Author: edinburghcentre

Sir Eck lives and breathes…and tweets!

Sir Eck, the ECCI Knight, has found a voice after a 700 slumber under the car park of ECCI’s new building at High School Yards.

Sir Eck , tweeting @ecciknight, describes himself thus: Green Knight. Born 1236. Buried 1286. Dug up 2013. Questing to turn finite resources to sustainable gold. Join the Round Table. And he has already chalked up a number of followers of his cheeky tweets about adapting to 21st century life, and even a marriage proposal or two!

Could it be his lovely new threads…?

Follow Sir Eck @ecciknight


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Competition countdown – A pick of the best names so far…

The ECCI Cafe competition has been live for a week and we’ve already received tonnes of great suggestions. Here’s a selection of some of our favourites so far…

‘The Knight’s Table’ – the one, true name for the ECCI Feasting Hall?

The fascinating and sometimes gruesome history of ECCI’s new building at High School Yards includes tales of Medieval Knights and Burke and Hare, a place where Mary Queen of Scots and Sir Walter Scott share the billing with tales of murder, mystery and…the invention of the blackboard.

At the beginning of March the skeleton and grave of a Medieval Knight and the remains of a thirteenth century monastery are among dozens of discoveries made underneath the car park in the front of the building.

The discovery was made when archaeologists uncovered the corner of an elaborately decorated sandstone slab with the telltale markings of a member of the nobility – the carvings of the Calvary Cross and an ornate sword, which tells us this belonged to a high status individual such as a knight or other nobleman.

Read more:

‘Sustain’ – in keeping with ECCI’s plans for a sustainable future (and keeping us fed and watered). 

As well as alluding to the essential function of the Cafe in keeping all its student, staff and visitor inhabitants adequately fed and watered, ‘Sustain’ neatly encapsulates ECCI’s plans for a sustainable future.

The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation has been created to solve a global problem.

  • A huge reliance on fossil fuels
  • An ever growing population – 7 billion and counting
  • A 75% rise in energy demand forcast by 2030

ECCI is a hub for the knowledge, innovation and skills required to create a low carbon economy. Located in Edinburgh, Scotland’s political centre and capital city, and building upon the best ideas from around the world, the ECCI provides the place and space for ‘low carbon leaders’ and networks from business, finance and the public sector to work together to deliver a low carbon future.

Find out more in the ‘What we do’ section of our website:

’Green Bean Café’ – Fitting for a lean, clean & green building. 

A combination of new technologies, innovative methods, common sense, and attention to detail has made ECCI’s new building an exemplar of social, economic and environmental sustainability.

If all goes to plan during the main building phase, ECCI’s new building will become the first ever development of its kind to achieve “outstanding” rating from BREEAM, the world’s leading sustainability rating system for the built environment. Find out more:

‘Blackboard Café’ – Named after one of our v famous former pupils. 

The building currently being refurbished by ECCI was built by Alexander Laing in 1777 as the Old High School of Edinburgh at the cost of £4000. In the 1700s the Royal High School was regarded as the city’s best educational establishment. Pupils who studied in this building included some of the city’s leading figures of the age, such as author Sir Walter Scott, politician Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville and lawyer and conservationist Henry Cockburn.

Many of these pupils were taught by Alexander Adam, a classical scholar and educational reformer. Adam was a popular teacher, and around 1805 fourteen former pupils commissioned the artist Raeburn to paint his portrait, which now hangs in the National Gallery. Another member of staff was James Pillans, rector of the school until 1820. He is credited with inventing the blackboard, using it with coloured chalks in his geography classes. Find out more about the history of High School Yards:

But it’s not up to us…ENTER NOW

Artist in Residence Blog # 2, May 2013: Measuring string and carbon accounting

AIR 2_1Working broadly across the spectrum of ECCI’s includes coming to terms with the complex and abstract calculations of carbon accounting, something increasingly apparent to me following the ICARB conference in March (13/03/13). This has required me to set up some initial frameworks by which to start approaching these specific issues within a studio context. For example in order to more easily visualise a tonne of CO2 I have been considering some basic calculations concerning weight to length, the price of string and the fluctuating values involved in Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Since 1 tonne of CO2 apparently occupies a space of 27 feet cubic feet, physically working with the same dimensions has helped get this key measurement into a more tangible form – hence the string – but is not as easy as it sounds….

For example taking the Ultratwine Medium Ball of Cotton Twine (min 85% cotton) at a weight of 525metres per kilo at 60 grams per ball the calculation goes approximately as follows;

100 grams = 52.5 metres
10 grams = 5.25 metres
60 grams = 31.5 metres
60 grams = 31.5 metres = 134.5 feet.
AIR 2_2

It can therefore be stated that the actual length of a piece of string – a recognised and popular unit of measurement in the UK – should be 324 feet. However to maintain a single linear form by not involving any discontinuity caused by cutting and rejoining, needs a further 81 feet to allow for doubling back on the cube form. The simple comparison between the linear qualities of string and the linear qualities of drawing in containing an imagined space produces a conceptual narrative that is both abstract and tangible. In drawing also distinguishing between the continuous and the broken or implied line contains an expressive significance, a type of information that belongs to the studio rather than the lab and is used differently.

