Scholarly biography and interests

Duncan Baker-Brown's work interrogates the potential of sustainable development, looking to whether it is possible to develop contemporary buildings in an environmentally benign manner and whether this challenges notions of economic and aesthetic viability. With projects such as the Brighton Waste House, Duncan creates examples of community practice that, through the use of innovative techniques such as ‘resource mapping’ can redefine what local materials are and match them with local skills and trades. Perhaps this can form the beginnings of a new local architectural identity.

A primary feature of Duncan Baker-Brown's design work is the reduced dependence on fosil fuels as well as a consideration of the sources of materials for the construction and other industries. Architectural projects have been delivered using locally sourced, non-toxic, organic materials to ensure healthy buildings with small ‘carbon/ ecological footprints’. A number of the materials specified by BBM, such as Sweet Chestnut Glue-Lam beams and cladding were used for the first time in the construction industry.

Baker-Brown is particularly interested in developing an new architectural language borne out of an aspiration towards sustainable development, merging with issues of how we live our lives today. He believes architects should engage with the ‘nature’ of the place they are sited as well as to a brief and programme. Through his practice Baker-Brown has focused on projects that demonstrate ways of translating a combination of local ‘grown’ materials and local ‘waste’ materials from the surrounding landscape into architectural form. This research focus manifests itself in built architectural projects, writings, supervision of MAs at The Universities of Brighton and East London where he ran the MA in Sustainable Design for 3 years, as well as a touring exhibition of the work of BBM entitled ‘Built Ecologies: Translating landscape into architecture’. 

Duncan Baker-Brown has taught at the University of Brighton since 1994, where he and his BBM colleagues have taught in both undergraduate and postgraduate design studios. The relationship between teaching, research and architectural practice is an important one, testing emerging ideas through both office-based and student design projects. In 1996 he set up R.E.D. (Research into Environments and Design) with colleagues Sue Wolff, Ian McKay and Professor Susannah Hagan.

His work in education informs his interest in the devleopment of collaborative and community working methods. BBM Architects have delivered many workshops in primary and secondary schools considering issues around three dimensional design, the relationship between art and architecture (in partnership with Artists from Tate Modern’s Education Dept.), and sustainable design.

This work has profoundly affected the working methods of his practice and the Waste House project at Brighton was a testament to the potential of a building project to fully engage the local community. School pupils, students and apprentices were onsite working as builders and documentary-makers. There was also an active community collection of household and industrial "waste" to be tested as building materials in the development.

In practice since 1983, Baker-Brown studied part-time while working for architectural practices in London. From 1991 - 1993 he worked in London for Rick Mather Architects on award winning ‘low energy’ student accommodation blocks for the University of East Anglia and Keble College, Oxford.

While working for RMA, Baker-Brown collaborated with Ian McKay on the winning scheme for the RIBA ‘House of the Future’ competition. He was responsible for delivering the built project in 1994. This unique experience involved the specification and design of a building that adhered to an extremely low energy sustainable brief. The experience gained with Futurehouse and at RMA ensured that BBM had the means and ability to deliver genuinely sustainable buildings such as the award-winning Priory Neighbourhood Centre in Hastings and Romney Warren Visitors Centre. He has successfully negotiated Technology Strategy Board (TSB)-sponsored 'Retrofit the Future projects' in partnership with Professor Andrew Miller and Mischa Hewitt of the Low Carbon Trust.

Baker-Brown curated a three day seminar ’The WasteZone’ ( with colleague Nick Gant considering waste as a potential resource for (re) manufacture. This event was held at EcoBuild ( and included Baker-Brown’s 9m high ‘Waste Totem’ ( built by students and apprentices.

Baker-Brown lectures widely on issues relating to sustainable development in the design and construction industry. He has recently published a number of peer reviewed papers focusing on the challenges presented by designing architecture in an emerging 'Circular Economy’. He sits on a number of design panels including the South Downs Nation Park Design Review Panel.

