The firm’s sustainability lead on his work with LETI, losing his job before he had started it and teaching in a country where he had only just learnt the language


Why did you choose construction as a career?

I have an engineer dad and an artsy mum, so I ended up loving both and chose architecture as a career because it is a mix between being practical and creative.

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

There is a lot of my work at Bennetts Associates that I’m proud of, both from a project and sustainability standpoint. From being a part of the Storyhouse team early in my career, to my latest project looking at a radically efficient building for an ambitious local authority… these particularly stand out as they are both working with unusual challenges in public contexts where the end result is very visible.

I am also proud of my work as part of initiatives such as the low energy transformation initiative (LETI), where I have helped to develop the LETI embodied carbon primer, the LETI ratings and I am now involved in the net zero carbon standard. This work will have a huge impact way beyond anything I could do as an individual.

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

There have been a lot of challenges along the way, but I think the earlier ones in my career felt like they were the hardest. These include finishing my Part II in 2010 just as the ڶ Schools for the Future programme was scrapped, and losing a job before I even started.

These challenges made me step massively out of my comfort zone, and I ended up in South America teaching architecture and environmental design in a language I didn’t speak a year earlier.

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

Regulation and financial support to dramatically decarbonise the built environment – but that feels too big an ask right now. So, I’ll go for people being honest with themselves, and with others, about the realities of achieving it. Maybe then we can at least know how far we still need to go.

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

When I was just starting out at Bennetts Associates I was told to always remember that we are designing places where many people will spend a huge part of their lives. I was working on an office project, and it made me realise that everything we design has a huge impact, even if it’s not a home.

Name your favourite building in the world?

I am too easily distracted to have one favourite building.

Which famous building do you most dislike?

I am not telling!

Which famous building do you wish you had worked on?

No specific building, but I do wonder what it was like to work on projects before they got so complicated, and before there was as much awareness about the environmental crisis and responsibility to reduce carbon out of building design.

I remember as a Part I having to find archive drawings for an award-winning building, and they fitted on several sheets of A0 paper.

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

Make change and look for those trying to make change, as they almost always want help. Also, remember that facilities managers deserve windows too!

Who do you most admire in the construction industry?

It’s impossible not to have a huge amount of respect for those who are moving from “mainstream” architectural jobs to the undervalued, under resourced, but utterly essential housing retrofit sector (my wife included).

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

I split my time fairly evenly between project work and leading the overall sustainability group at Bennetts Associates. I do this while also juggling involvement in our practice’s B Corp, EDI and efficiency groups. I then chair a couple of organisations and am involved in industry initiatives. This is all squeezed into four and a half days (and the odd evening), so that I can spend Friday afternoons with my daughter at the local city farm.

As a result, you can find me swapping between radically different tasks. At any one point in time I could be meeting a client, doing some sketches for a QS, talking through a task with a member of our team, double checking some LCA figures for an Earth Block project we’re supporting, helping to organise a local B Corp event, executing our annual carbon footprint or helping write the annual B Corp Impact report. A lot of lists are involved.

Do you have a life philosophy?

Be a good person and try to be happy.

What do you think your best quality is?

I like to help and, if I think I can improve a situation, I will try to get involved. Sometimes, though, that probably makes me a (well-meaning) troublemaker to others.

Pedestrian crossing

Source: Shutterstock

Don’t press the button if it has already been pressed… 

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

I have bad social anxiety and though it has improved as I have got older – in part thanks to having a very supportive and transparent company and team – it makes things like networking and even out of the blue meetings that bit more challenging. That being said, it is one of the things that makes me, me.

Dislike is a very strong word, and I try really hard to stay positive about other people (though often fail). That being said, I will admit to judging people who press an already-pressed button on a pedestrian crossing!

Name three things that you like

Drawing, reading or listening to audio dramas, and doing way too many Wordle-type puzzles.

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

I can make Excel do wonderful things.

What is your most prized possession?

My daughter’s stuffed hippo. I guard this toy with my life and wash it more often than is probably good for him.

Early bird or night owl?

Night owl, but with a very active two-year-old… so both!

What is your favourite food?

People I work with will absolutely shout “wraps” at this question. I am cheap and practical and it’s an easy lunch to make in the morning. I like simple, homemade food. I’m definitely not a foodie.

What would your superpower be?

I feel like this is a bit like a genie’s wish in that there is always a downside, so I’ll pass.