The length – and consequently the price – of a piece of string however may be rather simpler to calculate than the fluctuations in pricing a tonne of C02

So in studio practice the definitive length of the actual rather than the theoretical piece of string becomes 405 feet, with issues such as knots and stretch to be factored in, creating analogies with the known and unknown data within carbon accounting. The length – and consequently the price – of a piece of string however may be rather simpler to calculate than the fluctuations in pricing a tonne of C02. Currently the string in question can be bought for £4.40, sufficient to describe a tonne of CO2 easily. By comparison the Floor Price for Co2 is currently set at £16 (set to rise to £30.00 in 2020) but the actual Trading Price for 1 tonne as given in January 2013 came in at under £4.00. (Source:

However initial conclusions from this enquiry in which the framework (the string) and the content of the framework (CO2) are understood as being in constant flux suggests a need to simultaneously incorporate both the measurable and the un-measureable in order to work productively with complex information – aiming for certainty can in fact be counterproductive.

Find out more about Jennie’s project. And look out for regular updates on the blog.

ECCI Knight launches a ‘Quest’ (competition) – find a name for the new café at High School Yards.

ECCI is soon moving into its new home on the historic site of High School Yards and we need your help to find a new name for the café.

The ECCI building is on the site of Edinburgh’s historic Old High School, which is being transformed into a state of the art, energy efficient hub for knowledge, innovation and skills and once home to the 13th Century Monastery that turned up the remains of a Medieval Knight earlier this month.

The ‘Quest’

So we though who better to launch the ‘Quest’ (Competition) to pick the name for their new ‘Feasting Hall’ (Café) from ECCI’s most famous historical figure (recently disturbed from his 700 slumber in the Blackfriar’s Monastery) the ECCI Knight.

We need your help to find a name that reflects the site’s fascinating history, the new building’s world-class green credentials or the world-changing plans ECCI has for the future.

How to Enter

All you need to do to enter is go to the competition page on the ECCI website completing the competition form with your suggestion and details of how we can get back in touch:

The competition is open for 4 weeks, after which we’ll select a shortlist of the best entries to be put up for a public vote.

If your suggestion is selected you’ll get to cut the tape at our opening event, will be remembered forever more by a commemorative plaque in the Café and we’ll even treat you to your first 10 cups of coffee in your very own ECCI mug.

Nominations will only be accepted by completing the online form and the closing date for nominations is April 24 2013. Late nominations will not be considered.

Looking for Inspiration?

If you need inspiration have a look at the links below and be sure to look out for regular new posts on our blog ( and twitter (@edcentreCC) pages over the next month. Good Luck!

Good luck!

Artist in Residence Blog Post # 1 – Finding a route into the complexities

by Jennie Speirs Grant, ECCI Artist in Residence

“Finding a route into the complexities….

involved in an artist’s residency with ECCI I seem to have spent a fair amount of my time during these first couple of weeks in an observer’s role, attempting to map out the range and extent of what the Centre is about and starting to meet people, organisations and departments. Having just come to the end of a research project at the University of Sunderland focussed on the structures of drawing and their translation to sculptural glass I’m happy to be back in an environment where issues of complexity are welcomed.

JenniestudioI’ve realised that desk sharing in the office may prove to be a little more problematic but probably fortunately for all my actual contact time at ECCI is mainly concerned with connecting up information and researching supporting material. This will of course be re-considered and worked with in a more physical studio context. JennieStudio6

Currently this process involves absorbing information ranging from the intricacies and variability’s of carbon accounting (ICARB), the underlying aims and philosophies contained within BREEAM building specifications, visualising information through core modelling and projections, and discussing cultural shifts in terms of landscapes, expectations and behaviour change. Back in the studio the materiality of carbon based processes is already helping to anchor some of the more abstract concepts involved. I also find myself unexpectedly interested in measurements of time and space – of which more later… “Jenniestudio2

Find out more about Jennie’s project.

And look out for regular updates on the blog.

Man Trips Over Outside ECCI’s New Building – Experts Blame New ‘History of High School Yards’ Poster

Well, not really, but it’s a risk we’re willing to take…

Passers by can now delve into the fascinating and sometimes gruesome history of ECCI’s new building at High School Yards courtesy of the giant at a glance ‘History of High School Yards’ infographics just installed on the building site.

Mary Queen of Scots and Sir Walter Scott share the billing with tales of murder, mystery and…well, the invention of the blackboard.

Take a walk to High School Yards and see it with your own eyes…

And just to whet the appetite…

It started life as Blackfriars Monastery in the 13th century, turning up the murdered body of Mary Queen of Scots’ husband in its ruins 300 hundred years later.

As the 18th century ‘Royal High School’, while Burke and Hare went about their sordid business in the adjacent Surgeon’s Square, it boasted Sir Walter Scott and the inventor of the blackboard James Pillans as its most famous pupils – the former reportedly leaving his mark in the stone entrance archway (pictured).