In 2017 Baker-Brown published a book, 'The Re-Use Atlas: a designers guide towards the circular economy'. He has recently presented a number of peer reviewed papers and keynote addresses at conferences around the UK and Europe.

How I like to teach

My teaching is focused on practice and technology in the undergraduate architecture programme. As a vocational subject, practice forms an important part of teaching architecture and provides a context to academic study. Students are engaged in a complete process by working on their own design projects, from a feasibility study stage, through building regulations application, to getting the design built and then on to post-occupancy evaluation.

Workshop sessions enable students to feel they are in a professional studio practice. We use an official planning portal so that they learn how scheme proposals are submitted for planning approval and we bring in experts including heads of planning and building control, helping to create a vibrant environment. As part of their assessment, students reflect on what they are doing and why, helping them to understand the value of the workshops and the practice modules.

The use of the Waste House, as a ‘live’ project has taken students from the design stage through to construction and has now become a ‘live’ monitoring project. It has been valuable in providing answers to many of the kind of questions that students may ask. They have had to make real decisions about how the project could move forward, engage with students from other backgrounds, contractors, builders and volunteers. Through such projects, students are able to learn how to deliver really good design ideas and to negotiate effectively. Students are also able to work in a knowledge transfer partnership with a company pioneering lightweight growing, or ‘meadow’, roofs which draws together academic, practice and the commercial worlds.

Architecture is very much about communicating ideas and concepts and it’s important to inspire students through the subjects we talk about. Design journals often perpetuate the idea of the architect as a lone voice, but the reality is that people working on the ground are collaborating and discussing projects with other practitioners, engineers, and environmental scientists. It is always about collaboration and, for this reason, I encourage students to work in teams.

I expect my students to be good researchers, and not to just ‘Google’ subjects, but learn to research, understand and enjoy what they are doing. I always tell students that “Doing architecture badly is hard work, and doing architecture well is hard work”, so there is no soft option.

I think a good teacher is someone who is also a good learner and who acts as a facilitator. I may have more experience in particular areas, but I’m also willing to learn from others. It is a matter of working with the students, understanding their backgrounds, their knowledge and being able to build projects around a particular cohort of students and testing their collective knowledge. In this way, my research and the students’ research come together. I enjoy the moment when I can say to my students “Guys you know more about this [particular area] than I do”.

Featured works and projects

Original architectural eco-design

The Brighton Waste House

The development of a ‘living laboratory’ for ecological architectural design.

The Nook: 3 Lover's Walk, Brighton

The Nook

Investigating the potential for an 80% decrease in household carbon emissions.


St Pancras School

A project designing and delivering low energy low impact buildings with small ‘ecological footprints.

Flax and Hemp seed

Sustainable bio & textile waste resources for the construction industry

VA France (Channel) England European Territorial Cooperation program SB & WRC

Related news items

Waste House wins top awards

The University of Brighton Faculty of Arts project takes two national awards.

15 Jul 2014

20,000 Toothbrushes for Waste House project

Gatwick Airport donates airline waste to building project.

25 Nov 2013

Duncan Baker-Brown

Green Award for Waste House Project

Duncan Baker-Brown collects achievement award at Argus ceremony.

09 Oct 2013

Green Pavilion in Brighton

Green Pavilion 2011

Faculty of Arts students construct a green pavilion for graduate show

16 May 2011

Kevin McCloud

Kevin McCloud writes on Brighton's new eco building

The Channel 4 architectural commentator continues his funding appeal for The House that Kevin Built.

12 Jan 2011

Research Activity

Repository holdings

Number of items: 9.

Baker-Brown, Duncan (2017) The Re-Use Atlas: a designer's guide towards a circular economy RIBA Publishing, London. ISBN 9781859466445

Baker-Brown, Duncan and Evans, Lee (2016) Investigating the benefits of Swiss lightweight organic meadow roofs in the green retrofit construction sector In: Sustainable Innovation 2016: Circular Economy Innovation Conference, University for the Creative Arts Epsom Surrey KT18 5BE UK.

