Previous post:

Next post:

Is sustainability in the built environment a technical issue?

by Mel Starrs on March 16, 2010

in Opinion, Theory and Comment

Interesting news spotted in my current issue of CIBSE Journal that the Head of Sustainability role at Buro Happold which was recently advertised has been filled by Dan Phillips of the SEA. SEA are described in the press release as a design and innovation consultancy. Dan is an engineer by background, working for Battle McCarthy back in the mid-90’s, and Arup’s prior to that.

The reason I am blogging about this is it is fascinating to me that Buro Happold have opted for someone with a broader skillset than pure technical engineering. SEA will clearly have given Dan ‘softer’ skills. This appointment is similar in some ways to BDP‘s replacement of Trevor Butler with Richard Buckingham.

This blog has always had the strapline of ‘communicating’ sustainable solutions for a built environment, and it is increasingly being the case that pure technical ability is not enough to succeed in the sustainable built environment arena. Softer skills – communication, empathy and personability – are becoming at least as important as technical knowhow. Can these skills be learned? While not all soft skills come naturally or easy to most people, over time they can be honed.

  • http://www.ecda.co.uk Mark Elton

    I am hoping that there is a bright future for that balance of soft and hard as my career seems increasingly based on balancing the two. Passivhaus design and low carbon retrofit require architects to have obsessive attention to the technical details, as well an eye for beauty, but I agree we need to be able to communicate (and inspire) to ordinary people and clients the reasons behind this, which I find myself being asked to do a lot now.

  • http://www.ecda.co.uk Mark Elton

    I am hoping that there is a bright future for that balance of soft and hard as my career seems increasingly based on balancing the two. Passivhaus design and low carbon retrofit require architects to have obsessive attention to the technical details, as well an eye for beauty, but I agree we need to be able to communicate (and inspire) to ordinary people and clients the reasons behind this, which I find myself being asked to do a lot now.

  • http://www.amida-recruit.com Greg Brooks

    Hi Mel, really interested to read your comments. We recruit across sustainability in the built environment and pitch ourselves with both a dual technical and non-technical point of view. We had heard about Buro Happold’s appointment as well and to us especially it will be very interesting to see if this is indicative of a wider trend.

  • http://www.amida-recruit.com Greg Brooks

    Hi Mel, really interested to read your comments. We recruit across sustainability in the built environment and pitch ourselves with both a dual technical and non-technical point of view. We had heard about Buro Happold’s appointment as well and to us especially it will be very interesting to see if this is indicative of a wider trend.