as a Chartered Environmentalist in 2009 to continue to show his commitment to promoting low energy building design and trying to help the environment.

When establishing Ikonografik Design properly in 2011 [following redundancy during the ‘credit crunch’ recession fallout from 2008] Nathan reassessed the need and desire for low energy buildings and decided to make this a key part of the business approach moving forwards. Nathan attempts to promote low energy design and construction to all of the Ikonografik Design projects, whether this is a retrofit / remodel or extension or new build. This forms a big part of the briefing process from the initial consultation all the way through to construction and hand over. Nathan has discovered that for many people they are simply not aware of best practice or the best way to do things. A lot of time is spent educating clients, contractors and suppliers, usually on the best way to prioritise, arrange and build things so that energy use is reduced – during construction and during operation.


Coherent Retrofit

Something that is often missed is that an existing building may not need to be extended or a new building built from scratch to create the extra space desired. An existing building may just need to be reconfigured and remodelled. There is often the perception that more space is better but building more space costs more money and also costs more in environmental impact. Key issue to consider is that we can often function perfectly well with the space we already have, albeit laid out slightly differently. Sometimes it’s better to remodel what’s already there than to build afresh. Retaining existing buildings and reusing as opposed to demolishing and rebuilding is often a more energy efficient way of doing things as the amount of energy used to build is reduced. This isn’t always the case and individual circumstances need to be considered on a case by case basis. Therefore, when remodelling and reconfiguring existing spaces it’s really important these are improved with energy efficient upgrades as part of a coherent and considered retrofit strategy. If refurbishing individual rooms there are often easy ways to upgrade parts like exposed floors, walls, roofs, glazing and unused chimneys into a remodelling project.

PAS 2035 / 2030 is the recommended standard for retrofitting to dwellings and is published by the British Standards Institution. At the moment PAS 2035 / 2030 is not mandatory for private dwellings but it is mandatory for public dwellings such as social housing etc. It is likely it will probably become mandatory in the future for private dwellings but will likely be difficult to control and police. We are currently contemplating whether or not we should become PAS 2035 / 2030 certified Retrofit Designers. It’s likely that PAS 2035 will become mandatory at some point over the next few years and being able to provide services that align with the intention of PAS 2035 is probably well worth doing.

Post Occupancy Evaluation is something that needs to happen on every project, to assess energy use before and after occupation.

Over the last few years sustainability has been promoted a lot more heavily, mainly by the independent organisations, government and some industries. Legislation has been tightened up and pledges apparently made by governments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Coupled with the rising costs of living and the fragility of reliable energy supplies, these have all sharpened people’s awareness and understanding of the climate crisis.

The minimum legislative requirements, that are improving all the time, are a good minimum target to aim for. More can often be done though [needs to be done really] to provide truly sustainable buildings, that consume even less energy or zero energy, by exceeding and going past the minimum legislative standards. However, this approach, while admirable, often means the capital cost of these buildings is a lot higher, when compared to the baseline minimum under current legislation. We see this approach as essentially paying for your current energy bills up front, during the build process. Some people are fortunate enough to have the wealth to be able to spend more money up front achieving a better low energy building. Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury. Super energy efficient buildings are often not affordable for ordinary people unless provided by the government. A pragmatic approach has therefore been taken to help clients do something and not do anything, no matter how small, that improves energy efficiency, ideally coupled with a full building and lifestyle assessment so a future phased retrofit or upgrade can be completed, together with opportunity for end user behaviour changes.

There is often a lot of scientific theory behind a building design, but these theoretical models often fall short in practice once constructed. The designed energy use is often exceeded once the building is completed and in operation. Post Occupancy Evaluation is something that needs to happen on every project, to assess energy use before and after occupation. Any problems can then be rectified for current projects and addressed for future projects, so the same mistakes are not being made again. This is one area we are falling short on, and we need to start completing this more diligently.


We are now trying hard to specify materials that have a low environmental impact from manufacture and can be easily recycled.

