Previous post:

Next post:

In memory of Mel Starrs – 6 September 1973 to 14 July 2012

by Mark Fretwell on July 17, 2012

in In memory of Mel

Mel Starrs sadly passed away at our home in London on 14 July 2012.

She was my beautiful, funny and utterly brilliant partner-in-crime for more than 11 years, and words will never be able to express how much I am going to miss her.

I know that her family, friends and colleagues are all feeling the same way.

It will be some time before we understand the exact cause, however all the indications are that it was extremely quick and that she would not have suffered. We can at least take a little comfort in that.

Mel put so much time, care and attention into creating the content for her blog. I know because I watched her do it over countless evenings and weekends. She just believed so passionately in creating a better built environment and in making a nicer place for us all to share.

She built an incredible army of followers on Twitter, where I know she will be missed by a great many. I know she had a real bond with so many people she’d never met in person, and used to love it when they came up and introduced themselves at events.

Mel was such an amazing person, and for so many different reasons.

She was the most supportive and wonderful partner I could have ever hoped for and she will be sorely missed by all our family and friends.

Mel’s funeral will be taking place in her home town of Ballycastle, Northern Ireland as soon as all the necessary formalities have been completed.

It is likely to be on Friday, Saturday or Sunday of this week and I will announce the date, time and location here as soon as it is confirmed. All are welcome to attend.

Mel’s family have requested donations to her favourite charity, Cancer Research instead of flowers. You can donate here.

I know it is something she would have appreciated.

We are also organising opportunities to celebrate Mel’s life in London and Leeds.

The first will be a picnic in Regents Park from 12pm on the 28th July. We will meet on the field at the northeast corner, to the east of London Zoo and north of Gloucester Gate.

Here is a link to a map of Regents Park.

Mel loved good red wine and cheese, so please grab a bottle, and a chunk of whatever takes your fancy and join us if you can. She would have really enjoyed attending something like that.

We will announce something in Leeds very soon.

I love you so much Mel, and I always will. You will never be forgotten.

Mark xxxxxx

  • Liqianseu

    Mark and family,

    I am so sorry for your loss, Mel was a tremendous college. 

    Qian Li

  • Kate de Selincourt

     What a devastating loss for Mel’s partner, family, friends and colleagues – I am so sorry.

    What I admired about Mel – as well as her extraordinary energy -was her intellectual generosity and adventurousness. She wasn’t afraid to be wrong, and she wasn’t afraid to change her mind; she was much more interested in sharing, discussing and learning.

    So as well as being an incomparable channel for information, she was at the heart of a real community of thinking and learning – and inspiring that community not to be afraid to disagree, and debate the point in a spirit of friendliness and warmth, and I think this is one of her huge legacies.

  • Peter Armitage

    I’m so sorry to hear this news. I’ve followed Mel online through twitter and this blog for a long time now, and always admired her enthusiasm and insight, though had only briefly met her in real life. I’m sure her influence and impact will continue on, up close and from afar. My thoughts are with you and her/your families now.

  • Sarah Cary

    Mark,  I hope you’re taking comfort in all the responses you’ve received here and in many other ways. Mel was a huge influence on the sustainable built environment movement in the UK and on careers and choices of a generation (or two) of her colleagues, twitter & blog connections, and many young people in the industry through sponge. She’s changed many a life and many an opinion, mine included. 

  • Judit Kimpian

    Truly heartbreaking news, very sad to hear – such a wonderful person, she will be sorely missed.

  • Anton & Hedy

    To Mark and Mel’s family,
    So desperately sorry to hear about your loss,are thoughts are with you,just cant believe what has happened,Mel will be sorely missed,we will think of her always.

    Anton and Hedy

  • Building4change

    This is devastating news. Mel was such a major influence on so many of us.

  • Frank Etchells

    Mark she was a Star in every way and I know your Sun and Moon also. God bless her and you and take care in your journey of recovery as I am sure Mel will be beside you all the way as she was in so many of your travels.


  • Paul Thistlethwaite

    As a long standing member of the BREEAM team I can say that we are all so shocked about this such sad news. Mel was a principal ambassador of BREEAM and sustainable buildings and had impeccable integrity where sustainability was concerned. She would challenge when it was needed and did so with humility and compassion. It was always an honour to have her at BREEAM events as she commanded so much respect both in the BREEAM network and the BREEAM team at BRE. It is such a loss to the community, the world really needs more people like Mel. My thoughts  are with her friends and family.

  • Duncan Price

    Mark + family, I wanted to express my deep sadness at Mel’s passing. It’s such a shock and I found myself in tears yesterday just thinking about how much I will miss her. I worked with her many years ago at Whitby Bird, designing low energy buildings (Said Business School and RSPCA Headquarters from memory, the latter an early BREEAM Excellent) and remember her leaving lunch and beer (a typical party trait) before she headed off to Leeds. Years later, our paths crossed again though various UK-GBC events and Sam’s birthday parties (Fox and Cutless, anyone?). When I saw her the other week at another UK-GBC bash, we discussed how she had become such a great ambassador through her relentless tweeting. Such a warm, funny, open person who also really knew her stuff! A great loss and won’t be forgotten. 

