18 October 2019
By Kathy Gibbs
KLH welcomes Kathy to the team!
Tell us a bit about your background?
I am an island girl, originally from Barbados, however I spent most of my adult life on this side of the pond. Since arriving I have called the UK, Belgium, Turkey, Qatar and the Netherlands, home. Professionally I come from a built environment background. My origins are in civil and structural engineering, my full-time profession for several years. My career has been punctuated by work in post disaster scenarios such as the Kocaeli Earthquake in Turkey (1999), Hurricane Ivan in Grenada (2004) and Haiti Earthquake (2010). From around 2008 I became more involved in multi-disciplinary design management on large projects. I have helped to develop strategies for projects such as the large masterplan for Msheireb in Doha and, more recently, at Canada Water in London. Over the last 20+ years I have worked on several healthcare projects, and, in the last 10 years, I have become increasingly interested in bringing the principles of healing environments into the entire built environment. Prevention (in so many things) is far better than the cure!
Where did you first hear about KLH Sustainability?
Whilst at the FutureBuild event (London) I attended a panel discussion where Kirsten Henson was a panellist. I remember noting that she was one of the standout speakers on the day. Later, coincidentally, one of our mutual contacts introduced us and a dialogue kicked off from there. After that initial meeting I had a great catch up with Kirsten over food – nothing beats chatting over a meal to get to know someone. I subsequently, at various events, encountered a couple of former KLHers and people who had worked with KLH, who rated the consultancy very highly.
What made KLH Sustainability stand out for you to work for?
When Kirsten asked if I would be interested in working with her and the team, even though initially for a just a short period, I was delighted. At the time I was on sabbatical, doing some research into circular economy and health and wellbeing, whilst also looking at a variety of slow starting possible projects abroad. Working with KLH offers me the opportunity to work with, and learn from, a very talented team. At the same time, I hope to bring a very different type of experience, which is complementary to the abilities of the team. The dynamism and enthusiasm of the KLHers is inspiring. And, even though the team is relatively small, it is amazingly diverse: everyone brings something quite unique and special to the table.
What is your current role at KLH Sustainability?
I have joined KLH Sustainability as an Associate Director, working on a part time basis. My main remit is to help define and promote sustainable solutions for two interesting, and important, projects for KLH sustainability: one a major social housing project and the other a masterplan for a Russel Group university. In my role I am also supporting the rest of the team on a range of other projects, providing input based on my experience within the built environment industries.
How do you see yourself going forward within KLH Sustainability?
Though this role was initially only meant to be for a defined fixed period, I see this connection possibly evolving into an ongoing relationship: be it working on a long-term basis within the team, or through collaboration and partnership on future projects. With my experience in resilience building, and my background development on my health and wellbeing credentials, I hope to bring a further breadth and depth to KLH’s offering.
What does sustainability mean to you?
“Sustainability” is the minimum we should be aiming for in all aspects of our lives…
As a child, growing up in Barbados, my father often reminded me: “I was born at the beginning of the oil crisis” (which dates me!). At that time more people were concerned about oil running out than anything else. And, for the duration of my childhood, I was ferried to and from school in a car-pooling syndicate run by school mums. We often had power and water outages on the island, and we adapted to this, and the overall scarcity of resources in general. At eleven, I learned about carbon cycle and the “Green House effect”. These maintain a liveable environment, if everything is in balance. At that stage, everyone was panicking about the hole in the ozone layer and acid rain – two environmental crises that were addressed relatively quickly. It was around then that the definition of environmental sustainability, as outlined in the Brundtland Report, was brought to the fore, and ingrained into our psyche. Doing that which "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" was not a foreign concept to us. Island people, in my experience, are no strangers to the idea of living within their means, and by consequence, behaving in a way that can promote sustainability.