Active Building Centre’s Women in Science
By Marie Greaves, Communications Assistant
This month has seen Women Science Day being celebrated. At the Active Building Centre we are fortunate to have some very knowledgeable, experienced and passionate engineers, who are working towards our vision of a decarbonised and transformed construction sector.
Meet the team
First up is Dr Jo Atkinson who works as a Building Project Engineer. As part of that role she is leading on our retrofit work and is working closely with Llywodraeth Cymru / Welsh Government to support on one of their retrofit programmes. Her expertise has earnt her the nickname the queen of retrofit! It’s not just us who are lucky to have her on the team, the Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance also have her as Sustainability Co-Chair. When she’s not in work you’ll find her hurtling down a mountain bike track and, once travel is allowed, touring about in her campervan.
Joining Jo is Pragya Gupta who works as Building Physics Engineer. Impressively she has a Bachelor of Architecture, MSc in Architectural Engineering: Environmental Design, is certified Passive Haus designer and a registered architect in India. When asked why she wanted to work in the built environment sector, Pragya said “I have always been intrigued by the art of designing buildings and the global challenge of making the construction industry greener, which drove me towards environmental design, which is an amalgamation of art and building physics.” When she’s not in work she loves to take long walks in and around her home city of Bath.
And last but not least is Erin Bell who works as Civil & Building Physics Engineer. When Erin was asked about her career and why she chose her path she spoke so eloquently that we asked her to share more of her career journey below. When she’s not in work creating music is a passion, she is classically trained on the flute and is currently learning the cello.
Women in engineering and environmental design
The world of engineering was a natural fit for me, especially focusing on environmental design. I have always enjoyed the sciences and mathematics since I was a little kid, especially the natural world and how humans interact with it. I grew up in the middle of a small forest and was always outside as a kid building forts in the woods with my siblings and trying to follow birds around trying to mimic their calls. This helped me develop a deep love and respect for our world and cultivated a desire to use my skills to be a good steward of our resources. As a teenager in the USA, I participated in an organization, the Envirothon, that taught students about the environment, the challenges it faced and potential solutions to those problems while encouraging individuals to develop their own potential solutions. This group introduced me to the concept of green design and how engineering skills can be used to protect the environment, ultimately leading me to pursuing a career in environmental design.
As I researched prospective paths for my career, I discovered a few statistics that surprised me and influenced my decision. One was that at the time in the USA only 8% of civil engineers were women and the other was that over 30% of global carbon emissions come from the building industry. I knew I wanted to be a part of changing both of those statistics in whatever way I could. I got a BSc in civil engineering and an MSc in Architectural Engineering: Environmental Design to start pursuing. During my undergraduate and working as a Civil Engineer in the states I was disappointed, while not surprised, in the lack of diversity in my field. Frequently I was the only woman in the room during technical meetings at work or one of very few in a lecture hall.
Working for Active Building Centre has been a refreshing change of pace and we have a strong focus on how we can better the industry, including having several other women in our team with impressive technical backgrounds. One of the things that I appreciate at Active Building Centre is that we do not take the industry standard at face value, we investigate further to see how we could be doing things better, more accurate and more accessible than what is currently accepted. By not accepting the status quo we are able to assess how well different tactics work to find the most effective and efficient built environment solutions whilst tackling our environmental problems.
Published February 2021