Interview with an architect

Driving positive change whilst being sustainable

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How would you describe your business?

SJA is a small and effective team of architects, structural engineers and surveyors working together to expertly assist clients with their building design projects, never leaving them searching for further support.  The SJA team all share a deep sense of service to our clients, to each other, to our wider professional community and to the world in general.  This is evidenced in the high level of service embedded into our design process, our continuing efforts to stay abreast of market changes and developments in research, and in our recent efforts to measurably reduce our environmental footprint on an individual, team and business level.

What motivated you to sign up for Green Mark?

As a team, we wanted to develop our approach to sustainability and demonstrate tangible improvement in our efforts to ‘go greener’ for the environment – we wanted to invest in being an environmentally aware company.  We researched several ways of doing this and agreed that the Green Mark system offered the flexibility, support and benchmarking that we needed to improve our working methods in the home, in the office, while travelling and on site.

Now you have achieved level 1 what are you most proud of?

Achieving Level 1 with Green Mark has helped us to develop our sustainability policy and administrative practices as a business, ensuring that our goals are practice-wide and clearly understood by staff and clients alike.  We have examined our working environment, both at home and in the office, and identified ways to improve it.  We have become measurably more aware of how we impact on the environment as a practice and we are proud to announce that we will soon be volunteering as a team in ‘green’ projects to benefit the wider community.

What promoted you to be so thorough with your documentation?

In 2019 the UK passed into law a domestic requirement for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Less than a week ago, Green Activists won a legal challenge in the high court, resulting in the UK government being ordered to outline exactly how its net zero policies will achieve these emissions targets. Current estimates indicate that we are falling behind.

The climate emergency is here, now, and it is critical. We feel that we have a responsibility individually and as a business to address climate change issues head-on, and to do everything within our power to effect positive change for the environment. Those of us working in the Construction Design Industry are uniquely placed to lead projects and clients, we should be taking advantage of this to drive positive change.

What are you looking forward to achieving on the rest of your sustainability journey?

It’s our hope that in improving our own working methods and practices we will lead the way for clients to have an increased focus on ‘going green’ with their projects.  Local Authorities are implementing standards and regulations that support sustainable design and construction however in our experience this is not enough. At SJA we constantly strive to improve our knowledge base, acquiring additional skills and tools to aid us in our efforts to build without detriment to our world.  It is SJA’s aim to support every client in realising their design project in a way that, in the words of the great Glenn Murcutt, ‘touches the earth lightly’.

What motivates you to integrate sustainability into your business?

The construction industry in general is being motivated to ‘go green’ by increasingly powerful legislation at government levels and by increasing moral obligation. At SJA we are in addition motivated by what we see in the world around us: rising sea levels, extremely varied weather systems, decreasing diversity, waste and inefficiency in construction. On a moral and ethical level, we feel we need to do our bit to implement change for the good. It’s not just company policy at SJA – sustainability is a core value in each individual team member.

How have you found working from home and trying to be sustainable?

It’s great! The SJA team do work largely from home and our efforts to become more sustainable are naturally making our home lives and family practices more environmentally responsible. We have changed energy providers, installed water butts, increased diversity in our gardens. We are reducing washing loads, sourcing zero-waste shops and bringing plants into our homes. Going through the Green Mark Level 1 process has heightened our awareness and re-energised us in the fight against climate change, and the whole family is benefitting.

Anything else you would like to add?

Green Mark is a great tool for evaluating where you stand and what is important to your business and the generations to come.

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