  • Tpienaar

    Dear Mark, I am so sorry to hear about the tragic loss of such a fantastic, passionate, warm, articulate person. I met Mel a few times but felt I knew her better through her blogs and twitter. My thoughts are with you and Mel’s family and friends at this time. Best, Tom

  • Julie McKinley McSweeney

    Dear Mr and Mrs Starrs, I am so sorry to have stumbled upon the sad details of Melanie’s passing. So young and yet, pretty as ever. I remember her with beautiful outstanding hair and as a well focused and grounded individual at School. Sharon, I haven’t seen for 18 years, yet I think of her often. RIP Melanie, God bless her, you and all the extended family. Sincerely, Julie

  • Martin Earl

    Unfortunately I never met Mel, being based overseas. It was only recently that I started using twitter where I came across Mel who was always a great source of information and ideas, supported by this blog. Inspired, I have even started my own although I am not sure I will reach the standard and scope that Mel showed!

    Such a shock to lose someone so young! R.I.P. Mel

    A wonderful tribute from Mark; my deepest sympathies and condolences to you Robert, Jane and your families.

    Martin Earl

  • Mail

    My deepest sympathy to Mark and all of Mel’s family.
    I have only just heard the shocking news. Mel was a true hero of sustainability and we were lucky to know her.
    Doug King

  • Holly

    I too never had the pleasure of meeting Mel but conversed with her via twitter and she was helpful, charming, witty and an all round lovely person.  This news is shocking and so desperately sad and my thoughts are with her family and friends and this difficult time. RIP Mel, the world was a better place for having you albeit for such a short time.

  • Pam Broviak

    I was shocked and saddened to hear about Mel’s passing. She was one of the first people I followed on Twitter – she was always so warm and friendly and interesting. I believe her loss will touch a lot of people, and she will be missed by many including myself. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this time.

  • Fabia Pennington

    I just heard the sad news. When it came to finding out the latest on Building Sustainability issues, Mel Starrs was the pillar of knowledge. Her opinion was highly valued and always eloquently put across. It’s such a shock to hear the news, and reminds us of how precious life is. She will always be remembered and my thoughts are with you, and all your/her family.

  • Howard Jenkins

    I am so sorry for you; to lose a life partner must be the worst thing, particularly when her passing was clearly well befiore her time

    Howard Jenkins

  • Rory Bergin

    This is so sad, Mel had contributed so much, but had so much more to give. We are all poorer without her. Like many others I got to know Mel through Twitter and this blog, and aspired to achieve as much as she did. I have some way to go. I met her many times at sustainability events over the last couple of years and always found her ready to talk and exchange ideas. Although fiercely intelligent she was never fierce and made her views known with wit and grace. She leaves a large gap in the sustainability community that will not easily be filled.

  • Martin Townsend

    Sometimes words never seem to be easy to find, but with Mel’s passion to use her blog to communicate and to provide the support and challenge that we all need to make our built environment more sustainable, it is right that we try and find them at this very sad time.
    Mel for me, and the many people who knew her at BRE was a great inspiration, always challenging, always passionate, always willing to help ensure we did the right thing. The grit in a conversation which would produce the pearl. We need more people like Mel, and in her passing it is a reminder that we should never dampen our enthusiasm or diminish our ambitions on what can be achieved. There are many people saddened by the news of Mel’s premature passing not just here at BRE, but across the industry, but we all stronger having met her. Our thoughts are with Mel’s partner, family and friends at this terribly sad time. She will be sorely missed by us all.
    Martin Townsend
    Director of BREEAM

  • H Dixon

    As an old classmate of Mel’s from CPC, I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of her untimely death.  I remember her as a vivacious and clever girl and, having read the tributes here to her, I am sure that her family are extremely proud of how respected she was and how she excelled in her chosen career.  Sincere sympathy to her partner, parents and brother.  Helen (McGarry) Dixon.

  • HayWayne

    The world could do with more people like Mel.

    A sad loss to the lives she touched. I never had the pleasure of meeting Mel in person, and we only briefly conversed on Twitter when I was but a fledgling tweeter, but her passion, drive and determination will be an inspiration to many, myself included. If I had 10% of her enthusiasm I’m consider myself lucky.

    Great taste in music too.

    My deepest sympathies.

  • Will Ray

    Mark and the Starrs Family,
    like so many who have made comments before below, I came to know Mel online first and later in person professionally. Her friendly and inspirational presence helped to guide me back into the world of green buildings again. I sincerely regret not being able to work with her more and get to know her better. So many discussions I wanted to have and good ideas left half thought.

    At a time when we need more erudite and passionate green professionals, not less; more intelligent women in senior positions, not less; more people will share their knowledge and insight openly, not less; we have lost a unique individual with incredible energy and with still more potential to be an inspiration.

