This is the fourth year of the Rising Star Award, presented in memory of sustainability maven Mel Starrs who died suddenly in 2012 aged just 38. Mel was a prolific blogger who made it her mission to take apart policy and regulation, and campaign both online and off for a genuine sustainable future for the built environment. The award, founded by the UK Green Building Council and PRP Architects, Mel’s former employer, seeks nominations for individuals who have picked up the baton, acting as a catalyst for change in their work and elsewhere, engaging and stimulating debate in the industry.
I’ve been involved with the award since it began, and given my role in pushing forward better ways of communication in construction, am particularly interested in finding people who are finding effective ways to communicate with their audiences. This year’s awards have been the best ever in terms of breadth of entries from right across the industry, of all ages and expertise. We have
- A property lawyer;
- A property manager;
- An economist;
- A building performance evaluator;
- An architect, and
- An ecologist – each one making a real difference.
Behind them is a list of over 60 fascinating and inspirational nominees. Thank you for nominating them, you did a great job!
On Thursday I spent a final afternoon with the judges, discussing the shortlisted candidates for this year’s Rising Star Award for Sustainability in the Built Environment. I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you some information about the final six candidates, which give a fascinating picture of how some of the best minds in sustainability think we need to take the agenda forward.
The six shortlisted candidates were announced this morning, and are:
Ben is a property lawyer at Baker & McKenzie who wants to raise awareness amongst lawyers about the role they can play in achieving a sustainable built environment. If you work in the industry you’ll know that legal factors can often be the sticking point for change. Ben has developed a Global Sustainability Index that draws on his firm’s expertise across the world to compare legal frameworks and rank countries according to their performance. By turning the data into simple heat maps, the complex patterns of legislation in different countries can be shared and discussed in further detail, encouraging stakeholders to question and push for change. This work is in its infancy and deserves more visibility. I’d encourage the sustainability community to work with Ben to discuss the metrics and results and how the tool can be used more widely as it evolves.
Ben Farnell on Linkedin
Carol Wakelin on LinkedinCarol is the Environmental Manager at the Queensgate Shopping Centre in Peterborough. She was instrumental in developing a tenant engagement programme called the Growing Greener Pledge, which her employers JLL believe is the first time we’ve been able to look at the overall environmental impact of a shopping centre in the UK, including the tenancies. Carol managed to get an amazing 83% buy in from tenants, who took part in a benchmarking exercise to develop practical ways to save energy and water, reduce waste and raise awareness in their tenancies.
The shopping centre has been able to send zero waste to land fill and has identified reductions in energy use by 4,253,000kWh (a financial saving of £477,000) enough to power over 1000 homes in Peterborough for a year. Carol’s communications skills have spun out of her work and she’s now working with schools and asset managers across the country. Developers and landlords could learn a lot from her achievements.
Christina works for Skanksa in their Environment Department. An economist by training, she recognised the importance of speaking in the ‘language of money’ and created a new model which monetises Skanska’s true value to society, aiming to provide more holistic approach to managing sustainability. Her initiative, “Valuing our Values” makes it possible for the contractor to put a value on the social and environmental aspects of its work as well as focus on profit. As a result, Skanska now has an Accounting for Sustainability board level steering group that brings together the finance and environment teams for the first time.
As well as this work, Christina also runs a Generation Y initiative to bring the best young talent in the company to meet with the CFO and senior executives, challenging both to consider how genuine improvements can be made. Whilst she was a complete newbie to sustainability in 2013, Christina has turned a six-month personal project to understand it, into a complete shift in how Skanska values its work.
Christina Houlgrave on Linkedin
Lisa trained as an architect, and got into building performance evaluation early in her career. Since then she’s pursued this passion, working with Archetype and Oxford Brookes to develop a practical way to implement soft landings and BPE and make it possible to offer them as a commercial service. One of her nominators describes her as “one of the industry’s first Soft Landings practitioners”. Now with her own consultancy called Six Cylinder, Lisa set up and led a team of specialists in developing a highly regarded risk management toolkit for the GLA’s RE:NEW programme. Risk management in large-scale retrofit is a hugely important area, because as techniques come together they can have detrimental effects on each other. The toolkit gives managers a practical methodology to identify and mitigate risks through simple tools.
Outside of her work Lisa is also a consummate communicator and advocate of sustainability in everything she does, including writing, lecturing, delivering CPDs to architects and engineers, tweeting and spending spare time as a paddlesport coach with young people.
Mark is an architect who takes a very pragmatic view of sustainability. His key enthusiasm is the ludicrous fact of the building performance gap, and his approach to dealing with this is to carry out primary research and publish his findings online. He then takes this research and other findings and applies them to the design of the buildings of his one-person practice, LEAP. Why is Mark self funding his research and making it available? Because he is an educator, pure and simple. He feels each one of us has a responsibility to collaborate and share what we know if we are going to change the way the industry works. It is very unusual for architects to be this willing to share their expertise, but like all bloggers will tell you, the value you get from sharing comes back tenfold.
Mark’s enthusiasm is infectious and is exemplified in his video submission. He’s also heavily involved in the Association of Environmentally Friendly Buildings (AECB) another example of his selfless dedication to changing our industry. Mark’s next tasks are to set up a community website and a training website for subcontractors, as he identifies further areas where his talents can be applied to helping us bridge the building performance gap.
It’s great to have an ecologist on our shortlist, and Morgan is an excellent representative of his profession. Morgan is a senior consultant at GreenGage Environmental having completed is MSci in Marine Biology in 2012. He set up the 15-year ecological monitoring scheme for the huge Elephant and Castle regeneration project and has also worked on over 30 green roof and brown roof projects. Morgan is active in promoting green infrastructure into the built environment and enthusiastic in communicating how this creates biodiversity and other benefits.
As well as helping author sections of the UK-GBC Demystifying Green Infrastructure report, Morgan gives CPD and training to architects, project managers and clients and regularly contributes to journals, blogs and other sources on the importance of biodiversity in the urban form. Morgan’s own blog, Bees, birds and bats – thoughts and rants of an urban ecologist, is a good read and a challenge to the industry to remember the true value of flora and fauna in our work.
See the Finalists in Video Form
Every year we ask the finalists to share alongside their written submissions a video piece to camera, answering the question ‘if you had one minute to talk to your industry, what would you challenge it to change?’ We’re not interested in high production values, but in seeing the candidates describe what matters to them in their own words, and the videos always tell us so much more about them than written words alone can do. You can see the submitted videos on Mel’s blog, where Mark Fretwell, Mel’s former partner, has posted them up.
Meet the Rising Star Award Finalists
So there they are, the top six of over 60 people who are inspiring and challenging us in 2016. If you’d like to meet the finalists they will be at the UK-GBC Party on 9th March (during Ecobuild) where the winner will be presented with the 2016 Rising Star Award for Sustainability. I’m looking forward to meeting them, and hope to see you there too.
Did you nominate someone for the Rising Star Award? Would you like to share your thoughts on the finalists? Please comment below.