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AJ Footprint's Women in Sustainable Architecture

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Hattie Hartman and Laura Mark present 20 women who are leading the way in sustainable architecture

The 20 women who appear in this first annual AJ Footprint list of women who are influencing sustainable architecture include eight practitioners (this means they are working primarily as architects), six academics (most are architects but they are primarily teaching), three environmental campaigners (all non-architects), two consultants and a property developer. As with male colleagues, there is a fair amount of crossover, with practitioners also teaching, academics practising, and so on.

The determining word here is influence, a word chosen by AJ technical reporter Laura Mark, who together with me has curated this list. From Lynne Sullivan at the policy level to Cany Ash promoting ‘meanwhile uses’ in Canning Town, these individuals are all change-makers. Without exception, they are actively engaged with promoting the uptake of green skills throughout the profession: speaking at conferences, writing books and, most importantly, teaching the next generation. These skills cannot be acquired overnight: they demand not only a new way of working but also detailed technical knowledge.

The built environment is primarily man-made and women have not been sufficiently involved in designing and making it

The journey of Anne Thorne Architects, a practice that has been designing with sustainability in mind for more than two decades, is revealing. A series of four children’s nursery projects in the 1990s prompted extensive research into non-toxic materials, a long-standing interest of co-founders Anne Thorne and Fran Bradshaw.

‘The built environment is primarily man-made and women have not been sufficiently involved in designing and making it,’ Thorne told me recently in an interview which marked the practice’s 20th anniversary. She continued: ‘Working in mainstream practice, we found that when we raised issues such as toxic materials, or warmth, or livability, they were frequently dismissed. It was quite difficult for women architects to state what they thought was important […] It’s not necessarily that we think we can do it better, but we think finding a voice is really important, and space for a voice is very often not there in mainstream practice.’

Often working with local authority clients on tight budgets, the practice also constantly grapples with the longevity of materials, a frequently overlooked aspect of sustainable design.

The need for architects to skill up in sustainable design is by now widely acknowledged. Earlier this month, Fran Bradshaw (along with Prewitt Bizley’s Rob Prewitt) presented Building Physics and Retrofit in Exeter, the first of a dozen such RIBA CPD events which the duo are scheduled to undertake between now and December.

Open-City’s Green Sky Thinking, another initiative aimed at promoting professional knowledge-sharing, will take place in April this year, no longer piggy-backing on September’s OpenHouse.

Lucy Pedlar’s Green Register continues to offer top quality CPD, and the UK-GBC offers a range of courses in this area aimed at the broader industry.

So what’s next?

There is still a long way to go before these skills become mainstream. Knowledge sharing and collaboration are key. It is encouraging to see so many dynamic women leading the way.

Women in Sustainable Architecture: The list

Sarah Wigglesworth, director, Sarah Wigglesworth Architects

Sue Riddlestone, co-founder, Bioregional

Sue Roaf, professor, Heriot-Watt University

Sofie Pelsmakers, doctoral researcher, UCL

Cany Ash, founding partner, Ash Sakula

Lynne Sullivan, founding partner, SustainableBYdesign

Sarah Cary, sustainable developments executive, British Land

Kirsten Henson, founding consultant, KLH Sustainability

Sarah Lewis, director, bere:architects

Fran Bradshaw, partner, Anne Thorne Architects

Trish Andrews, course leader, Centre for Alternative Technology

Marion Baeli, associate, Paul Davis and Partners

Fionn Stevenson, professor, Sheffield School of Architecture

Anna Surgenor, senior technical advisor, UK-GBC

Blanche Cameron, founding director, RESET Development

Joana Carla Soares Gonçalves, lecturer, Architectural Association

Sian Moxon, associate, Jestico + Whiles

Judit Kimpian, director, Aedas

Elena Marco, associate head, University of West of England

Ann Bodkin, consultant and architect



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Readers' comments (1)

  • It is an honour to be listed among these notable women, though I think Hattie Hartman should be listed here too!

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