I am part of an 11-strong team of experts at WSP who advise clients on creating more environmentally sound buildings. Most developers these days are expected to take the environment more seriously but they are usually unsure of how to do this. This is where I parachute in to offer a variety of suggestions, typically on water and energy conservation.
What is a typical day?
In the morning I usually have a meeting with an architect to discuss aspects of BREEAM, followed by a talk with a large developer. Subjects can range from increasing passive ventilation to solar absorption cooling – the use of solar power to cool a building. Other aspects of my job are more office-based, such as monitoring budgets. I also do a lot of report writing and research, as my work is all about innovation and keeping one step ahead of the M&E engineers and architects.
What are you working on now?
One of the most exciting projects I am working on is a proposal for the development of an "environmental technology incubator centre" in partnership with the South African government. It is a sustainable business park that will provide businesses with start-up units. The idea is that it will be a self-sustaining economic generator in a poor part of South Africa. I am also working with the Highways Agency, working out what transport demands will be in 2030 and how they can meet them.
How did you get this job?
My current boss approached me when I was working on the Green Handbook. It was good timing as I had been applying to Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.
What gives you a buzz in your job?
To know that I am creating value for society and not just for clients. I also like the fact that I am constantly pushing boundaries, especially when it comes to new technology and techniques. Another satisfying area is when I manage to broker agreements between a very cautious developer and a planning authority with high expectations.
What frustrates you in your job?
The unrelenting and extremely tight deadlines can make it a very intense working environment. But they are also the elements that make it an exciting and challenging place to work.
How do you switch off?
I joined a gym recently to ensure I take a lunch break. After work I play the guitar and practice on my sitar. I find that cycling to work is a good way for me to make the transition from work to free time. Being a practising Buddhist also helps me relax. I have been an active member of the Sokka Gakai – a Japanese form of Buddhism – for 15 years. I practise its principles in my daily life and do daily chanting meditation.
What's your ideal alternative career?
Fieldwork in third world development is particularly appealing, as it involves travelling and making a difference to people's lives.
How do you deal with work-related stress?
I think of how I turn the situation into something positive. There's no point in going crazy. Sometimes it's just a matter of taking time out.
What hours do you work?
Officially my hours are 9am to 5.30pm but I often work until 6.30-7pm and about twice a month I will go home at 10pm. I have to work hard as developers don't tend to realise that they need us until a fortnight before they submit the planning permission.
WSP sustainability consultant
1995-1999 construction journalist for the Green Building Digest (now Handbook) at the Ethical Consumer Research Association; 1999-present environmental consultant and then sustainability consultant at WSP
BSc in environmental science and an MSc in pollution and environmental control
Kentish Town, north London