Chosen watering hole: The Paper Mill, Apsley, Hertfordshire 
Ambience: Pleasant faux-country pub by a canal 
Topics: How to salvage Paul’s architectural agricultural endeavours, and sunflower envy 
Drinks drunk: 5 pints of ale, 2 pints of lager, 3 white wines, 3 red wines, mineral water, glass of tonic

Paul has a problem, it emerges. On this reasonably balmy summer’s evening in Apsley, it quickly becomes the main topic of conversation. He has just three days to score enough plants and flowers to fill a battered Honda estate. At minimal cost. Can I help him, he asks – do I have contacts within the horticultural press? Alas, no. And our cumbersome print deadlines mean that by the time you read this, the moment will already have passed, so even raising awareness cannot aid him. I feel helpless.

Paul, part of newbie sustainability consultant Inbuilt’s housing team, has been the victim of a particularly dastardly crime – mass plant theft.

Paul seems confident he’ll be able to beg or borrow the equisite foliage from somewhere

And it’s not just his window boxes that have suffered. Paul had been working up his entry for an event at the London Festival of Architecture, where contestants were invited to find “different ways of looking at the car parking space”. Paul’s idea: create a “car park”. In other words, cut the roof off an old Honda estate, rip off the bonnet and fill it with greenery. It is an art installation he has been preparing with friends, in conjunction with South London community charity New Leaf.

But, after he carefully selected the right flowers and shrubs from Columbia Road flower market in Bethnal Green last week – for a whole £100 – the whole lot was nabbed from the white van he was storing them in. As a Brixton resident, he is keen to stress the theft occurred in Bethnal Green. Nevertheless, he is clearly distressed: Columbia Road market is only open on Sundays, and he just can’t afford garden centre prices.

Apparently James, who can’t make it this evening, gets to work by canoe each morning

At this point Nick unhelpfully chuckles that he should have put a sign on the van: “No plant left in overnight.” I offer some of Building’s (minimal) expenses budget as a contribution – but alas there is nowhere nearby where Building can Buy Inbuilt a Plant. Anyway, somehow Paul seems confident he’ll be able to beg or borrow the requisite foliage from somewhere.

Getting to know the rest of the Inbuilt team, Paul’s predicament does not seem so unusual – they really seem pretty green all over. Apparently James, who can’t make it this evening, gets to Inbuilt’s Kings Langley offices by canoe each morning. Most others, such as Rick, seem to run or cycle. And they’ve all just got back from a company bonding day – a treasure hunt in some of Hertfordshire’s best-kept gardens.

To cap it all, even the office competition is organic: there is fierce rivalry over who can grow the tallest sunflower. Someone asks Danny “how big is yours?” and it all starts to get a bit Carry On. The answer, if you’re interested? Not as big as Sam’s. His is six foot.

Nick Jones associate director
Jont Cole associate, sustainability
Sarah Royse principal consultant
Danny Bonnett principal consultant
Paul Smyth consultant
Rick Holland consultant
Mel Starrs building engineer
Jenny Love student intern
Joey Gardiner Building