After the ‘Old High School’ closed in 1829 it became a surgical hospital and later it returned to its roots as a seat of learning as the University of Edinburgh moved through its corridors in various guises with the Science & Engineering, Geography, Dental school and in latter years Archaeology departments all calling it home.

More information:

If you would like to arrange a visit contact

ECCI’s Artist in Residence takes up her post

ECCI is celebrating the appointment of its first Artist in Residence this week.

Drawing and sculpture specialist Jennie Speirs Grant will spend the next 10 months working with the Edinburgh Centre to produce a series artworks that make a connection between art, culture, science and business, using ECCI’s work within the context of carbon, environment, innovation and sustainability to guide her.

The appointment comes courtesy of an award to the University of Edinburgh from the Leverhulme Trust. The Trust supports the residency of artists in UK institutions to foster creative collaborations between the artist and staff and students. The scheme is intended to bring artists into research and study environments where their artistic form or creative art generally is not part of the normal curriculum or activities of the host department.

Carbon Narratives

Speirs Grant often tackles abstract concepts in her work, breaking down ideas to their core constituents in order to understand, reinterpret and reimagine their meaning. She will use this experience in the context of current carbon related debates, exploring established practices like drawing and glass sculpture and carbon in its many material forms, from graphite to diamond.

The timing of the residency also overlaps with ECCI’s move to its new purpose designed low carbon building at High School Yards. Recycled material from the new building project may also feature and finished works will be on display in the building when it opens in Summer 2013.

Speirs Grant said:

“I very much look forward to working with ECCI and using this time to engage with the complexity of carbon related issues. This is likely to involve combining the physical materiality of carbon with the more abstract concepts surrounding it. By considering a variety of Carbon Narratives I hope to be able to locate this work within its changing cultural and conceptual landscape. “

Scots can change the world says Harvard Professor

Scottish economists, engineers, entrepreneurs & innovators can be the world changing force in the battle against climate change, according to a professor from Harvard Business School. But they must act fast to encourage a transition to low carbon technologies and behaviours, warned distinguished professor Joseph Lassiter.

Lassiter sent out the rallying call to 600 business leaders, academics and decision makers in attendance at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation’s event series last week, calling on them to make use of Scotland’s greatest resource – ‘Scots’ – to overcome the challenges of climate change.

Lassiter’s cooments were featured in an article in the Scotman by business correspondant Peter Ranscombe.

Lassiter said: “Scotland’s greatest asset is the Scottish people. Scottish innovators like economist Adam Smith have changed the world in the past and this latest challenge presents contemporary Scots an opportunity to do the same.

“Scotland has the engineering expertise built up over two centuries and the natural resources to lead the charge in future energy technologies. But Scots must act fast to ensure that higher energy cost technologies like renewables are a viable energy option in the face of equivalent cheap fossil fuel energy sources such as brown coal.

“Only by developing carbon markets and encouraging carbon taxes like border tax adjustments (import fees levied by carbon-taxing countries on goods manufactured in non-carbon-taxing countries) can Scotland protect manufacturing jobs in Scotland and encourage investment in these new, low carbon technologies.”

The call to action came as Lassiter delivered the first distinguished lecture to Scotland’s 2020 Climate Group, the body set up by First Minister Alex Salmond and SSE chief executive Ian Marchant. Lassiter was invited to Edinburgh to take part in the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation’s Clean Energy & Entrepreneurship event series, attracting 600 delegates from business, academia and government organisations. Professor Lassiter then took part in a  boardroom debate chaired by Dr Andy Kerr of the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation and which included Ian Marchant Chair of the 2020 Climate Group, John Swinney MSP Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, Wendy Alexander, Associate Dean, Degree Programmes and Careers Services at London Business School and Charles Hammond CEO of Forth Ports.

ECCI plugs into the benefits EVs

A fully charged fleet of electric vehicles and 40 or so equally zippy members of the sustainable transport community descended on ECCI on Wednesday 28 November for the Edinburgh leg of the Energy Saving Trust’s ‘Plugging into the Benfits of Electric Vehicles’ event series. 

The event aimed to inform the business community (whether large businesses with a whole fleet of vehicles or a small businesses with just one or two company cars) about the benefits & barriers of EVs.

Take-aways included:

• learn about the business benefits of EVs
• understand the range of financial support and funding currently available in Scotland, including tax incentives
• test drive an EV – Toyota Prius Plug-in hybridNissan LeafKangoo Van ZE
• hear a real life example of how an EV has benefitted a Scottish organisation
• take part in an open discussion about current situation of EVs in Scotland

ECCI’s Sustainable Transport lead Dave Gunn and and four-wheeled enthusiast Annabel Cooper took advantage of the opportunity to test drive a Toyota Prius Plug-In hybrid.

Both were struck by the near silence of the vehicle and the mission-control style dash board which displays detailed information about performance and a state of the art navigation system.


Find out more:

ECCI Sustainable Transport and EV’s

ECCI test drives a Hydrogen Car

Jim Hart asks…What next for the Private Car? 

Get in touch…with Sustainable Transport lead Dave Gunn