Helen Gribbon

NW 2013: Time for an outside view

In association with MC2

MC2 Would you advise any young person to pursue a career in the built environment? On top of recession, property has suffered from a lack of professional recognition in the past few years, and is suffering a brain drain that calls for an industry-wide rethink.

Yet as we move further into the 21st Century it is our sector which has a number of important global issues to tackle, in order to ensure the same longevity for future generations and a planet which is habitable for all: water and waste management and control, secure resources of food and energy, greener transportation and more balanced demographics.

These are pivotal concerns, the success of which will have a huge impact on all our tomorrows, throughout the North West.

But we have struggled to keep keen thinkers within the industry – disillusioned with the profession and the shallowness of its intent, the notion that superficiality is the norm and acceptable, only scratching at the surface of the social impact of what we are doing. That said I am not sure we all need to become eco-warriors but we need to shed the eco-bling.

Yet here in the North West, we have a track record of being able to think through problems which, when combined with the skill to design in a responsive and respectful way, is key to our continued success; efficient material use, resourceful energy strategies all contribute actively to sustainable communities within the North West.

Who though will pick up our mantel and guide us into a sustainable future, tomorrow? The number of graduates from our universities here in the North West coming directly into the profession is dwindling as they are drawn to other areas of business which will provide them with perceived enhanced fulfilment.

What we provide for our cities, towns and communities is of such a significant value that we need to ensure that we promote our industry more actively to deliver the message on our work and the exciting and dynamic challenges we are seeking to address, on a global scale.

What is interesting though is the potential for diverse collaborations with those outside our sector. It will most certainly be those new collaborations between engineer and IT programmer, material scientist and architect, developer and community who will work closely together, taking the necessary steps to bring us closer to a stronger alliance as a city.

We have this growing combination of talent right here in the North West and the engagement between businesses and the educators will be critical in realising these collaborations both in academia and in practice, and this is something we have been discussing with the Manchester School of Architecture who continue to develop further the diversity of their connectivity.

We will drive these issues forward positively. We just need to ensure we are communicating on all levels to do so and are collaborating with those sectors we would not traditionally consider.

  • Helen Gribbon, founder and director, Renaissance, an engineering consultancy in Manchester

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