Sustainability Practitioner Winner: Kirsten Henson
A rising star in the sustainability field, Kirsten Henson is constantly looking to push the green construction agenda forward with a hands-on approach that is both technically savvy and ambitiously inclusive
Kirsten Henson discovered sustainable development largely by accident, towards the end of a rather dry engineering degree. Sustainable development finally provided the context she craved for her engineering studies.
Henson has spent her brief career to date developing her technical knowledge and driving the sustainability agenda forward. After 18 months working in environmental impact assessment, she returned to university to gain an MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development. Upon graduation, she joined the engineering arm of the master planning consortium for the London Olympic Park. She was quickly sought by the delivery partner client, CLM, for full-time secondment.
Henson was given responsibility for waste and materials on the Olympic Park and also led the client sustainability input on the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre and Parklands. Her engineering qualification and detailed knowledge of sustainability differentiated her as a technical specialist in her field and she gained the respect of construction professionals across the board.
By framing sustainable options in terms of reduced health and safety risk, improved programme planning or logistics, reduced construction timeframes, or lower waste management costs, Henson was subsequently offered a seat at the decision-making table. Through a combination of perseverance, diplomacy, advocacy and technical competence, collaborative partnerships were soon created that were strong enough to overcome the many barriers to innovation.
There are numerous material innovations across the Olympic Park that are testament to Henson’s involvement in the programme. Her influence is also present in a less tangible form; a large number of engineering professionals have introduced changes into their organisations or their own patterns of work as a result of being introduced to the sustainability paradigm by Henson. During her time on the Olympics, Henson also mentored two ambitious young professionals who have both received accolades for their achievements.
In July 2010, Henson left the Olympic Park and set up her own sustainability consultancy, KLH Sustainability, with an ambition to improve the profile of construction among graduates and the general public.
Alongside the day-to-day business management and development, Henson is also contracted to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to undertake an independent environmental audit of the preparations for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. In addition, she is advising the Thames Tunnel project in London on the specification and procurement of sustainable concrete.
February 2012 saw Henson launch a second business, a joint venture with large UK events crewing provider, Gallowglass. The fragmented events industry has until recently, largely overlooked environmental legislation and sustainability obligations. The focus of the new company is to broaden the understanding and application of sustainability in the global events market.
Henson also lectures at a number of universities on delivering sustainability in large infrastructure projects, including regular sessions at Cambridge University Engineering Department. Through these sessions she endeavours to inspire young engineers to seek a career in sustainability.
Kirsten’s combination of enthusiasm, competence and entrepreneurial spirit set her ahead of the other competitors in this hotly contested category
Joe Franses, Coca Cola Enterprises
John Durkan, ABP Food Group
Ross Greenhalgh, Tesco
Sean Hill, Wessex Water GENeco
Victoria Hughes, Vinci Facilities
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