Author Archive

The award-winning industry bible, EXTERNAL WORKS: to print or not to print? That was the question


Over 25 years of influence and expertise as the market leader and still going strong!

We recently undertook a survey to find out how many of you still use the EXTERNAL WORKS directory, either in its printed form (affectionately known as the industry bible) or via our website

The survey, which was sent to a wide range of professionals involved in external works and landscape projects, demonstrates that trusted, credible printed resources are still very much in demand when it comes to making decisions about who and what to work with.

Nearly 80% of you, who took part in the survey, confirmed that you still use printed copies of the EXTERNAL WORKS directory and 75% wanted to receive a new up-to-date directory.



The need to make urban water systems sustainable | video lecture


Part of University College London’s Lunch Hour Lectures.

Given by Dr Sarah Bell of the UCL’s Environment Institute

There’s also a 3 minute mini version available.

And if you haven’t got time for that than here’s the executive summary:

The big problems
– Overuse of water in cities in the developed world puts huge pressure on ecological systems and is not sustainable.
– The lack of basic sanitation and clean drinking water supply in cities in the developing world poses significant health risks

The solutions
– Widespread use of waterless sanitation (compostless toilets for example)
– The recycling of water for use in sanitation systems (rainwater harvesting for example)
– The redesign of appliances and houses to use less water, and, by implication, change the way we live

Innovation in street furniture


For older people


After the rain

1. For older people
Butters Innovation has worked closely with Jarrow based company Miko Engineering to launch a new range of outdoor seating designed with the ageing population in mind at Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health.

The newly designed seats help the elderly overcome problems faced when seating is too low, uncomfortable or difficult to use when walking with sticks or other aids.

2. After the rain
Turn the handle on the side of the bench and the seat will rotate to expose the dry side of the seat, and you will be able to sit down without getting wet. Designed by Sungwoo Park.


Back to the future


Out of the pavement

3. Back to the future
The WALL AG timescope lets the viewer gaze through a telescope that shows the past as well as the future. Viewers see the scene before them in different decades and states. The boundaries that separate the present, past, and future are dissolved. With timescope, history becomes alive and the future is just the blink of an eye away.

4. Out of the pavement
POP-UP is a result of a collaboration of Carmela Bogman and Rogier Martens. It can be pumped out of the pavement by local residents, and after use it can be lowered back into the pavement.

By using several sheets that can be fixed at any height, the choice is up to you whether you want to create a bench, a stage or a lounge area. The possibilities are endless. The Pop-Up blurs the boundaries between public and private.

FSC timber: worth its weight in wood?


Timber is obviously a key, and common, material within the landscaping and construction sector and I regularly see product literature and websites making liberal reference to FSC timber.

Forest - njj4 on Flickr

Forest - njj4 on Flickr

These references range from the reassuring,

All hardwoods are obtained with documentation as to the origin and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

to the rather more vague,

By xxxx we are committed to sourcing at least xx% of our timber from FSC certified sources.

or the slightly underwhelming commitment,

to sourcing FSC timber wherever possible.


In any case, whatever the statement, I am left with several questions.

What does FSC certification actually mean?
Is it worth anything?
And how can we be sure?


Soundscapes and urban design


Susan Philipz won the 2010 Turner Prize with a sound installation in an empty room at the Tate Britain. Reading that the piece – Lowlands Away – was first ‘performed’ under three bridges (the George V, the Caledonian Bridge, and the Glasgow over the River Clyde in Glasgow) set me thinking about sound and urban design.


Maps, walking and public spaces


After re-reading an earlier post of ours on walkability, I came across the Communities of Foot programme in Edmonton, Canada.

The authorities have sent a new walking map to 13,000 residents in the north of the city to encourage them to explore their local area on foot.


Urban green: trees and the city

Trees, London

Ed.ward on Flickr

I was reading BLDBLOG on crypto-forestry in the Netherlands and was wondering if anything quite as exciting might exist in the UK.


Kinetic energy and the urban landscape, part 3

Pavegen power generating slabs

Pavegen power generating slabs

Having considered the use of solar power and wind power as sources of energy for the urban landscape I was intrigued by the recent publicity for kinetic energy.

Pavegen has designed a slab which moves (<5mm) with each footstep which lands on it. The slab harnesses the kinetic energy, converting it to electricity which is stored by lithium batteries contained within the slab or supplied immediately to street or pavement lights.

Robaid reports that:

The average square of pavement produces about 2.1 watts of electricity. And according to Pavegen, any one square of pavement in a high-foot traffic area can see 50,000 steps a day. Based on this data, only five units of Pavegen pavement can be enough to keep the lights on at a bus stop all night.

