The best books on sustainable design from an architect

Who am I?

I am an architect, academic, and author, who is passionate about sustainable design. At London Metropolitan University I conduct design research on urban rewilding, and teach sustainable design to architecture and interior design students. I founded the Rewild My Street campaign, which aims to inspire and empower city residents to reverse biodiversity decline by transforming their homes, gardens, and streets for wildlife. My work combines my expertise in sustainable design; architectural-practice experience in housing, building conservation, and urban regeneration; and passion for wildlife. I am driven by designing and helping others design sustainable, biodiverse buildings, and cities.

I wrote...

Sustainability in Interior Design

By Sian Moxon,

Book cover of Sustainability in Interior Design

What is my book about?

The environmental impact of interior design practice is immense. This book highlights the need for designers to adapt the way they work and relearn lessons that have been lost. Sustainable design can be sophisticated and stylish. 

By its nature, a sustainable approach means considering the whole life cycle of a project and therefore improving the functionality, quality, human enjoyment, and bringing real social and economic benefits. A comprehensive reference book for anyone wanting to work in this area, this book has examples, techniques, and historical and contemporary case studies, all supported by useful resources and links. Moxon aims to introduce the ideas behind sustainability to students while they are formulating their understanding of the industry, encouraging and inspiring them with positive, creative and practical alternatives.

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The books I picked & why

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

Why did I love 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. 

By Simon Barnes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rewild Yourself as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For those readers who want to get closer to the nature all around them and bring it back into focus within their lives, this book is the ideal companion.

We're not just losing the wild world. We're forgetting it. We're no longer noticing it. We've lost the habit of looking and seeing and listening and hearing.

But we can make hidden things visible, and this book features numerous spellbinding ways to bring the magic of nature much closer to home.

Mammals you never knew existed will enter your world. Birds hidden in treetops will shed their cloak of anonymity. With…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Huw Heywood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 101 Rules of Thumb for Sustainable Buildings and Cities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Following the success of its enormously popular predecessor (101 Rules of Thumb for Low Energy Architecture) the next title in this pithy series nowfocuses our attention on the bigger picture in sustainability: the overarching design of our buildings and cities.

With ever-increasing pressure on the planet's ecosystems, resulting from population growth, urbanisation and climate change, people across the world are becoming more aware of the need for the cities they live and work in to be sustainable. Yet the issue of how to be sustainable - and what sustainability actually means - can seem a confusing and complex one.


Book cover of The Environmental Design Pocketbook

Why did I love 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.

By Sofie Pelsmakers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Environmental Design Pocketbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Environmental Design Pocketbook 2nd ed places the information you need for sustainable, low energy building design at your fingertips.

Packed with diagrams, tools and tips, it cuts through the complex mass of technical data and legislation that faces the designer, and distils all the key guidance into a single reference that is quick, easy to use and points to the facts, figures and performance data that are most important.

This 2nd edition is now fully up-to-date with the latest Building Regulations Part L and F legislation (England and Wales), RIBA Plan of Work 2013, new information on the Green…

The Man Who Planted Trees

By Jean Giono, Michael McCurdy (illustrator),

Book cover of The Man Who Planted Trees

Why did I love 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.

By Jean Giono, Michael McCurdy (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Man Who Planted Trees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Twenty years ago Chelsea Green published the first trade edition of The Man Who Planted Trees, a timeless eco-fable about what one person can do to restore the earth. The hero of the story, Elzeard Bouffier, spent his life planting one hundred acorns a day in a desolate, barren section of Provence in the south of France. The result was a total transformation of the landscape-from one devoid of life, with miserable, contentious inhabitants, to one filled with the scent of flowers, the songs of birds, and fresh, flowing water.

Since our first publication, the book has sold over a…

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 did I love 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.

By Carol Williams, Brian Murphy, Kelly Gunnell

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Design for Biodiversity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The creation of highly insulated and sealed buildings, necessitated by the shift towards designing and building low-carbon buildings, has had a negative effect on biodiversity. The potential niches for biodiversity such as spaces in open roof voids, generous overhangs and cracks and crevices that can be home for a wide range of birds, bats, insects and plants, are now being designed out through the desire to develop airtight buildings.

The first edition of this book showed how you can make provision for building-reliant species when designing new low or zero carbon buildings. This second edition remains true to that need…

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