Sanctuary garden designer receives first RHS Environmental Innovation Award

World Child Cancer Nurturing Garden wins award that recognises efforts to reduce footprint

Giulio Giorgi and Garden Contractor Landesigns receives the RHS Environmental Innovation AwardFirst time garden designer Giulio Giorgi and Garden Contractor Landesigns receives the RHS Environmental Innovation Award for the efforts they have gone to in order to reduce the environmental footprint of the World Child Cancer Nurturing Garden at the 2024 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

“The Garden is a fine example of how we can design and build gardens more sustainably in the future.”
– Malcolm Anderson, RHS Head of Sustainability

The judging panel of Malcolm Anderson, RHS Head of Sustainability, Liz Nicholson Managing Director at Nicholsons and Paul Cowell Chartered Landscape Architect, were unanimous in their decision.

“This year has marked something of a seismic shift in the way the gardens have been designed and built, yes, we can always do better and there is always something new to learn. But we should all take a moment to celebrate the sustainability stories embedded in the 2024 gardens,” says Malcolm Anderson.

Gardens have all gone through a new green audit process and it’s resulted in design changes that have had a significant impact on reducing carbon emissions across the two categories by 28%.

“Even these celebrated designers discovered one or two new opportunities and were open minded to tweak their designs.”
– Liz Nicholson, Nicholsons

Nicholsons, who carried out the audit alongside RHS Head of Sustainability Malcolm Anderson, reviewed the garden design and build plans and worked with the designers and contractors, adapting plans in order to reduce the environmental footprint of the gardens.

Key considerations under review
  • Waste
  • Sustainability of supplied materials
  • Biodiversity
  • Water; quantity and quality
  • Air quality
  • Communities

How designs changed

Terrence Higgins Trust Bridge to 2023 GardenThe biggest reduction in carbon emissions for many of the gardens was achieved by making changes to the building materials and construction methods.  For example, Matthew Childs who is designing the Terrance Higgin’s Trust Bridge to 2030 Garden, substantially reduced his carbon omissions by removing block walling in his original design and replacing it with reclaimed timber. Ann-Marie Powell, designer of The Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trustsaved a large amount of Co2 by significantly reducing the use of cement in the garden.

Designers welcome audit

Liz NicholsonLiz Nicholson, Managing Director at Nicholsons says:  “All of the designers, without exception, have been a complete joy. They have welcomed the audit and embraced the learnings and worked incredibly hard to adapt and tweak their gardens to reduce the impacts. Many design with the planet in mind and very few changes were necessary but even these celebrated designers discovered one or two new opportunities and were open minded to tweak that design. Without exception, designers felt that this process would affect how they design in future and were keen to take their learnings back to their practise. A significant impact in conversations with contractors was how the use of low carbon cement and alternative construction methods were welcomed and knowledge was shared in the round.”

“It is important that the RHS demonstrates best practise.”

“Many gardens have updated designs to reduce carbon with all contractors agreeing to use low carbon cement. A challenging area remains in steel structures where emissions remain high, but again contractors have agreed to use recycled steel. Products imported from afar carry a high carbon cost through shipping and many designers with this new awareness will be sourcing more locally.

Looking to the future

The Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with The National Trust
“I am hugely optimistic about the sustainability of shows”, says Liz Nicholson, “I have no doubt that many of our customers visit RHS Chelsea Flower Show to seek inspiration and what they see, they want to consider at home. All RHS shows must exhibit best practise as their role of thought leaders should not be underestimated. Many people consider RHS Chelsea as focussed on private gardens but in reality it is an inspiration for the whole landscape architecture and garden design industry and this in turn has a huge impact across the UK construction industry.”

A brand new sustainability award

This year to recognise and celebrate the examples of excellence in progressive environmental ingenuity at the show, the RHS is introducing a new award. The Environmental Innovation Award is open to all gardens who have been through the Green Garden Audit.

Sarah Poll, head of shows development says: “We have introduced this new award in order to recognise and celebrate the fantastic ways designers and contractors are embracing the need to reduce their impact on the environment. We hope by celebrating successes through this new award at our world-famous flower show and showing how small changes can make a big difference through the new Green Garden Audit we will help continue to encourage positive change.”

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