The firm’s built environment senior sector leader for Europe on the importance of sustainable transport networks and his admiration for planning barristers. His favourite building is almost 1,000 years old 

Matt Thomas, SLR

Matt is based in Cardiff and a panel member of the Design Commission for Wales

Why did you choose construction as a career?

I got interested in transport, city design and the built environment early in my career at the Building Research Establishment (BRE), focusing on the embodied energy of buildings and, in particular, the relationship between the most sustainable building design compared to the building’s location.

For example, depending on how accessible a building is by non-car modes, the transport-related impacts from commuting to that building by car could be equal to – or larger than – the energy/carbon savings realised through sustainable materials/ building design.

That is important. In the EU, 25% of carbon emissions can be attributed to surface transport.

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

Being a co-founder of the hugely successful and bespoke transport planning company Vectos, and working to ensure a smooth transition to SLR.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career to date?

It is an ongoing challenge! Convincing local authority planning officers, highway officers and members that we cannot keep building bigger roads and junctions to accommodate more traffic from new development. Fortunately, we are now starting to see a policy shift in this respect towards sustainable mobility, but it has taken a climate emergency to slowly start to change attitudes towards mobility.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

We need a more streamlined planning system to stimulate sustainable growth.

What is the most helpful advice that you have been given?

Take ownership of your work no matter how trivial you think the task is.

Name your favourite building in the world?

The leaning Tower of Pisa and its accidental tilt.

Which famous building do you most dislike?

I don’t really have one.

Leaning tower of Pisa

Source: Shutterstock

Construction of the famous tower in Pisa began in 1173. When the second floor was added in 1178, the tower started to lean due to its shallow foundations in soft soil.

Which famous building do you wish you had worked on?

The new Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid.

What single piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?

If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t be embarrassed, just ask – don’t try and blag it!

Santiago Bernabeu1

Source: Shutterstock

Renovation work at the santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid last year. The capactity of Real Madrid’s home ground has been increased to 85,000

Who do you most admire in the construction industry?

Planning barristers, and their ability to distil and tackle complex cases involving numerous technical disciplines.

What is it like being you (and doing your job)?

I like to be busy at work and play and am blessed with a new challenge of leading SLR’s growth within the built environment sector, working with enthusiastic colleagues from differing technical backgrounds on exciting and innovative projects.

I am passionate about placemaking and how we all have the opportunity and responsibility to shape our future places for the better in terms of carbon reduction and health and wellbeing.

Do you have a life philosophy?

Treat people as you expect to be treated yourself.

What do you think your best quality is?

What you see is what you get.

What trait do you most dislike in yourself? And in other people?

I can be blunt and I dislike bad timekeeping.

Name three things that you like

Golf, Swansea City FC, relaxing holidays.

Tell us about a secret skill that we don’t know you have

I have a forklift driving licence.

What is your most prized possession?

My Omega Speedmaster has sentimental value while also ensuring my time-keeping is accurate.

Early bird or night owl?

Definitely an early bird.

What is your favourite food?

Japanese cuisine.

What would your superpower be?