Meet Rachel Thompson - Our newly appointed Sustainability Co-oridnator

Momentum around sustainable development continues to pick up pace as the climate crisis intensifies. Now, more than ever, it is vital that developers and those involved in the industry are factoring sustainability into their projects at every stage. 

This need for an embedded sustainability perspective is what led to the evolution of our Sustainability Co-ordinator role. With the need to address sustainability at every stage of the project lifecycle, we realised someone with a wider view and sustainable agenda could add real value to our projects. Fast forward to today and we are excited to introduce Rachel Thompson, a former Project Manager with a passion for green development.  

Introducing Rachel

Name: Rachel Thompson 

Job title: Sustainability Co-ordinator

Time at RPS:  16 months 

Best thing about your role: Being able to influence the design of a development from a sustainability perspective across all our disciplines. I can help drive positive, cultural and behavioural shifts in how we think about carbon and the global consequences of our design decisions.  

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QHow did you get here?

Serendipity! I joined RPS amidst the covid outbreak as a temp covering reception. I got chatting about my previous work history in the construction sector and after a few weeks was offered the role of Assistant Project Manager, covering and co-ordinating three live sites. These sites had BREEAM requirements, and I have done a lot of BREEAM work over the years, so I got myself involved with that aspect and the role of Sustainability Co-ordinator evolved from there.

QHow does your role add value for our clients?

Most clients will undergo some type of 3rd party accreditation for their buildings, such as BREEAM, DREAM etc. Through my role, I influence design and construction to better meet the requirements of their desired accreditation and coordinate the assimilation of evidence for the assessors.

Working across a project’s design and construction stages gives me a wider perspective that allows me to better understand the intricacies of adjustment consequences across disciplines, this also adds value when it comes to accounting for carbon and how changes can affect the end result.

And, thanks to my years of experience working with main contractors at site level, I better understand the principles behind a live site and the challenges of meeting client’s agreed contract terms.

QWhat’s your vision for your role at RPS?

I would like my role to evolve and embrace the positive changes that come as the development industry responds to climate challenges. It’s important to me to be able to adapt and integrate new ideas and processes and to encompass the diverse aspects of sustainability and carbon management and share these with our clients.

QWhat are our biggest climate challenges from your perspective?

You can’t manage what you can’t measure! With such a huge focus on carbon reduction and how carbon is ‘counted’, accurate and transparent information about the manufacture of construction materials is vital to correctly assess and measure a development’s footprint.

Happily, most big manufactures for major elements such as steel and concrete in the UK are incredibly good at assessing their carbon and sharing that information. The big challenge is getting that information for all building products, in particular drainage, mechanical and electrical items can be somewhat elusive. We know these elements make up a substantial proportion of a building’s conception, life and disassembly so having accredited data on these items would be extremely beneficial in carbon measurement and specification.

QHow does your role contribute to climate action?

Influencing project design with sustainability at the forefront of my thinking ensures climate positive outcomes. And not just in a project's carbon management but also its supply chain. In my role, I can influence manufacturers to produce carbon information and encourage these items to be specified and ultimately purchased.

I can also advise on the associated cost of sustainability, ways to increase biodiversity, the importance of renewable technologies and health and wellbeing initiatives. I will work with clients to look at how they can reduce resource usage such as water and fossil fuels and reduce waste too, the list goes on.

If I can get people to think about the implications of their choices in a wider setting, it leads to more sustainable outcomes.

QWhat opportunities, threats and challenges lie ahead for your role?

Opportunities are endless, as the built environment and its design is constantly changing for the better, keeping track and implementing the best of it can be a challenge at times but ultimately well worth the effort. As for threats…the only threat I’m really worried about is the human civilization bringing the onset of the 6th extinction.

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