Edinburgh Research Explorer

John Brennan

Senior Lecturer, EFI Fellow

Profile photo

Willingness to take PhD students: Yes

I am interested in PhD proposals in the fields of: rural design, sustainable housing, building adaptation, theory and aesthetics in sustainable architecture, the relationship between quantitative and qualitative approaches to sustainable design.

Education/Academic qualification

Diploma of Architecture, University of Edinburgh
Master of Arts, University of Edinburgh

Professional Qualifications

2018Fellowship of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, FRSA
1994Chartered Member of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, ARIAS
1994UK Architects Registration Board, ARB

Area of Expertise

Research expertiseSustainable Design, Rural Architecture, Housing Design


John Brennan is an academic and practicing architect with 25 years experience of both theorising and delivering sustainable architecture. He established and remains programme director of the University of Edinburgh Masters programme in Advanced Sustainable Design that provides a global perspective on the making of resilient settlements and buildings. He is a Fellow of the Edinburgh Futures Institute and is currently lead for a new interdisciplinary masters for Sustainable Futures.

John started his professional career with Gaia Architects and was responsible for the design of a series of projects that help to open the field to holistic sustainable design practices in the UK. John remains in practice specialising in sustainable rural design. He worked with the artist James Turrell in realising the Scottish Skyspace.  His buildings have received a range of awards that include the Saltire Society Award for housing and the Scottish Design Awards Northern Exposure prize. John has an interest in adaptability as a means of making stable more resilient settlements. His WholeLife experimental house was built and exhibited as part of Scotland’s Housing Expo in 2010.

John’s uses built work to validate research hypotheses through combining qualitative and quantitative methodologies. His research includes work on long-term housing adaptability, rural architectures and environmental design in the workplace. In particular, he is interested in how design practice fits into wider social and economic perspectives of sustainable development.  This includes using environmental narratives, cartography and social policy to shape new ideas in how we make resilient settlements.  John was head of the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture where is work included planning and delivering new postgraduate programmes and a growing international perspective in learning, teaching and research.He is a theme leader at Energy@Edinburgh and is convenor of the Saltire Society Housing Design Awards programme, 

John has been External Examiner at the University of Nottingham, University of Sheffield, and the Centre for Alternative Technology Graduate School. He is a chartered member of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Research outputs

  1. Architecture of the Rural Gaze: Redefining building in rural Scotland

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

  2. ZEMCH, a systematic review

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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Research activities & awards

  1. Education Buildings Scotland (Event)

    Activity: Membership typesMembership of peer review panel or committee

  2. The Saltire Society (External organisation)

    Activity: Membership typesMembership of peer review panel or committee

  3. Replacement Castlebrae

    Activity: Consultancy typesConsultancy

View all (11) »

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