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Spotlight: Ingrid Berkeley, Senior Sustainability Consultant at Max Fordham LLP

Tell us a fun fact about yourself

At university I was a member of the film society; I helped put together the cinema quality 35mm film reels and project them in the theatres. Now I just enjoy watching films though – no longer a film projectionist!

Tell us about your career journey so far

When I left school I didn't know what I wanted to do, I was always good with numbers and enjoyed science at school so did a degree in physics. After I finished my degree I still didn't know what I wanted to do! So I took a gap year and did various work placements to help me decide. I really recommend this as it's hard to understand what's involved in a job until you try it, even just a week shadowing someone can give a lot of insight.

During my gap year I worked as a research assistant at the University of Edinburgh on a project funded by MARS (the chocolate company) looking at the physics of chocolate! I also did a placement at a nuclear power station and did some STEM Ambassador work promoting physics at schools. What really inspired me to work in this field was attending EcoBuild - a conference about sustainability in architecture. At this conference I heard Max Fordham speaking passionately about sustainability which I've always cared about and that's when I decided to combine my love of architecture and passion for mitigating climate change and applied for a masters in architectural engineering at Heriot-Watt University. I really loved this course, enjoyed it much more than pure physics and it was during this masters I knew this was going to be the right career for me. A few years ago I was invited back to sit on the Industry Advisory Panel at Heriot-Watt University for this course which has been a real honour as it was a big turning point in my career.

After university I got a job as energy engineer at KJ Tait Engineering before moving to work at Max Fordham LLP. Its really great being able to work for the company that inspired me all those years ago at EcoBuild!

What was your favourite subject in school and why?

This is a difficult question; I enjoyed maths and physics as I was always good with numbers and enjoyed finding out how things worked. I also really enjoyed art; I found it really relaxing and fun to do something creative. I definitely found English the hardest subject – it was much easier for me to explain things in terms of equations rather than words.

What subjects/qualifications are useful in your role?

Maths and science (preferably physics and chemistry) subjects are essential for all engineering related jobs. English is also an essential subject; even though I found this subject harder at school, I have become better at it over time as it is extremely important to have good communication skills; even if you have the best ideas if you can’t communicate them nobody will take any notice.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

I work as part of a team to design new buildings; my role as sustainability consultant is to advise how to make the buildings more sustainable including the type of materials used, renewable technology, energy efficient equipment, techniques to reduce construction waste, improving biodiversity etc.

Also as a building performance engineer I make sure the buildings we design work effectively and efficiently; I spend up to 3 years after the building is built going back to the building to monitor it, review the energy its using, check everything is working correctly, chat with the building users to see if they have any problems etc. and provide advice on how to make the building work more effectively and use less energy.

What I enjoy most about my job is feeling I'm making a difference; buildings account for a large proportion of the carbon dioxide emissions around the world and I'm trying to reduce their impact on the planet.

What is a normal day in your role like?

One thing I really like about my job is how varied it is:

  • One day I might be in the office replying to emails, writing reports, doing calculations and reviewing spreadsheets.

  • Another I might be on a building site reviewing the progress of a design.

  • Another I might be in an architect's office at a design team meeting.

  • Another day I might be surveying a building to see how we can save energy.

  • I might also be at a conference or training course.

  • I also could be giving a presentation for an architect firm or new client to try to win more work.

Suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?

Assess the energy efficiency of your home:

Take meter readings to see how much energy you use at home. Take an electricity and gas reading on the last day of each month and record this information in a spreadsheet.

Subtract the previous month’s reading from the new month’s reading to get the energy consumption for that month. Do this on your spreadsheet.

Plot the energy usage per month on a graph.

Assess your home: are there any ways you could save energy? For example turning the heating down, turning lights off when not being used, switching other things off when not being used e.g. TV and laptops, filling up the kettle with less water…?

Make these changes and see how much energy you save; either from checking the monthly totals or by looking at a smart meter if you have one. Or you could try to calculate how much energy you can save from these changes?

Over time hopefully you will see a reduction in energy consumption in your home from looking at your energy use graphs.

Energy Saving Trust:

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Tel: 01383 626070


Address: 2 Pitreavie Court, Dunfermline, KY11 8UU

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The UK-wide STEM Ambassador programme is managed by STEM Learning Limited, which operates the National STEM Learning Network, alongside other projects supporting STEM education. To find out more please go to the STEM Learning website