And says:

The system from Pavegen makes a lot of sense in very busy public areas as it will constantly be generating energy which will no doubt mean the system pays for itself very quickly and then continues to cut energy costs, the need for extended power wires and carbon emissions.

Pavegen isn’t the only idea focused on kinetic energy.

Piezoelectric flooring, Tokyo

Piezoelectric flooring, Tokyo

JR East has installed a piezoelectric floor at their Tokyo Station which harvests the kinetic energy generated by footsteps. They expect the 25 square metre installation to generate 1,400kW/sec per day, which would be sufficient to operate the automatic ticket gates and display systems.

And there’s POWERleap which is another piezoelectric flooring system that generates electricity. There are applications in public spaces, retail environments and offices, although it’s the dance floor one that garnered most attention.

Crime and the city

CCTV cameras

CCTV cameras - AndyRob on Flickr

In her book, Ground Control, Anna Minton argues that the privatisation of public space and (the fear of) crime has increased problems within British cities. It’s a very readable polemic, and encouraged me to pull together resources on some of the issues she covers.

Does CCTV cut crime?

• There’s the ‘it works’ angle – The National CCTV Strategy from the Home Office.
• There’s the ‘it doesn’t work’ argument – No CCTV – the campaign against CCTV.
• And there’s the civil liberties debate – Henry Porter being a leading proponent.

There’s not that much hard evidence. The best source is probably from The Campbell Collaboration. Their 2008 report studied the evidence from 44 separate studies.

It concluded that:

CCTV had a modest but significant desirable impact on crime rates. In particular, CCTV was most effective against vehicle crimes in parking lots – crime decreased by half in car parks covered by CCTV compared to those without cameras.

CCTV worked best when it was combined with other interventions such as improved street lighting.

The reviewers conclude that CCTV is an effective crime prevention measure in public spaces, but, in contrast to its current broad application, should focus only on the specific targets against which it is shown to be most effective.

£500m was spent on CCTV between 1996 and 2006. Was this good value? If not, could some / all of that money have been spent elsewhere. Minton says ‘No’ and ‘Yes’, by the way.

Urban design and crime

Another of Minton’s themes is the difference between actual crime levels and fear of crime.

I picked up on an interesting Swedish programme via the European Designing Out Crime Network.

Safety and security walks are:

… a structured method that involves people in the local community in investigating both the physical and social environments. The basic idea is that those who live and are active in the local community have the greatest knowledge of it and that it is important to make use of this fact.

Creating a feeling of security, preventing crime and accessibility are important perspectives to take into account in this work. During a walk, people also meet, which in itself creates a sense of security.

A note is made of locations and areas that are felt to be insecure or at risk of becoming the scene of a crime as well as the actual physical circumstances contributing towards the problems. The process involves formulating proposals for solutions and the safety and security inventory can later form the basis for both big and small measures.

This chimes with Minton’s argument that crime and the fear of crime is diminished when public spaces are actively used by communities rather than being ‘protected’ by technological solutions, such as CCTV or gated communities, that isolate people from each other.

There’s various case studies on the PDF – you can download it here.

Renewable energy sources and street furniture, part 2

Santorini wind / solar hybrid street lamp

Santorini wind / solar hybrid street lamp

Having looked previously at solar power and street furniture I thought it might be interesting to explore other renewables and street furniture.

Urban Green Energy produces the Santorini wind / solar hybrid street lamp which combines a 600W wind turbine and 80W solar panels to ensure continuous street light. There is no need to connect the lamp to the mains, although more powerful models can and the excess energy sold onto the gird.

Ningbo Sunflower Solar Technology Co is one of various Chinese manufacturers with similar systems in production.

Haneum Lee has designed the Gaon street light which is powered by food waste. Designed for busy pedestrian environments, people bin their waste in the compartment at the base of the lighting column. The composting process generates methane which is used to power the lights.

There’s also the Energy Seed, an LED bollard powered by discarded alkaline batteries. ‘The unit combines any left over juice from all the batteries to power a super efficient LED ring.’

Energy Seed

Energy Seed

APT Controls’ solar and wind powered rising arm barrier avoids the cost and disruption associated with providing a mains supply. APT links it in with the UK’s government desire that all schools are sustainable by 2020.

Finally Westotec offers solar and / or wind powered, vehicle activated, road safety signage. Again, the key selling point is avoiding the cost and disruption of a mains connection.

ESI references: