AJ Footprint's Women in Sustainable Architecture

In the run up to the AJ Women in Architecture Awards, here’s AJ Footprint’s pick of the women who are influencing sustainable architecture today

AJ Footprint's Women in Sustainable Architecture

Anne Thorne Architects

Anne Thorne Architects

Fran Bradshaw of Anne Thorne Architects presenting to visitors at the new strawbale Lordship Rec Ecohub on its open day

Anne Thorne Architects is a practice designing new-build and retrofit sustainable projects and advising clients on low energy design. Over the past 20 years the practice has built up a reputation for site and user specific projects that enhance the value of places by specialising in participatory design and low energy sustainable design and detailing, using natural materials and designing to the Passivhaus standard.

Fran Bradshaw, partner at the practice said: ‘We like people - that’s why and how we design. Together we can make buildings which are both a pleasure and practical to live in, and which use the earth’s resources carefully and imaginatively.’

Sarah Wigglesworth, Sarah Wigglesworth Architects

Sarah has long been an advocate for women working in architecture as director of her own practice, Sarah Wigglesworth Architects. She wrote an essay on the subject for last year’s AJ Women in Architecture issue.

Sarah said: ‘Since the early 1990s Sarah Wigglesworth Architects has aimed to explore what contribution the built environment can make to create a sustainable future, but we know that this is an issue much larger than simply building itself. While the prevailing approach focuses on technical solutions we believe the key to a truly sustainable way forward is simple, passive environmental design, backed up by understanding how occupants interact with their surroundings.

‘We would like to see more open debate about the different approaches to being green, and the imposition these have on clients’ purses and users’ way of life. We would like there to be more honesty about building performance in use, a commitment to post-occupancy evaluation in every budget and a limit to glazing on office architecture. We are against over-sophistication in building systems (BMS) but where things get more technical (such as rainwater recycling) we need more skilled subcontractors that actually know what they are doing. There is a skills gap in the construction industry that urgently needs plugging. We need to alter people’s expectations of what buildings can be made of to promote a wider range of products and material choices.’


Sarah Cary, British Land

Sarah Cary

Sarah Cary is the sustainable developments executive at British Land and is responsible for environmental and social concerns in the design and procurement of the developer’s £2.1billion development programme. She works across the whole construction team, with architects, engineers, project managers, planning consultants and contractors to ensure the reduced resource use and positive impact of all their projects. Her most recent projects include the refurbishment of 199 Bishopsgate, the Leadenhall Building and the mixed use North East Quadrant development at Regents Place near Euston Tower.

Sarah said: ‘I hope to leverage the largest committed development programme in central London to change procurement practices and influence design and site behaviour in a significant part of the UK’s construction industry. I am also concerned with ethical issues in materials procurement and to connect the dots between design and operation for energy use in commercial buildings.’

Marion Baeli, Paul Davis and Partners

Marion Baeli

Marion described her work as ‘providing the best architectural design to ensure the delivery of robust sustainable buildings’. Marion is an architect at Paul Davis and Partners heading up their sustainability department. Her work has involved developing research on the subject of Passivhaus and in particular the retrofit of solid wall properties to enable them to meet the standard. Her recent projects include a £83million residential development in Mayfair, a £2million new build private house in St John’s Wood, and a retrofit pilot research project.

Fionn Stevenson, Sheffield School of Architecture

Fionn Stevenson

Fionn is currently director of technology at Sheffield School of Architecture and is taking over as head of school in September 2013. She champions sustainable design in architectural education and was a founding member of the Educators for Sustainable Architecture group.

Fionn said: ‘My interest lies in the deep tacit knowledge that people have in relation to buildings and the means of accessing and utilising this in design through occupancy feedback in order to make buildings work better. A key aspect of this is reducing unnecessary resource consumption in buildings at every level and finding new ways to do this.’

Sue Roaf, Heriot Watt University

Sue Roaf

Sue Roaf is an architect and professor of architectural engineering at Heriot Watt University. An ex-Oxford City Councillor, she has worked in research on thermal comfort, photovoltaics, traditional building technologies, ecohousing, low carbon buildings, adaptation to climate change and Ssolar cities. Sue has produced a wide range of books on sustainable design and energy efficiency of buildings.

Anna Surgenor, UK-GBC

Anna Surgenor

In her technical capacity at the UK-GBC Anna focuses on encouraging industry action. The initiatives she has worked on have included leading industry groups looking to roll out DECs and integrating community scale sustainable infrastructure, leading the development of the London 2012 sustainability lessons learned series, kicking off an embodied carbon database and more latterly the development of Pinpoint an online platform for industry practitioners.

Blanche Cameron, Reset Development

Blanche Cameron

Blanche Cameron founded RESET Development in 2007, whilst teaching at the Centre for Alternative Technology. The charity works to promote the ecological adaptation of our towns and cities. Blanche is also co-founder with green infrastructure experts Gary Grant and Dusty Gedge of the annual Integrated Habitats Design Competition. She runs Defra/DCLG Green Infrastructure Partnership’s interdisciplinary training programme, and is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity.

Blanche said: ‘Our towns and cities are hot, dry, polluted and prone to flash flooding. To create the transformational changes needed to adapt and survive into the 21st Century, we have to do 3 things urgently. We need to work with, and for, nature, bringing soil, plants and water into the city. This is real green growth. Secondly, we have to work together across disciplines and outside of traditional silos. And finally, as well as talking, we need to act in whatever way we are able, in the belief that everyone is involved and can make a difference.’

Joana Carla Soares Gonçalves, Architectural Association

Joana Carla Soares Goncalves

Joana originates from Brazil but came to London to study environmental design at the Architectural Association in 1996. Since then her work has involved research into the sustainability of tall buildings resulting in the publication of a book on the subject, and the environmental design co-ordination for a number of projects in Brazil. She currently teaches on the MSc and MArch Sustainable Environmental Design course at the Architectural Association.

Joana said: ‘My interest in sustainability has encompassed both buildings and urban issues. In teaching, research and practice, my main objective has been to demonstrate that environmental performance is not purely a matter of quantification and numerical targets, instead (or in addition to that) it should be a search for quality and positive social dynamics. To a certain extent, having experienced the poor quality of commercial and residential buildings built mainly in cities of the developing world, as well as the miserable and chaotic urban conditions of its big cities, has become a personal drive for change.’

Siân Moxon, Jestico + Whiles

Sian Moxon

Sian heads up Jestico + Whiles sustainability team, where she promotes sustainable design and aims to minimise the environmental impact of the company’s activities. She lectures on the subject of environmental design and is the author of a book on sustainable interiors.

Judit Kimpian, Aedas

Judit Kimpian

Judit Kimpian is director of sustainable architecture and research at Aedas and has been working to drive the practice’s design approach to improve the whole-life value of buildings. With a background in design and virtual information modelling, she leads cross-industry collaborations like the RIBA CIBSE platform CarbonBuzz to close the performance gap between design expectations and actual outcomes.

Sofie Pelsmakers, University College London

Sophie Pelsmakers

Sofie Pelsmakers is an architect and doctoral researcher at UCL. She is co-founder of Architecture for Change, a not-for-profit environmental building and research organisation, with the mission of challenging the way we design and build. Sophie recently published a definitive guide to sustainable architecture, The Environmental Design Pocketbook, which distils environmental science, legislation, and guidance into an easily usable guide for both students and architects.

It is encouraging to see so many women influencing sustainable architecture and design, spanning both academic and practice-based work. Here, we’ve featured profiles of just 12 women architects, developers and academics, but there are many more. Trish Andrews’ work teaching postgraduate architecture students at the Centre for Alternative Technology should be mentioned, for her dedication to helping students understand and realise low impact architecture, whilst on the other end of the spectrum those working in policy like Lynne Sullivan of sustainableBYdesign are doing wonders to improve the status of both women and sustainability in the industry.

As a student I remember being told that ‘women are better at sustainable design, because they understand nature and are more in touch with the feelings of those who they are building and designing for’. This could be a rather sweeping statement, but when there is evidence of so many women working to produce architecture which is both sustainable and in touch with its inhabitants, then maybe the statement has some meaning.

With many of these women also teaching at universities, influencing our future architects, we could see a lot more good work to come.

There is still time to help us track the evolving status of women in the profession by filling out the AJ Women in Architecture survey.

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