The best books on sustainable design

The Books I Picked & Why

Rewild Yourself: Making Nature More Visible in Our Lives

By Simon Barnes

Book cover of Rewild Yourself: Making Nature More Visible in Our Lives

Why this book?

As designers, we should arguably take responsibility for the ecological footprint of our own lifestyles before we attempt to impose sustainable lifestyles on those who use the spaces we create. This book guides you through simple yet profound ways to reconnect with the natural world. Being in touch with nature yourself will help you design spaces that prioritise the natural world and connect people to it, even in the city. I have always loved Barnes’s nature of writing for its fundamental insights and poetic style. This has inspired my own ‘rewilding’ process, culminating in the creation of the Rewild My Street resource, which offers a design toolkit. 


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101 Rules of Thumb for Sustainable Buildings and Cities

By Huw Heywood

Book cover of 101 Rules of Thumb for Sustainable Buildings and Cities

Why this book?

The book is beautifully presented as a series of annotated diagrams, one for each rule of thumb. This is a very powerful communication tool for explaining principles of sustainable design that designers can understand and then apply to their own projects. The concepts span design considerations from the scale of the room to the city to the globe - benefiting interior designers, architects, landscape architects, and urban designers alike. I would urge all designers to create a sustainability diagram of every project during the design process.


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The Environmental Design Pocketbook

By Sofie Pelsmakers

Book cover of The Environmental Design Pocketbook

Why this book?

The book is a sustainable design bible, packed with technical information on environmental building features, illustrated with attractive sketches and detailed drawings. I read it cover to cover when I first started teaching sustainable design, but it can equally be dipped into for quick reference. It is particularly good on addressing climate change through domestic buildings and existing building retrofit, as well as giving appropriate weight to ecological issues, such as flood risk and biodiversity.


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The Man Who Planted Trees

By Jean Giono, Michael McCurdy

Book cover of The Man Who Planted Trees

Why this book?

Sustainable designers need hope and a sense of the long game to believe in their power to address the climate and ecological crises. This short book offers a message of hope through the story of a shepherd's quest to reforest his locality, showing how a place can be transformed through time and planning. The animated film version would appeal to children and adults. I always recommend this book to students and staff who take part in the tree-planting events I organise for London Metropolitan University.


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Design for Biodiversity: A Technical Guide for New and Existing Buildings

By Carol Williams, Brian Murphy, Kelly Gunnell

Book cover of Design for Biodiversity: A Technical Guide for New and Existing Buildings

Why this book?

Many books now address designing low-energy buildings to mitigate climate change, but few focus on designing buildings to benefit wildlife. Given the global biodiversity crisis and modern buildings’ lack of accidental gaps to shelter birds, bats, and insects, more guidance on safely incorporating wildlife habitat within buildings and outdoor spaces is crucial. This was one of the inspirations behind my urban-rewilding campaign, Rewild My Street.


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