Baker-Brown, Duncan (2016) Developing the Brighton waste house: from zero waste to on site re-use of waste In: Sustainable Built Environment Conference 2016 in Hamburg: Strategies, Stakeholders, Success factors, University of the Built Environment Hamburg Germany, 7-11 March 2016.

Baker-Brown, Duncan (2015) Transforming THTKB into the Brighton Waste House In: ‘State of the Art’ Sustainable Innovation & Design, University for the Creative Arts, Epsom, Surrey, UK, 9-10 November 2015.

Baker-Brown, Duncan (2015) Architecture matters - an exploration towards a circular economy In: Innovation Kongress 2015 Power of Innivation, Villach, Austria, 13 November 2015.

Baker-Brown, Duncan (2013) The Brighton Waste House [Design]

Baker-Brown, Duncan (2011) The Nook [Design]

Baker-Brown, Duncan (2008) The House That Kevin Built [Design]

Baker-Brown, Duncan (2005) St Pancras School DfES Innovation Unit.

This list was generated on Mon Sep 10 03:40:21 2018 BST.

 Selected further activity and practice

Conferences, lectures and seminars 


  • Baker-Brown was invited to give a keynote presentation entitled 'The Re-Use Atlas: an exploration towards a circular economy' to Arup Deutschland Gmbh Foresight research group in Frankfurt.
  • Baker-Brown presented a peer reviewed ‘Developing the Brighton Waste House’ paper at SBE 16 Hamburg an International Conference on Sustainable Built Environment Hamburg March 2016
  • Baker-Brown chaired six debates discussing issues relating to design and the circular economy at EcoBuild 2016 #BuildCircular Theatre for RESOURCE 2016 the worlds leading resource efficiency conference.
  • Baker-Brown was invited to give a keynote address at Ulster University's Research Graduate School Conference on 2nd March 2016. Baker-Brown discussed the pedagogical methods that informed projects associated with the Brighton Waste House


  • UBM’s Resource 2015 Conference ExCel London Baker-Brown was invited to chair discussion in The Circular Economy in construction including specification, material choices, and the future lifecycle of buildings. Contributers included Ignasi Cubina, Eco Intelligent Growth/  Gareth Brown, Programme Area Manager, WRAP/ Dr Julian Allwood, Director, UK INDEMAND Centre/ Steve Cook, Principle Sustainable Development Manager, Willmott Dixon
  • Baker-Brown was invited to give a keynote address ‘Sustainability Challenges us’ at the launch of the Supply Chain Sustainability School’s new ‘Homes School national network of top tier contractors. Venue: RIBA HQ Portland Place London
  • Baker-Brown was invited to give a keynote address  ‘Architecture Matters' at the 'Innovation Kongress 2015' towards a circular economy’ in Villach Austria


  • Sussex Training Consortium (STC) ( have invited Baker-Brown to present two talks in one afternoon on University of Brighton premises (Mithras House) 
  • Sustainability. A waste of space?‘How to turn linear metabolisms into circular ones. Keynote address at this evening of provocative and progressive thinking facilitated by Blond Ideas Group - a Global Innovation agency with a reputation for challenging the status quo 
  • Planners In Sussex Event held at The Brighton Waste House presented to over 30 Senior Planning Officers Building the Brighton Waste House


  • 'There’s no such thing as waste’, ‘Negotiating The Green Deal', Green Register Brighton.


  • 'Practical ways to deliver low impact buildings'. Bricks & Bread Eco Innovation and Bioregional 'Green Deal & Sustainable Retrofit Workshop.
  • 'It's easy being green'. Keynote address at Green Architecture Day Brighton and Over the Moon Festival.
  • 'The Key Steps to Sustainable Self-build'. Grand Designs Life London.
  • 'There's no such thing as waste', Let's Do Business, Brighton Racecourse.
  • 'Retrofit Sustainability' Constructing Excellence Bioscience Building.
  • 'Cool Cheap Green' RIBA South & South East, THRESHOLD and 100% Design, London.
  • 'The lie about sustainable design' RSA & University of Brighton.
  • 'A conversation about conservation' The Brighton Regency Society.


  • 'Why rebuild The House That Kevin Built?', Grand Designs Live London. Presented with Kevin McCloud.
  • 'Retread' retrofit case studies and principles, Grand Designs Live London.
  • 'Retread' Part One: Practical ways to deliver low impact buildings'. Green Register 'Becoming an Eco-Refurbisher', London.
  • 'Principles of Sustainable Construction' Barcombe Energy Fair.
  • 'Eco-Retrofit in Brighton' SPONGE Event Huxley Building, University of Brighton.
  • 'Practical ways to deliver low impact buildings' Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce Group Group, CIBSE South East.
  • ‘Becoming an Eco Refurbisher’, London, workshops for practitioners/contractors/ clients who have interest in eco refurbishment. 
  • 'Retread - Practical ways to deliver sustainable development’ at Ecobuild at Earles Court, and National College for Leadership of Schools & Children's Services in Harrogate. 
  • ‘Becoming an Eco Refurbisher’, Manchester, London, workshops for practitioners/contractors/ clients who have interest in eco refurbishment.
  • Green Architecture Day keynote address organised by The Brighton Permaculture Trust (Sponsored by Bioregional Quintain), Brighton. Discussed issues/ themes that influence the practice of sustainable design, followed up with case studies of urban and architectural solutions.
  • 'Retread' retrofit case studies and principles at Green Register, London, West Sussex Design Commission Coastal Residency, EcoBuild 2010 'Urban Planning and the Public Realm' and Lewes District Council Planning Department.


  • ‘How to make non-domestic building green’, Chair. Organised by RIBA South East & The Low Carbon Trust. Aimed at practitioners, registered social landlords, local authority councillors and officers. Thistle Hotel Brighton
  • ‘Green Architecture Day’ Keynote address. Grand Parade in Sallis Benney Theatre. Organised by Brighton Permaculture Trust & Brighton & Hove City Council, discussed principles behind the ideas of reducing the ecological footprint of construction projects. See: for list of speakers.
  • National College for School Leadership (NCSL) ‘NCSL BSF Leadership Programme Phase Three’ Workshop considering low energy design solutions for new and existing buildings, London.
  • National College for School Leadership (NCSL) ‘NCSL BSF Leadership Programme Phase Three’ Conference. Keynote speech focused on our collective need to reduce consumption; to consider ways we can reduce our ecological footprint from that of a ‘four society to that of a single planet society, Stratford upon Avon.
  • ‘Working with Indigenous materials’ and ‘Solar Thermal In Practice’, ECOBUILD 2009, Earle’s Court, London
  • 'Retread' 'What's Next for Sustainability?' Paper that considered ways in which individuals or groups can upgrade our existing building stock to reduce energy consumption and meet new government targets of reducing CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 Prepared by CABE and The Kent Architecture Centre. Held in The New Library and the Corn Exchange Rochester,Chaired by The Earl of Lytton and Chris Lamb of The Kent Architecture Centre.


  • ‘Sustainable Construction: Are we there yet?’ The National College for School Leadership (NCSL). Lecture/ workshop to head teachers, school governors, Novotel West London. 
  • ‘Green Retrofit for Housing’ Organised by RIBA South East & The Low Carbon Trust. DBB chaired the conference for the day. Aimed at practitioners, registered social landlords, local authority councillors and officers. 
  • ‘Sustainable Construction: Are we there yet?’ Prepared by The Green Register & RIBA and held at The HG Wells Centre Woking.Lecture focusing on a number of built architectural case studies from the last 15 years. The presentation considered how the practice of low carbon construction had evolved over the last 20 years or so. 


  • 'Sustainable Design 2006', 5 December, Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London 
  • 'Ecobuild Building a Sustainable Future', 22 - 23 February, Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London 
  • 'Creating Sustainable Design', No.4 Hamilton Place, London W1.
  • ‘Building Schools for the Future', organised by DfES, QEII Hall, Westminster
  • The Department of Children, Schools and Families (formerly DfES) will be publishing an interactive DVD describing the design and construction process.

