Our work is based on a belief in the communication power of 'concrete visualisation' - an approach to data visualisation that provides quantitative insight physically rather than purely numerically or geometrically. In essence this is visualisation that "co-opts the world itself in its own explanation".
Here are some examples of our work for clients, including commercial companies, media organisations and local government. We also include examples of our own creative projects.
Carbon Visuals has created an image to illustrate the energy saving of the highly insulated Coati House at Paignton Zoo. The sustainable building uses recycled plastic, green oak sleepers, FSC timber and 150mm thick black mountain sheep wool insulation so that heating is not required.
Without this insulation the zoo would have installed a 4kW electric heater. The image shows the actual volume of CO₂ that would have been emitted every day or every hour by such a heater.
Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, is a combined zoo and botanic garden in the South West of England that welcomes over half a million visitors a year.
In November and December 2012, Bill McKibben and 350.org's Do the Math Tour was a massive success, with sold out shows across the United States.
Carbon Visuals supported the tour by making the numerical argument visual - showing the actual volume of carbon dioxide gas represented by the numbers in the 'Do the math' argument.
Our next goal is to make a short film that makes the argument as clearly as possible to the widest audience we can reach (see the Unburnable Carbon Proposal)
In 2010 New York City added 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, but that number means little to most people because few of us have a sense of scale for atmospheric pollution.
Carbon Visuals, supported by Environmental Defense Fund, have created a film that makes those emissions feel more real - the total emissions and the rate of emission. Designed to engage the ‘person on the street’, this version is exploratory and still work in progress.
Seventy five percent of New York City's greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy used by buildings. Reducing this energy is a goal of both building managers and the City of New York itself.
This visualisation takes data about the carbon emissions of municipal buildings in New York City and transforms it into a 3D map of the actual volume of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere. It co-opts the city itself to serve as its own data visualisation.
A set of simple images was created to give context to other visualisation projects we were carrying out for US-based Environmental Defense Fund.
Using a model of a typical US house, combined with US metrics - tons, gallons etc. - helps make the images more real for Americans.
ModCell is a novel and innovative building system that brings the benefit of straw bale construction - exceptional levels of insulation - into the mainstream of the construction industry. Carbon Visuals was asked to provide images to show the sequestered carbon dioxide in panels and in a recently completed project - a school science centre in Bath.
The Building Confidence Project emerged from an energy 'data-jam' at the Google offices in New York to which Carbon Visuals was invited. It was organised by the White House to generate new approaches to energy efficiency.
The project idea, facilitated by Honest Buildings, was to create a database of energy efficiency projects that can inspire and facilitate similar initiatives elsewhere. Carbon Visuals' role was to consider the role data-graphics could play in reaching wider audiences.
Carbon Visuals was commissioned by UCLH (University College London Hospital), to create a set of images and a short animated film depicting the carbon footprint of all London's hospitals and NHS Trusts.
The visuals are used in conferences and workshops where facilities and energy personnel, as well as a wide range of other stakeholders, can get a better understanding of actual emissions, emissions reductions and the differences between different hospitals.
Carbon Visuals has created real-time energy and carbon visualisation displays for a new Visitor Centre at Occombe Farm, a working organic farm that includes an award-winning farm shop, a cafe featuring local food and drink, a nature trail, an education centre and cookery workshops.
Carbon Visuals was invited to provide a set of images to illustrate the daily and annual carbon footprint of greenhouse gas emissions from selected buildings on the University of Plymouth campus.
The purpose of the project was to support carbon and energy-reduction activities by staff from the Estates Department. In addition the University is planning research to determine the effectiveness of this kind of communication with students, academics and staff.
For this project we created a simple computer-generated model of the university campus in order to illustrate a variety of different carbon data sets.
The television industry is taking steps towards addressing sustainability issues associated with TV productions. A key tool, created by the BBC and made available through a partnership with BAFTA, is Albert - a bespoke carbon calculator.
Carbon Visuals was commissioned by the BBC to produce a set of images and a real-time animation showing the emissions resulting from one hour of TV programming. The data was provided by about 80 productions that were the first to use the Albert calculator at the BBC.
Carbon Visuals has created a set of striking images to illustrate the carbon reduction potential for the South Kensington 1851 Estate. Organisations involved include the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Imperial College, the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal College of Music and the Royal College of Arts.
Our new Google Earth Visualiser tool has enabled us to illustrate the carbon footprint of every public building in England and Wales – all 40 thousand of them! We have used a database of UK Display Energy Certificate buildings – the energy ratings that all public buildings must display. Once we had geocoded these we displayed the buildings’ carbon footprint in 3D in Google Earth as actual volumes of carbon dioxide gas at the location of the building itself.
