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  • House of the Future

    Posted on May 12th, 2009 Marieke Guy 3 comments

    Fridges that tell you when you need to buy milk. Lights that turn off when not used. Carpets that clean themselves. All conceivable components of our house of the future.

    A interesting piece in FT.com takes a look at several home trends each focused on the different ways in which our lives are changing. Home working is one of the big drivers in changing house layout.

    Thanks to the economic crisis, we’ve seen growing interest in the efficiencies of working at home via online networks linked to internal office servers. If your tasks are primarily computer-based and you aren’t needed for hour upon hour of in-person meetings, what’s the sense in commuting several hours a week just to sit in a different room in front of a different screen to do the same things?

    Growing numbers of consultants and freelancers are assembling careers from multiple projects and using a laptop as a business portal. And, although women are still demanding top education and job options, they are increasingly willing to stay in the house more, taking a break for a few years to start a family or to work part-time from a home office, redefining the workday as one that happens during their children’s naptime and after bedtime, for instance.”

    With so much home work, what’s more sensible than private home offices, carved out to ensure maximum efficiency, privacy and productivity? We’ll start to obsess about getting this atmosphere just right – the perfect ergonomic chair, the perfect desk, the perfect filing cabinet.

    Last time we moved house (back in 2006) all advice suggested that you always push the number of bedrooms you have and not the home office. Maybe now your home office set up (layout, storage, ideal light, number of sockets, connectivity etc.) will count for more. Garden offices will be sort after and demonstrating that you can easily work from your house will earn you brownie points.

    For me the successful house of the future will have given considerable thought to environmental impact, will have effective self-heating and self-cooling technologies, will be self-sufficient, use renewable energy and have plenty of room for growing vegetables! I guess modular rooms that can change for different uses would also make sense. As I’ve said before my office doubles as a spare bedroom!

    We don’t always get it right. A quick look at Monsanto’s house of the Future (Disney is planning to recreate it) makes you realise that hard plastics and cold edges just don’t make a home.

    It’s fluffy cushions that do that! ;-)

  • Green IT 09

    Posted on May 7th, 2009 Marieke Guy No comments

    At the moment the Green IT conference and exhibition is running at the Business Design Centre, London.

    Squeezed between slowing economic indicators and rising energy costs, the IT industry is facing its biggest challenge ever as it strives towards a sustainable future. At the same time, many IT departments are facing up to their own local responsibilities, in terms of both business efficiency and corporate responsibility. Green IT 09 gives you the chance to be part of the whole debate.

    There are some interesting looking sessions on topics including Employing cloud computing to drive energy and cost savings, Get Lean and Mean: Green IT’s significant contribution during Tougher Times and Green IT for the London 2012 Olympics.

    All the presentations from last year are available to download, hopefully they’ll make this year’s available soonish too.

  • Remote Gardening

    Posted on April 30th, 2009 Marieke Guy 5 comments

    Last Saturday’s Guardian ran a bring the garden into your office theme for its Work section. The cover story was on the phenomena of shedworking (working from your garden shed). Famous shedworkers listed included writers Philip Pulman, Roald Dahl and Henry Thoreau.

    shed from Flickr (Peter Astn)

    The main spread provided some great colour photos of garden ‘office’ buildings. People are increasingly running businesses and working from home and are looking for extra space in which to do it. A shed is quite often the answer. The article writer Alex Johnson, blog author of Shedworking talked about the miniaturisation of the office workplace:

    A cramped outbuilding which once housed lawnmowers and pots can now comfortably be insulated from the cold, fitted with its own electrics, and link you to anywhere in the world. It’s an alternative workplace revolution.”

    It is a lot greener to move words, number and ideas than it is to move people” commented Lloyd Alter, architecture expert at treehugger.com.

    Another article in the section talks about how office workers can create their own office allotment by bringing the outdoors in and having some plants on their desk. Surrounding yourself with greenery can reduce tiredness and improve concentration. Enterprise Nation also opts for a Nature suggestion: “One of the joys of working from home is that you can decorate and design your home office in any way you like“.

    Anyway all this talk of gardens and greenery has inspired me to share my own ‘remote gardening’ experience with you.

    We have a really great garden. It’s contained, spacious and full of lovely looking plants and flowers. It also has lots of really interesting nooks and crannies. Someone must have put a lot of effort into it before we arrived. Having 3 children and jobs to do we don’t get a lot of time for gardening. Growing vegetables has always been a dream of mine but while before I didn’t have the space to do it I now don’t have the time. We have a perfect little patch at the back of the garden and until recently I spent many a minute (while hanging the washing up) looking at it and wishing I could do something with it.