Books & Publications 


  • The Re-Use Atlas: a designers guide towards the circular economy with RIBA Publishing Ltd written by Baker-Brown and will be published in 2017


  • June 2014 ‘The Future of Construction’ an ‘op ed’ ‘opinion’ essay written by Baker-Brown for Raconteur – part of a special 11 page pull out magazine issued with The Times Newspaper           
  • April 2014 ‘Retrofit the Future: Reducing Energy Use in existing homes’ research document published by Innovate UK (formerly TSB) including Baker-Brown’s ‘The Nook’ retrofit case study


  • November 2013 ‘Residential Retrofit: 20 Case Studies’ by Marion Baeli, published by RIBA Publishing, including BBM’s ‘The Nook’ retrofit project on page 48 ISBN 9781859465011


  • The News Modern House: Redefining Functionalism by Jonathan Bell and Ellie Shtathaki. Published by Laurance King, ISBN: 9781856696845. Features Baker-Brown's design for a new house, Sparrow House, Lewes. 


  • Eco-House by Barbara Linz published by H.F.Ullmann (Tandem VerlagGmbH) 2009, ISBN: 978-3-8331-5465-2. 'Pinwell House' pp 102-105. In German, English and French
  • Our Space Published by Willingdon Community School and printed by Generation Press, 2009. ISBN: 973-3-8331-5465-2. Records a project to build a pavilion at Willingdon Community School near Eastbourne with Sculptor Will Nash


  • ‘The Bridge Community Centre Hastings’ in Sustainable Architecture, p.144-145 Edited by David Turrent Published by RIBA Publishing. ISBN 978 -1-85946-257-7.


  • 'Sparrowhouse' featured in Wood Houses by Ruth Slavid, Abbeville press.

Periodicals, and other publications


  • FREEGLE & The Waste House Juliet Millican for CUPP, University of Brighton. 20 side mini book. 
  • The architectural works of BBM Sustainable Design 1994-2014 an idea for a monograph to by published by RIBA Publishing:


  • 'Sustainable Construction - sustainable strategies for the built world'. RIBA Journal. September.
  • Waste House by BBM is "UK's first permanent building made from rubbish" published in online design magazine Dezeen, 19 June, 2014. 
  • 'The Future of Construction' an 'op ed' opinion essay for Raconteur. Eleven page pull-out magazine issued with The Times newpaper, June.



  • ‘New Arts + Science Building for Lewes School’, Green Building Transitional Edition Volume 17, No.1 Summer p.8 ISSN 1-357-759X.


  • p.70-74 ‘New Art + Science Wing for St.Pancras School’ featured in School Building February/March. Issue 14 ISSN 1-745-6703.

Curated events

  • EcoBuild 2013ExCel London. Baker-Brown & Gant jointly design, install and curate ‘The WasteZone’ a three-day seminar event involving quest speakers as well as the hosts presenting discussions on a wide range of issues considering ways of turning waste into a valuable resource. ‘Trashed’ a film made with Jeremy Irons was premiered at this event. Over 90 University of Brighton Undergraduate Architecture students attended this event and took part in Q&A sessions. A full description of the seminar series with details of all contributors is attached as an appendix to this document.


  • 'Built Ecologies: Translating landscape into architecture'. Touring exhibition of BBM’s work.