ADAS, the land and farming consultancy, wanted to complement the earlier film that we made to illustrate emissions, sequestration & stored carbon on upland farms in the Peak District National Park. This time they were keen to illustrate their capabilities in helping mainstream farmers manage and reduce their carbon emissions.
The film explores the carbon footprint of the UK potato at the personal scale, as well as carbon saving potential at the farm scale.
Carbon Visuals helped newly re-launched BP Target Neutral project by providing consultancy for the web calculator designed to help motorists reduce, replace and neutralise carbon dioxide from driving. The calculator, aimed at the general public, is the first in the world to show actual volumes of CO2 which change in size as different reduction actions are chosen. In addition carbon spheres can be compared against averages for other countries as well as the UK 'target' reduction for 2050.
We also provided a number of bespoke images to highlight transport emissions in the UK, emissions of different transport types as well as transport emissions per capita for different countries.
Carbon Visuals was commissioned by DECC to produce a set of high-resolution Google Earth images to illustrate Government department carbon footprints and reduction targets. The total carbon dioxide emissions between May 2010 and May 2011 amounted to 646,231 tonnes, which is 13.8% less than the previous year. This is what that looks like.
The actual volume of carbon dioxide gas emitted by the UK Government in 2010/11 (red volume). The saving on 2009/10 - the gas that didn't enter the atmosphere - is shown as the dashed volume. The target is shown as a red band.
The Royal College of Music worked with the Carbon Trust to develop a Carbon Management Plan which was published in July 2010. The Plan highlighted a number of actions that could be taken to reduce emissions by 25% by 2013/14. A key part of the Plan was to get students and staff engaged in the issues, so Carbon Visuals were invited to find innovative ways to communicate the carbon footprint and emissions reduction targets.
To turn abstract numbers into quantities that viewers could relate to physically, we used a depiction of the College building. We also proposed a way for musicians in particular to gauge a 25% reduction – it’s like losing nearly two octaves from a piano.
Carbon Visuals have created this short animation film to show the emissions, sequestration & stored carbon on ten upland farms in the Peak District National Park.
Created for the consultancy ADAS, the film demonstrates the potential for animation to communicate complex carbon stories. The film will be used to engage a variety of stakeholders including ADAS staff, farm managers and agricultural policymakers.
The One Planet radio programme on the BBC's World Service came to Carbon Visuals with simple question: "what does our carbon footprint look like?"
One Planet was carefully accounting for emissions arising from the making of the programme and had arrived at a figure of about 34.9 tonnes per year. But what does that mean?
Measuring carbon dioxide in terms of mass (tonnes) makes sense from an accounting point of view but doesn't give us a sense of scale we can relate to. We examined a variety of alternative ways of representing One Planet's footprint
ADAS provides environmental solutions, rural development services and policy advice. The company is leading projects on GHG methodologies and mitigation measures for food production and agriculture.
For both simple and complex foods, the key is understanding the production processes of crops and animals in intensive, extensive and organic production systems.
The company asked Carbon Visuals to provide a series of images to showcase their carbon footprint consulting capability to the food and agriculture sector.
The Guardian News and Media Group turned to Carbon Visuals to get employees involved in reducing the company’s carbon footprint. On an average day between April 2007 and March 2008, GNM emitted 39 tonnes: 20 tonnes from two print sites, 14 tonnes from offices and five tonnes from business travel.
The Guardian offices are near St Pancras Station - a landmark that employees can relate to physically. Viewers can see the picture and know what such a pile of one tonne cubes would be ‘like’.
Central Bedfordshire Council needed a way to involve key stakeholders and staff in meeting targets for emissions reduction. We produced volumetric visualisations that make reference to landmarks and areas that the audience can relate to. We also produced animations that bring the figures to life by showing the emissions from different council activities in real-time. The Council used the visualisations in a stakeholder conference but they also found them useful for new employees, strategy documents, and the Council’s website.
Instead of trying to communicate the complexities of climate change, we believe that a simple understanding of how we are changing the atmosphere of the planet could transform society’s view of the need for a low-carbon future.
Every day we wrap the planet in a paper-thick layer of carbon dioxide!
We’ve done the maths and it’s true. The 80 million tonnes of CO2 we release to the atmosphere every day by burning fossil fuels would be 80 microns thick if it were a single, uninterrupted layer at 100% concentration over our heads. Over the course of a year, that amounts to 31mm, or over an inch.
We call this imagined layer the Carbon Quilt – since pre-industrial times its thickness has increased from 2.3 metres to 3.2 metres.
We believe that real-time animations can provide a powerful way for people to make sense of carbon emissions, whether at the personal or the global scale. Here are some very simple examples of what can be done - we are all the time trialling new and higher definition methods so please give us your comments and feedback on whether these can help your communication efforts.