Building a Sustainable Future: Jonathan Smales on Transforming Real Estate and Communities

Season 2 Episode 10 - Jonathan Smales. CEO and founder, Human Nature

Join us as we sit down with Jonathan Smales, the visionary behind Human Nature, and embark on a transformative conversation, as he walks us through his incredible evolution from a bright-eyed student to a sustainability titan in real estate development:

(00:06) Jonathan Smales’ Innovative Sustainable Real Estate Development Journey

We cover Jonathan Smales' unique trajectory from his early interest in human and urban geography, influenced by social thinkers like Jane Jacobs, to his tenure as Managing Director of Greenpeace UK and his role in developing the UK's first major sustainability projects. Jonathan shares the pivotal moment that sparked his love for real estate, which began with the transformation of an old animal testing laboratory into London's first green commercial building. He expresses his passion for creating tangible, experiential change through building design and development, contrasting this with the long-term nature of environmental campaigning.

(10:01) Sustainable Development Approach and Team

We examine Human Natures innovative approach to revenue generation in real estate, which fuels investment and scalability in community development. He stresses the importance of having a mix of seasoned professionals and younger talents, all contributing to a mission-driven culture. The conversation also touches on the company's sustainable development approach at a neighbourhood level, challenging the concept of growth limitations and fostering a sustainable future. 

(19:50) Sustainable Development and Social Impact

We explore the concept of the Circle of Impact, a framework encompassing 12 levers for positive change, ranging from building materials and bioregions to radical affordability and social impact. We consider how integrating regenerative agriculture and local food systems can connect communities, support local economies, and improve health. The chapter also touches on how innovative practices in timber construction can revitalise the construction industry, attract young talent, and provide training opportunities, thereby intertwining environmental and social benefits.

(30:16) Revolutionising Urban Design and Sustainability

Urban design is crucial in fostering community interaction and addressing broader societal issues, including climate change. We examine the principles of Danish urban designer Jan Gehl, who emphasises the importance of creating public spaces that encourage social interaction, which is essential for tackling larger global challenges. Furthermore, we discuss the journey of integrating sustainability into business models and the cultural shift required within organisations to achieve this transformation.

(35:34) Sustainable Urban Development in Practice

We delve into the evolution of urban design, the shift away from the close-grained, diverse use urban spaces of the past to the more segregated, automobile-focused design that emerged in the 1950s, and the subsequent impact on society. We discuss how a return to more sustainable and socially engaging urban planning is now being embraced, highlighting the Phoenix project in Lewis as a significant example of this shift. 

About Human Nature

Human Nature creates remarkable places where living is affordable and inclusive, people thrive by sharing and communities grow strong. It helps shape a healthier and more optimistic social imagination of what it is to live well in the 21st century and how, together, we might get there.

With its partners, Human Nature, is crafting, designing, prototyping, building and learning from work on urban blocks, mixed-use buildings, homes, street types, landscape treatments, energy and mobility systems.

listen now
April 24, 2024
Lifeproven ESG Property Company