  • 'Built Ecologies: Translating landscape into architecture' Weald and Downland Museum, Singleton, June
  • 'Built Ecologies: Translating landscape into architecture' RIBA, HQ London March/April


  • 'Built Ecologies: Translating landscape into architecture' Jubilee Library Brighton, November
  • 'Built Ecologies: Translating landscape into architecture' Faculty of Arts & Architecture, Brighton, October
  • Stary Gallery, Lewes, June
Book Reviews
  • Peer-reviewed paper on the subject of 'Duplicity' for Scroope 25: The Cambridge Architectural Journal. 2015. 
  • Architecture and Cllimate (An Environmental History of British Architecture 1600-2000) by Prof. Dean Hawkes for The RIBA Journal April 2012
  • The works of Stephen Johnson of Architectural Ensemble at The Woodland Enterprise Centre in Flimwell for Architecture Today 31 October 2011
Awards 2009-2015


  • Nov - Highly Commended, The Built Environment, Green Gown Awards.
  • Nov - Shortlisted, THE Awards, Excellence & Innovation in the Arts.
  • Oct - Special Prize Winner, The Stephen Lawrence Award, RIBA.
  • June - Winner - RIBA South East Regional Award.
  • June - Winner RIBA South East Regional Sustainability Award.
  • May - Winner - International Green Apple Awards for the Built Environment 2015.
  • Shortlisted for H&V News Award.
  • Nov - Winner - Baker-Brown & The Waste House Team win The Pea Awards (People Environment Achievement) for Work with Schools
  • Nov -  Baker-Brown & The Waste House Team wins Brighton Argus ‘Community Star’ Award for ‘Best Green Project or Person of the Year’
  • Sept – Baker-Brown’s practice BBM Sustainable Design are Short-Listed for Blueprint Award for Architecture 2014 at The Blueprint Awards 2014
  • Sept - The Brighton Waste House is Highly Commended for Best Sustainable Project or Product at The Blueprint Awards 2014. university-brighton-partnership-mears-  group-city-college-brighton-and-hove
  • July - The Brighton Waste House Wins 2degrees Sustainable Business Champions Awards ‘Best Building or Property Project’.
  • July - The Brighton Waste House Wins 2degrees Sustainable Business Champions Awards  RIBA FRSA
  • Finalist - 2014 Climate Week Awards


  • Baker-Brown wins Brighton Argus ‘Green Person of the Year' Award:
  • BBM’s 60 Barons Down Road Lewes Winner AJ Retrofit Awards House Post 1945.
  • BBM’s The Nook Brighton short-listed for AJ Retrofit Awards ‘House Pre-1945’,


  • BBM’s St Pancras Annexe is 'Highly Commended' Sussex Heritage Trust Awards


  • Winner - 2006 The Daily Telegraph Best Eco House Award
  • Shortlisted - 2006 The Observer Ethical Awards
  • Winner - RIBA Ibstock Downland Prize for Sustainable Design 


  • Winner - 2005 RIBA Award
  • Shortlisted - 2005 RIBA Manser Medal 
Juries & Design Panels


  • Member of the SCIN Green Room Editorial Board that includes Sir Jonathan Porrit CBE (environmentalist & writer), Jarvis Smith (Co-founder & business consultant: MyGreenPod, PQ magazine with the Guardian, PEA & PEAB Awards), Robert Llewellyn (Actor, comedian and writer), and Mark Stevenson (author, comedian, public speaker and futurologist)
  • Judge for the Architects Journal Retrofit Awards
  • Member of the South Downs National Park Design Review Panel
  • Member of the Lewes Architect’s Panel.
Outreach & Widening Participation
  • Baker-Brown facilitated and presented over 40 workshops in secondary schools in Brighton & Hove and Sussex as part of the central government’s Creative Partnerships initiative.
  • Widening Participation. Baker-Brown has used the vehicle of the Waste House construction project (Sept 2012-April 2014) to allow over 750 school pupils and technical college students to visit the Grand Parade campus where they received a 45 minute presentation by Baker-Brown about the university's sustainable mission, studying architecture and considering sustainable design, before spending 45 minutes on the actual live building site:                                                     
  • Baker-Brown regularly presents lectures on different aspects of delivering low energy sustainable buildings to students studying carpentry and other construction trades at City College Brighton and Hove.
  • Since the completion of the Waste House in April 2014 Baker-Brown has continues to have WP school visits to the completed building where he regularly presents lectures and workshops to regional primary and secondary schools.
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