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Sustainability in the Built Environment

Chloe JAckroyd20 February 2019

Sara Godinho Senior Consultant at XCO2 and Lecturer at University of Suffolk

(*Spoiler alert: my career path has been a bumpy one, filled with trial and error. I don’t regret a single thing as every experience was valuable but hasn’t definitely been a straight line!)

I decided to study Architecture (MArch University of Lisbon) as I was told by a high school career advisor that it would be the best way to combine my creative and artistic side with my analytical thinking. It wasn’t really! While I liked studying Architecture it never really fulfilled me. During my studies, I had a module on Environmental Design that caught my attention. It sparked curiosity and interest in sustainability and environmental design that hasn’t fade.

After graduating and working for a couple of years in my home town Lisbon, I decided to move to London. I was always very oriented to international experiences, I did Erasmus in Norway, studied in Japan for a year, so it was only a matter of time before going abroad again. I was also increasingly frustrated as an architect only focusing on design and ignoring the environmental impact. I really wanted to make a difference and work on making buildings more environmentally friendly. London was an easy choice because after living in Japan, I understood how European I am. I also had a good English level and the UCL MSc Environmental Design and Engineering programme seemed really good. Coming to the UK was a breath of fresh air! The master was a lot of hard work but one of the best years of my life. I learned a lot, made great friends, and had a real “this is it” epiphany as this was the area I wanted to be working on!

I decided to stay after graduation but had a tough time getting a job, it took me about six months and a lot of rejection. I was trying to enter this new sector and was also a foreigner. I got interviews and having UK education helped but everybody kept seeing me as an architect with no UK work experience. I decided to change my strategy and got a job in an architecture practice. It was small and specialised in Passivhaus and was a great learning experience. I got to work on site delivering one of the most demanding energy certifications in the world on a project that has now received a CIBSE Building Performance Award! At the time, the practice had also some research funding so I was lucky to work on Post Occupancy Evaluation of Passivhaus buildings and study their actual performance. It also confirmed that I was less interested in the design and more on the performance so, a couple of years in, I decided to try to move into environmental consultancy. Having now UK work experience made change easier and I finally made it into consultancy work. Funnily for my current job at XCO2 my architectural background was valuable to them as we work with a lot of architects and, being trained in their language, is helpful.

At XCO2, my role is to lead on the energy and sustainability strategies for a project, being a masterplan, new built or refurbishment. My work focuses on reducing the environmental impact of the construction industry, improving buildings’ energy efficiency and performance while promoting occupant wellbeing. Buildings are such complex and beautiful constructions and we spend most of our time inside one so it’s really gratifying when my advice contributes to improving a building’s energy performance or occupant comfort.

Teaching came by serendipity into my life two years ago. Through connections, I saw that the University of Suffolk was looking for a Lecturer in Technology. I applied and got selected and immediately panicked! Would I be able to do it? Instead, I absolutely loved it from day one and teaching has been incredibly transformative for my career. Being able to digest all my knowledge and experience into teaching has made realise how passionate I am about sustainability in the built environment and how much it matters to me to pass on the concepts and the skills and influence future architects. I don’t see sustainability in the built environment as an add-on but as an absolutely fundamental aspect of design. I want my students (and everybody!) to know of the impact buildings have in the environment and in our wellbeing and give them tools to thinks and create better ways of designing.

Although balancing two jobs can be demanding with conflicting needs at times, they absolutely complement each other. My industry experience means I can bring very practical knowledge to my students and teaching requires me to translate difficult concepts into comprehensible principles. It keeps me very aware of the bigger picture and my focus on improving sustainability in the built environment.

 

 

 

Operations Officer: Inspire Me

ManpreetDhesi10 October 2015

As part of our #UCLInspireMe series, Laura Davies, UCL Alumnus (BSc Human Science, 2013 and MSc Technology Entrepreneurship, 2014) and Operations Officer at BaseStone, talks to us about how she got this role and shares some tips for UCL students who want to get into the sector. basestone.laura

How did you get into your role?

I’m Laura, I am the Operations Officer at BaseStone. BaseStone is a tool for architects and engineers to capture and communicate data more effectively. It connects people and data in construction, reducing costs and mistakes on projects.

I found out about the role through a mentor of mine. She knew the founder of the company and knew that they were looking for someone to help them grow the business. The majority of the team was made up of software developers so they were hiring for new employees on the business side.

I chose this career because of the opportunities for growth. There was a huge amount of potential for me to develop my own skill set, confidence and abilities in so many areas. I think I recognised that the business was at a really interesting point – the technology was in demand by the industry and there were many customers in the pipeline.  But there was a need for all of the pieces of the puzzle around the technology to be put in place – I wanted to be the person to do that! It was an exciting challenge and I knew that this would give me a breadth of experience like no other.

What are the best things about working in your role?

I think working with the a team that care so much about what they do is my favourite part of the job. Everyone is so passionate about our mission – bringing change to the construction industry. We work very closely together so it really helps that we all get on!

The work is also interesting. What we are doing is quite ground-breaking – we’re disrupting an ancienct industry. It’s really interesting to be part of the change. I get to go out on construction sites to visit our users. So I have been on Crossrail sites, seeing London’s future infrastructure being built which is pretty cool too.

As part of my role, I work with a huge range of people – from graduate engineers to important industry figures. It’s great to have that diversity

Biggest success in your role?

I am really proud of the community we have built around what we are doing. As the industry is quite old fashioned, we’ve developed our own community of disruptors. We hold events to champion disruption and discuss the future of the built environment. The last event had over 120 attendees and caused a real stir in the industry.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

The biggest challenge is having to hit the ground running with things you’ve never done before. But technology is a really supportive industry – there are mentors, events, free courses and many meetup groups that you can get advice from.

It’s a challenge but it pushes you to realise your full potential. It provides an excellent springboard for your career.

What top tips would you pass on to a student interested in this type of work?

Developing your network is the single most important thing. As I mentioned, the world of startups and technology is friendly and supportive. People will generally be happy to have a coffee or call with you if you reach out to them. So don’t be afraid to ask!

I would recommend getting some experience in a startup before you jump right into one. I did the UCL Advances Summer Internship Programme in my second year of university. You get a paid internship for 8 weeks in a small company – I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

You can also develop yourself and build your skill set. I did the CodeFirst:Girls coding course which gave me coding skills that I still use today. There are many free courses like this in London, for both men and women to develop skills in tech. UCL Advances also do many events and workshops.

Good luck!

To find our more about working in a startup, either come in an speak to a Careers Consultant or visit UCL Advances.