Report: designing for a changing climate

Explore what we learned from the first year of our work into designing for a changing climate.

An architectural sketch of a high street and housing in a town centre with trees, grass and water running alongside it.

In 2019, we undertook a year of learning with four communities across Scotland into designing for a changing climate. This is an approach where practitioners use a whole-place approach to meet the net zero challenge.

By rethinking how we live, move about, support town centres and become more self-sufficient, we were able to consider different ways to reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change in Scotland’s places.

This report will be of interest to anyone involved in planning or developing places, including community members who want to make a difference on the ground.

This report covers:

  • the eight principles of a carbon conscious place and real-life examples
  • learning from the four communities involved
  • a vision for Scotland in 2050 that explores rural, town and urban carbon conscious places 

Resource: Designing for a Changing Climate – Carbon Conscious Places

Download our report to read the learning from our year-long exploration into designing for a changing climate.

Background: helping Scotland meet net zero

In 2019, the Scottish Government asked Architecture and Design Scotland (A&DS) to help implement the country’s Climate Change Plan and Act at a local level. The legislation commits Scotland to becoming a net zero society by 2045.

We recognised we could apply our sustainable design experience to help places achieve this target in practical and creative ways.

Over the year we worked with four local authorities on the development and delivery of local spatial plans. They were:

  • Moray Council
  • Shetland Islands Council
  • Glasgow City Council
  • Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Launch event: video

At the online launch of our report in October 2020 we shared learning from Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority and Shetland Islands Council. You can watch the recording of the launch here.

The eight principles of a carbon conscious place

The report introduces the eight principles of a carbon conscious place. The principles support a holistic approach to designing and adapting places to reduce, repurpose and absorb carbon. And they outline important concepts to consider when planning and developing places.

Read more
A colourful illustration of a wider region along a river, with wind turbines on the hill in the background and a small settlement in the foreground.

A guide not a manual

The report is not designed to be read as a manual. It does not suggest a fixed set of solutions for how to change places.

Instead it offers examples, principles and illustrations to help guide and inspire people to take a whole-place approach in responding to the climate emergency.

Press release quotes

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said: “I am extremely impressed by Architecture and Design Scotland leading the way nationally in regards to addressing the global climate emergency, driving forward a whole place approach with the ambitious Carbon Conscious Places initiative.

“I strongly support your ongoing exploration of how we design, plan and deliver places and how that relates to our national response to climate change, decarbonisation and health inequalities.”

A&DS Chief Executive Jim MacDonald said: “This report has been written during the Covid-19 pandemic. This experience has brought into focus the need for the local provision of services, improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure and the need for quality open space. The ideas offered in this report align strongly with the emerging thinking of a green recovery following the pandemic.

“Over the last decade, A&DS has collected intelligence on sustainable design. However, with the introduction of a target to be a net zero carbon society by 2045, we recognised we could both support and gain more understanding of the practical and creative ways places can help achieve this ambition.”

Read press release
An architectural sketch of people walking on a pathway and relaxing by a river beside a town centre.

Our work with small Scottish towns

We have been busy taking our year of learning to the next level. We are now working with local communities to support place-based climate action in a network of small Scottish towns.

And we are using this work to develop learning that can be applied in places across Scotland. Read more about our Climate Action Towns project.

Learn more

Image credits: Richard Carman

Share your place-based climate action

We would like to hear from communities and local authorities who are creating carbon conscious places. If you are designing and adapting a place to reduce, repurpose and absorb carbon, please share examples of your work with us.

Share your work