Quest: a Sustainability trip from DC to London

11 december 2015

interiorMy quest took me from RTKL Washington DC office to EC Harris Headquarter in London. It’s my second time to visit London this year. I was so excited when the airplane landed on Heathrow airport in the early Friday morning. After being settled down in the hotel, I went to the EC Harris office directly and met George who explained me the duty of the sustainability team and their current projects. George had a Quest in RTKL DC office last year and gave me very helpful tips before my departure.  Then he introduced me to the rest of team in the office. I met Matt, Jack, Jamie and Andy. The work environment in EC Harris was quite different from RTKL. Most people didn’t have a fixed workstation and worked with a laptop instead of on a desktop. Everyone in the sustainability team was working on completely different projects. That’s really cool and means a lot of individual responsibilities in each project. George helped me to set up the Quest schedule for next week. I would have individual meetings with each member in the team and learn more project details from each member. Meanwhile, I was lucky to meet Stephanie from the historical heritage consultancy department at lunch. She agreed to take me to a site visit in Greenwich next week.

On Monday, I met my host Nick. We had a catch up meeting at the square cafe. He explained his project to me; a Net Zero Emission City. World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) was involved in the project team. Birmingham, Amsterdam and Mumbai are current participant cities. In order to achieve net zero emission, the project team worked with city councils and proposed to integrate transportation, construction and human behavior together to create better solutions. And STAR model was used as a guide tool to outline the key questions in each sustainable theme category and indicate the potential approaches to delivering more sustainable outcomes. Nick shared the case study of Birmingham Smithfield which was one of the pilot projects with sustainable design and construction implements. I was impressed by the scale and complexity of ZEC project. As an architectural designer, I was used to design sustainable and energy efficient solutions on individual building or campus projects. It’s a whole new experience for me to explore and study sustainable solutions for an entire city.

At noon, I had a lunch meeting with Matt. Matt told me he’s under a SuperQuest right now and working on a Big Urban Client project. I felt like BUC was an even more ambitious project involving lots of global cities. The project focused on common issues in big cities like pressure on resources, space and safety. He and his project team worked with city local government and big clients like HSBC to predict the percentage changes on population, resource, and to propose renewable energy solutions and environmental  improvements in a long term. CallisonRTKL also participated in this project. After the meeting, Matt suggested me to see the transformation in Kings cross station area and couple new buildings designed by famous architects.

Later on, Andy Smith gave me a brief introduction on BREEAM rating system which is similar with LEED in US. He has supervised and managed a bunch of BREEAM projects. I learnt Andy also did carbon emission management and provided potential strategies and improvements to clients to achieve a cost efficient goal.

On Tuesday, George walked me through the Heathrow airport terminal 2 project. As a matter of fact, this project was the first BREEAM certified airport terminal project in the world. It had significant reduction achievements on water, energy and waste.  After that, I did a presentation showing projects with sustainable approaches for LEED certification and the building performance optimization solutions in the concept design phase.

Then Jack showed me CSR, a global collaboration project. Everyone in his team was in different country and time zone. We discussed the value and opportunities for sustainability and what financial, natural and social influence can sustainability bring to business. It fully explained the importance and growth of sustainability in the building industry.

Early Wednesday, Nick scheduled me a meeting with Pam Joshi, the risk manager in EC Harris. With a Law school background, she worked with clients at each stage of a project to help them understand what risk looks like and assess and provides risk transfer options. Besides, she suggested clients pay attention to certain potential weather hazards that could cause damages on their properties.

Heathrow-Airport-view-of-the-new-Terminal-2-in-construction-26-July-2013-©-LHR-Airports-Limited-01Immediately after, I had another meeting with Andy Waddelove about the STAR system. I felt like STAR was the practical version of the DART system. It worked really well on real projects. Andy was working on the Imperial college west master plan. He explained to me the methodology to apply STAR model for optimizing design performance on each category. And he would go on a Quest next year in Asia.

At noon, I met Maren and we talked about the corporate satellite program. Maren used to work at the RTKL Shanghai office as an urban designer. Besides work, he showed me his personal project Brand New China which was a fantastic road trip. He and his friend spent 3 months driving a Chinese brand car with all Chinese brand equipment from Shanghai all the way to hometown Holland. It’s such a challenge driving through country by country. I watched all the episodes posted on YouTube when I was back. There were so many interesting stories and friendly people on the road.

I spend the rest of day with Stephanie having a site visit in Greenwich. I had done a couple of historical renovation projects back in RTKL. It’s really exciting to see the projects done by professional heritage asset consulting team in EC Harris. I visited the old royal naval college and national maritime museum. She showed me the works she did for historical refurbishments on site.

On Thursday, instead of going to the office, I met Jamie at the Department of Business, Skills and Innovation. Jamie was working on secondment to BIS, providing proposals on building efficiency improvement.  He shared with me the strategies and solutions on waste recycle, building operation schedule, thermal control system, renewable energy and etc. Besides that, Jamie also shared with me his trip to Arcadis Shelter mission in Nepal after the devastating earthquake. At night, I enjoyed the Open bar with a couple of colleagues. It’s a happy hour event hosted in the office every week.

Friday, the last day of my Quest, I had a meeting with John. We exchanged ideas on historical preservation systems and works in US and UK.  Currently he’s building a historical heritage community among Arcadis to share professional experience and collaboration opportunities. It’s really a pleasure for me to make the connection between both offices.

IMG_6882Then colleagues took me out for lunch in an exotic restaurant. After lunch we walked around to see the region regeneration behind the Kings Cross station. The development was massive and full of innovation. Then I went to the RTKL London office and had a nice talk with the director Mahmood.  I learnt Callison was going to move into the RTKL office soon.

It’s an unforgettable experience. I hope we can have the opportunity to work together. Special thanks to Nick for hosting me and George for making the arrangements!  Thank you everyone for sharing your time and experience with me!


Weiyue Wang – Designer at RTKL