To Richard Bubb, then starting a new job with Groundwork Black Country, 1992’s UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio seemed like an inflexion point, the start of a wider consensus on climate change. “Up until that point people had been talking about energy efficiency and saving energy but not particularly about the broader effects,” he recalls. In the ensuing years, the low carbon agenda would underpin more of Groundwork Black Country’s work: both in terms of frontline services such as the Green Doctor, and in a strategic sense, as part of a partnership which delivered a Climate Change Action Plan in Walsall – one of the first areas to do so.
Today, Richard’s work includes energy advice and assessments and is a Coach on the Pioneers into Practice programme. But he nearly didn’t even apply, deleting the first email because the programme looked too “easy and fun”, and feared that it wouldn’t fit around his work. However, after a conversation with Kate (Programme Co-ordinator), he was convinced that it was flexible and challenging enough to be worth a try.
Richard’s first placement was with Carillion, working to quantify emissions savings on the Birmingham Energy Savers project. He was of instant value to them, as he had skills and accreditations which enabled them to make progress on some key early pieces of work calculating the levels of carbon savings made. Notably, Richard helped to update some of the assessment models that Carillion were using when retrofitting tower blocks, which they still use today. “We developed some really good models for modelling the process of the energy assessments and how you can clone those legitimately across similar properties,” he recalls. “So if you’ve got a 12-storey block of flats, the corners, the top and the bottom are unique, but in the middle they are actually very similar, so you can clone and sample from those, and those were the processes we left at Carillion.”
While Richard feared that one month would not be long enough to make a real difference to his Host, the work enabled by his updated model had instantly noticeable results: a newly-insulated tower block with an efficient heating system saw the top floor tenants’ bills reduced from over £1,800 per year to just £300. As such, he was really optimistic when he arrived at his second placement with the University of Art and Design in Budapest on their ‘eco campus’ project. Initially, he was tasked with introducing an environmental management system – something he was already experienced in.
However, Richard realised that the task would need to change to better suit the needs of his international Host. “The task became about justifying the reasons why the University would want an environmental management system for the future, and what tasks needed to be done before then,” he explains.
This led him to rethink how environmental management systems were designed for creative learning environments. “One of the issues was that most of the literature in the UK is meant for SMEs, it’s a dry, theoretical approach. This was a creative University, so even they had said “yeah, come in and do it now!” the tools that existed then, and indeed now just weren’t applicable”.
Despite his initial reservations, Richard remains deeply involved with the Climate-KIC project: not only as a Pioneers into Practice coach, but also by exploring options under the Making Transitions Happen platform to continue the work he was doing in Budapest. From being worried that the programme would detract from his day job, Climate-KIC has become part of it. “It is invaluable for an organisation to suddenly be able to fund one of its volunteers for a piece of work that clearly needs doing: it benefits the organisation, and benefits the individual. They shouldn’t be afraid of doing it.”