As a homeowner of a fairly typical 1930’s house, that was purchased in 2011, without any insulation and the original single glazed windows, we understand the costs, challenges and disruption that occurs. We are part of the way through a phased, full house retrofit, not to Passivhaus / EnerPHit standards, mainly as we can’t afford to, but also the loss of internal room space taken up by internal wall insulation is too big. There is already a large reduction in energy use, energy is being monitored and recorded each month. Other big benefits that have been observed, is that occupant comfort and health levels have increased, as the building retains heat for longer, super important ventilation is controlled, which means the house is nicer to live in. It really does make a difference.

In house ad hoc research has also been conducted, while specifying materials for many projects, on the embodied energy of certain materials. A lot of the regular products on the market often use up a lot of energy during manufacture and transport to the final building site or are manufactured from environmentally harmful raw materials. Such materials are poured concrete, structural steelwork, concrete blocks, clay bricks, foamed insulation board like Kingspan or Celotex [that are obtained from petrochemical fossil fuels], vinyl flooring, plastics + many more. Some of these products also release harmful Volatile Organic Compounds [VOC’s] back into the building and can have a negative effect on the occupant’s heath. Furthermore many readily available products are not non-combustible and fire safe.

Having reflected on this we are now trying hard to specify materials that have a low environmental impact from manufacture and can be easily recycled at the end of the building lifespan, if the building is no longer suitable for reuse and upgrading. A lot of these low impact materials have often been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and form the backbone of traditional construction methods and techniques. These are essentially organic or bio-based materials with minimal processing, like timber [if sustainably sourced], stone, lime mortar, lime plaster, lime render, solid limecrete floors, metal cladding, wood fibre insulation, cork insulation, sheeps wool insulation, hemp insulation, mycelium insulation, straw insulation building systems, cellulose insulation, recycled glass, natural paints and finishes, etc. There almost seems to be a reversal back to traditional materials, before the industrial revolution went global.

Interestingly enough, many of the organic materials release low or zero VOC’s so generally create a far healthier building for the occupants and increases occupant wellbeing. We are fully aware that the preventing the use of certain materials is not possible, like plastics and sealants, there is a place for some of these materials as the benefits outweigh their negative qualities, it’s about trying to reduce their use and our over reliance on them. Perhaps in the future there might be the opportunity to use bio-based plastics made from plants that are biodegradable. Many of these organic materials are sometimes more resistant to fire and safer all round.


Sustainable Business Operations – our journey so far

As you can tell we are probably quite clued up about how to design and construct low environmental impact buildings although there is room for improvement. However, we are not as clued up about how to operate the business sustainably and this needs a major improvement.

We need to operate a successful business that has a low environmental impact, to raise awareness and try to work with customers, collaborators, manufacturers, suppliers and other stakeholders, who also share this vision of low environmental impact.

We don’t just want to talk about it though, we want to walk it and show that we are completing this and making progress with evidence that is easily available.

Part of this process will be to ask and check with customers, collaborators, manufacturers, suppliers and other stakeholders about how they are reducing their impact on the environment and to ascertain if they actually care or not.

A full business process audit and assessment needs to be completed to identify where improvements can be made. This is a goal for 2023.


Current Conclusion

We know we need to do more and are starting to address the problematic areas.

Key actions for 2023 are:

  • Start to complete Post Occupancy Evaluation on completed projects and see where corrections and changes need to be made moving forwards.
  • Try to check with customers, collaborators, manufacturers, suppliers and other stakeholders about how they are reducing their impact on the environment and to try and discern if they actually care or not.  We then need to make an assessment about suitability for working together in the future.
  • To employ an independent energy consultant to help us map out and guide us to achieve the business operation goals.

If what we are saying resonates with you, we’d love to meet you and have a conversation…

…click the ‘Let’s talk’ button, send us a quick message and we’ll get back in touch soon to arrange a meeting.


References + Credits

United Nations website, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Sustainable Development

United Nations website, The Climate Crisis – A race we can win

Passivhaus background and further information


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