    I’ve mentioned before that I’m a member of the Melksham Climate friendly group. While at a group meeting many moons back I mentioned my dilemma (space to grow things but no time), another member of the group then mentioned his dilemma (time to grow things but no space). Apparently there is a real shortage of allotments locally, people can end up with their name on the list for years before they get allocated a patch. Anyway a deal was done. My friend could come and tend the patch and use the green house and we would share the offerings. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall stumbled on the same idea not long after (!) and started promoting his Landshare project on his River Cottage programme.

    Our little veg patch

    PotsMy friend now has a key to the back gate and we see him down at the veg patch every couple of days. If I’m about, maybe having my lunch in the garden, I say hello and make him a coffee. Every now and then we have a chat about how things are coming along and I make sure he has all the things he needs. He’s quite new to gardening and is ‘trying lots of things out’ so we share ideas. We’re trying out everything. We’ve having a go at lettuce, radishes, potatoes, carrots, squash, all types of beans, rhubarb, onions, and much much more. We’ve now started on a row of pots to the side of the greenhouse and may be on the hunt for more space.

    After the initial excitement the children are pretty used to him now and say how great it is that we’ve got our ‘own gardener’. My next door neighbour has even offered him some space in her garden too. It won’t be long before he’s got the whole street covered!

    So I’m pretty lucky. While working I get to look out on a fantastic garden and in my breaks I can pop out to see how my magical vegetable patch is doing! It’s a hard life isn’t it!

    View from my window

  • Earth Day: What will you do?

    Posted on April 22nd, 2009 Marieke Guy 2 comments

    It’s Earth Day today.  Earth Day has been running since 1969 and is intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment.


    This year Earth Day marks the beginning of the Green Generation Campaign.

    The Green Generation is open to everyone: people of all ages and all nationalities, consumers who are committed to buying green; community leaders who are focused on greening their communities; parents and teachers who work to provide healthy foods and green schools for their children; those who work in green jobs; academics whose research is focused on innovative products and services; scientists and engineers who develop new green technologies; and governments that seek to implement policies and support research that will build a green economy and healthy population, and the religious community who are committed to a vision of a just, sustainable, green planet.

    So what will you do?

    Sometimes it is pretty tricky knowing where to get started. I’ve written quite a few blog posts on the environmental impact of remote working, some of these might give you some ideas.

    In honour of Earth Day TechSoup Global will be kicking off the  TeleGreen Your Work educational campaign to help nonprofits, libraries and other social benefit organisations discover ways to save money, reduce travel, and still be effective in your work. Their four topics are Virtual Meetings, Online Training, Telecommuting and Online Collaboration. Should be some useful stuff for remote workers. Have a look and see what you and your organisation can try out. Today they are offering Ten Tips to TeleGreen Your Work.

    Personally having a go at reducing my own environmental impact is really important to me. I’m an active member of my local Climate Friendly Group and keen to do as much as I can, but as Kermit the frog famously said “it’s not easy being green” and I’m far from perfect. However I do believe any steps we take in the right direction can make a difference.

    I don’t want to harp on about it but if there was ever a good day to start ‘going green’ then today’s it! :-)

  • Growing a Green Policy

    Posted on April 4th, 2009 Marieke Guy 5 comments

    I mentioned earlier in the week that I want to start adhering to a green policy when working from home.

    As reported on the Greener Office Web site, when Independent consultants WSP Environmental looked into it they found that home workers typically produce almost a third more CO2 in a year than employees working primarily in the office. This figure was based on the fact that office workers share electricity and heating while home workers don’t. There has still been little significant research in this area but it is something the Location Independent Working project may cover in the future.

    I think the key to making change is to plan your policy (no matter how insignificant it seems) and try to embed it into working practice. So here’s my list:

    My Home/Remote Worker Green Policy


    • I’m not going to print things unless absolutely necessary. If I must print I’ll go for double sided printing and if feasible squeeze 2 pages onto one side. Paperless office?…Hopefully one day…
    • I’ll also try to recycle all office waste – plastic, carboard, paper etc.


    • I will turn all equipment off at the end of each working day and turn my monitor off at lunch.
    • I’ll make sure I only boil the kettle when necessary and put in just enough water for one cup.
    • I will continue to use low energy bulbs
    • I’ll try to avoid turning my heating on unless absolutely necessary. (Time for a warm jumper or quick walk round the house to improve circulation.) I’ll also look into loft insulation.

    (We had a whopper of a heating bill this year and once we’ve cleared out the loft we really need to look into better insulation. I’m wondering if in the future activities like this might be funded by our employer in an effort to keep us home workers happy and improve our (and indirectly their carbon footprint.))


    • If I can avoid flying I will.
    • If I can avoid going anywhere I will! Obviously this can’t effect my work but if there is a feasible alternative I’ll look into it. There are plenty of video conferencing tools that still need to be tried out and blogged about!