    What little I do know of Mel, I’m sure she would insist I not focus on the great saddness I feel, but on the positives and celebrate a life that was most definitely not half-lived. So in that vein, I believe Mel leaves a great legacy that will live on in this industry for many years to come amongst all those who knew her and beyond. Personally, she will remain an inspiration to me and I hope I can live up to the challenge she herself would have given to me to make the world a better place.
    My thoughts are with you, her friends and colleagues .

  • John Stobbs

    Hi Mark we just heard of the passing of Mel and we absolutley stunned and saddened by the news.
    Mel for us was Thee person in the UK that got us fired up and inspired with Sustainability and Online she was one of my first followers on twitter and joined my LinkedIn groups. From Mel’s blog and online activities it gave us the focus and the passion to do our little bit to try and move the industry forward to make the UK a formidable force on the World stage with Energy and Sustainabilty. We will dedicated our Web Site in Mel’s memory and will remember the kind expressions and advice given through the years on the Social and Business networks everytime we update our news.
    Our thoughts are with you and the family today and the following days to come.
    John Stobbs.

  • Anna Vickers

    Mel, I will miss you on twitter.  I will miss you on Facebook. I will miss phoning you and I will miss meeting up.  I feel proud to have been your friend for so long, but not long enough.  All my love Anna Xxx

  • Martin Moloney

    Robert, Jane, Dylan and Mark,

    I am very sorry to hear this terrible news. I will always remember Mel in the Angler’s Arms during the Xmas holiday of 2010. She was remarkable in her ability to both entertain AND listen to others around her. We shared some great stories and had a lot of laughs.

    My thoughts go out to her family and friends who must be living with an awful void.

  • Rob Scott

    Mark, and family, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss.  Mel was one of the first people I met on twitter, and she was always one of the most helpful and willing to interact and help (and it goes without saying, knowledgeable and interesting with it). 
    When I joined PRP in November I looked forward to the fact that I already had a friend there. We spoke on Friday at work last week as we each made a cup of tea, and chatted about blogging. As ever she was fun to talk to and I went back to my desk knowing a little more than I had before. I didnt speak to Mel later in the Charterhouse, but saw you Mark as I left for a weeks holiday. I wish now that I had come and said hello. My thoughts are with you and Mels family and friends.

  • AW

    A huge loss. She was so unique, one in a million. So intelligent and energetic. She made a real contribution to improving the sustainability of the built environment. So many talk about it and she did it. She has left a legacy to be proud of.

  • John & Melanie Ward

    Mark, I saw you for the first time on Friday where a packed home town church paid such a fitting tribute to Mel. The last time I saw Mel she was a bright, beautiful twenty year old, but it is only recently that I have been aware of the important work she has been doing since then. Robert and Jane have been friends since I can remember and they must be proud of a daughter who has achieved so much. At such a sad time our hearts go out to you, Jane, Robert and Dillon however we are sure that in the future Mel’s influence will inspire and uplift you.
    John & Melanie

  • Claire Donnelly

    I went to school with Melanie for a short time – so sorry to hear this news.

  • Cathy Stewart

    At last we have some summer weather so yesterday I took the
    opportunity to sit in my garden and catch up on my reading in the sunshine.

    I was absolutely shocked to read in Building magazine the
    terribly sad news about Mel . Although I only worked with
    her for a short time at PRP I enjoyed our discussions and lunches enormously.
    She was always willing to help and give advice on sustainability issues for the
    Higher Education sector – we spoke at conferences together and attended
    exhibitions. Not only was she dedicated to her profession she was fun to be
    around and approached everything with a positive and practical attitude.

    The industry has lost a champion for the environment, a
    talented female professional and a good friend. As a tribute to Mel I’m going
    to start blogging, however on this occasion words cannot convey ‘our’ loss of a
    dear friend.

    My heartfelt sympathies go to Mark and Mel’s family.
    Cathy Stewart

  • Felixodeh

    What a shocking news.  I knew Mel from post-graduate days, enthusiastic and well focused.  She will be sadly missed. My thoughts are with Mark and her family. RIP Mel.  Felix

  • Paul Bartlett

    To Mark and all families.
    I have just seen the details on Linked-In about your cycle along the Rhine, I am absolutely devastated and lost for words!
    I placed Mel at Whitby Bird in 1998 and was told by the Directors she was one of the brightest individuals they had met for a very long time and she would achieve great things……She certainly done that!
    I am so sorry to hear your sad news, my thoughts are with you all. RIP Mel.
    Best wishes
    Paul Bartlett

  • Matt Grace

    Mel was truly inspirational to all of us in the green building movement.  Devastating news.

    Matt Grace

  • Janie Stamford

    I am incredibly saddened to hear the news of Mel’s passing. I realise that my condolences are very late but I’m afraid I only just found out. We only met once but would tweet each other now and again, even after our professionals paths diverged. Mel always struck me as a warm, witty and tremendously passionate woman and the loss experienced by her family and friends is no doubt shared by a great many people. May her legacy live on.