    • I’m going to try to eat more local, organic food during my lunch break. It helps that I’ve started growing a lot more in the garden.

    Is there anything I’ve missed?

  • Going Green: Can Home Working Save the World?

    Posted on March 30th, 2009 Marieke Guy No comments

    …asked Pete James in a 2008 report for the Smith Institute.

    I recently saw Pete James speak in the ‘Making the move to Green‘ session at the JISC Conference (mentioned in my last blog post.) Pete has been a key player in the SusteIT project which has provided the JISC Managing Sustainable ICT in Further and Higher Education report.

    The project looked at many aspects of IT provision in Higher Education and proposed changes to make them more environmentally friendly. The main research put forward some shocking figures, for example ICT accounts for 2% of global carbon emissions and HE generates over 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year. In his talk Pete James explained that this year over 25 new regulations have come in for HE to follow with regard to carbon emissions- these are intending to take us towards the government target of 80% reduction of 1990 levels by 2050.

    Wind farm in France
    When it comes to HE reducing carbon emissions remote working figures quite highly on the list. In the LIW project I mentioned earlier this week a carbon saving amount can be deduced for each home worker. Encouraging distance learning is also there as an carbon footprint reducer. One study actually found that distance learning courses actually produce 90% fewer carbon dioxide emissions than campus-based courses. Some of these issues are explored in more detail on the JISC Green ICT blog.

    We are lucky enough to have an environmental champion at UKOLN and the University of Bath itself has done really well at reducing energy consumption (it has gone down by seven per cent in the last two years).
    I’ve actually been giving some thought of late to having my own green policy for working at home. I’ll post what I’ve got so far later in the week.

  • Location Independent Working

    Posted on March 24th, 2009 Marieke Guy 4 comments

    This week I popped up to Edinburgh for the JISC Conference. The conference is an opportunity for JISC to showcase many of their projects and an opportunity for us working in the UK Higher Education sector to find out what other institutions are working on.

    During the ‘Making the move to Green‘ session I heard David Morris, Professor of Business Education from the University of Coventry talking about the Location Independent Working (LIW) project. The project, which has recently finished, was part of the Institutional Innovation Programme and in Morris’ own words both an attempt to “legitimise home working” and investigate further the proposition that “it’s not about where you work, it’s what you so that counts“. There is a good write up in the Times Higher.

    The project took 40 members of staff and offered them an equipment toolkit, training and a LIW handbook which would allow them to work in locations other than their office. There was also a support blog. It then measured the affects this arrangement had on a number of factors including health, work-life balance, communication etc.

    I think the project, although interesting, is not necessarily revolutionary and the measured outcomes at the end were not surprising. What it does show is the interest the Higher Education sector has in further exploring the arena of remote working. Remote working has the potential to get HE out of a sticky mess when it comes to space and environmental drivers.

    Morris alluded to the fact that there are still many potential areas of further research. One of these touches on a question that many remote workers ask themselves (primarily for financial reasons) – Am I using more heating and electricity here at home than I would if I were in the office? I’m going to be watching the LIW blog with interest.

  • On the Sunny Side of the Street

    Posted on October 3rd, 2008 Marieke Guy No comments

    Recently a friend of mine read my recent Ariadne article on remote working and commented on how the bit I put in about my cold spare room really rung true.

    It was in the editors note:

    Editor’s Note:
    Marieke Guy has been with UKOLN since May 2000 and has worked remotely since April 2008. She currently lives 15 miles from UKOLN’s offices and made the decision to work from home for family and environmental reasons. Since taking this decision, she says, she has learnt a lot about herself, communication technologies and how cold her spare bedroom is!

    Today I’ve been really cold. My spare bedroom is at the back of the house and north facing I think. It just seems to be always cold. In fact I’ve just taken a little trip into my bedroom (at the front of the house) which seems to be filled with light and positively roasting. At this moment I wish I could swap my rooms round!

    This has led me to thinking about my heating costs. I’ve had a small fan heater on intermittently today. I haven’t had the central heating on as it seems pointless heating the whole house up just so little me gets warm, and actually this room still doesn’t seem to get warm anyway.

    I guess I am using more heating and energy than if I went in to the office but does this stack up against me not making the drive to work? I need my carbon calculator out! I’ll try and look out for some comparisons to put up.

    I’ve actually just stumbled on another remote worker blog (she’s based in France) and she talks about weighing up these costs:
    there are some interesting comments too…

    She actually says:

    Luckily there is plenty of space in my house so I chose a room that has plenty of natural light. This is good for moral, and keeps the lighting and heating bills down. You should also take into account the electric lighting – do you need a desk lamp?

    And did I say that she’s based in France…

    Hmmmm…I guess that beats sunny Melksham then.