Carbon Expert of the Month April 2022
Founder & CEO of Green Imagineering
Andromaque Simon is an architect, BREEAM AP and Zero Carbon expert. She holds an MSc in Architecture and Sustainable Development from the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne. In 2013, she founded Green Imagineering.
What led you to specialize in sustainability and to found your consultancy Green Imagineering?
I used to practice as an architect, but attracted by sustainable design, I left for Lausanne, Switzerland, to take a Master’s in sustainability and by the end of this course, the financial crisis started. That’s when I pivoted from architecture to consulting.
At the beginning it was not a choice. It was more about surviving and applying what I’ve recently learned. Then I got so into it that I found a lot of pleasure in doing it. And now I am mainly consulting and sometimes challenging architects through an integrated design process.
What kind of projects do you typically work on?
I mainly work on offices, of course, because BREEAM certifications outside of the UK are mainly offices, but sometimes retail parks, shopping centres, or logistics hubs, sometimes hotels and rarely housing.
What role can architects play in the design process?
There’s a huge impact architects can have, it’s not always used to its maximum potential, but I’m happy when I can talk to them and help without interfering too much.
Of course, engineers do too, but on the engineering side is a bit easier. Their way to reduce impact is more clearly defined, binary and straightforward. Compared to engineers, the architects’ role is more organic and complicated. There are multiple things to take into account, and it’s much harder to see clearly what they need to do. Sometimes architects can also feel attacked on their designs, which is not the point of course, but that’s why it is complicated to help them change.
So architects need more information and more data to design better. We, as consultants, need to help them with that.
How is the awareness of embodied carbon evolving, across different types of markets?
It’s really interesting to have worked in different European countries. I started in Belgium and now I live in France, but I still have some projects in Belgium. I’m really proud to be able to work on both sides. The main difference for me is the impact. It’s different in Belgium. It’s a more bottom-up involvement. So, teams are really interested, ambitious, and want to always do better. Although there are regulations they always want to go further.
On the other hand, France is mostly a top-down industry where regulations are a bit more stringent. Of course, in France, we’re very, very proud of having the new thermal regulation that implies also carbon impact results. While in Belgium, they have a lot of Passivhaus projects. In any case, each country has good and bad opportunities and visions.
How has One Click LCA helped you achieve your goals?
I started using One Click LCA on a life-cycle costing tool because it’s probably the best software for that at the moment. I have been an expert on life-cycle costing for some years now. So that’s why I started using One Click LCA.
Now, as time passes, I am also using it on life-cycle assessments for my BREEAM projects and sometimes for other projects, because I find it really, really fast, convenient and easy to use.
And with a huge database, many options, many possibilities. I’m often very surprised every time I discover new capabilities in the software. It opens up more opportunities. I like the fact that I have access to multiple databases, which is not the case with all the other softwares, which are mainly French or country-specific. I like playing with other databases and having the flexibility to demonstrate what I want to say, not just what the industry or manufacturers want me to say.
“I started using One Click LCA on a life-cycle costing tool because it’s probably the best software for that at the moment.”
What levels of carbon reduction are possible today and what is the outlook for the future?
There’s a huge amount of work to do, but I think, the market is changing faster and faster. We’re getting more and more data and possible optimizations.
Lately, I saw there are new EPDs for rammed earth constructions or rammed earth blocks. I’m really proud of that, and I’m really happy to use them next time.
I am optimizing a project and happy to say that data exists for low carbon materials. And I can show my clients how they can optimize their project with real EPDs.
Are there any misconceptions or challenges that could slow down progress on decarbonizing?
I don’t think that there are misconceptions, but I feel that the main challenge is fear, fear of the results of carbon footprint calculations and the competition between clients.
My clients are pretty stressed, especially in France because of the latest regulations. But I think that was always the same. Back in the beginning of BREEAM, everyone was afraid of commissioning air quality results. That was pretty stressful for us for some time. Now we are getting used to it and we addressed that more easily. So I think this fear of results is just temporary.
I’m helping them overcome that fear by comparing it to movies. How can a movie be successful? You never really know. It’s a combination of the people, of timing, of many things and it’s not possible to control all of them. Similarly, building projects are unique masterpieces that depend on the timing, on the people, implication and voluntary use, etc. It’s not easy to anticipate the final result. Will we have a good, ambitious building, but beautiful too? Or do we have to sacrifice aesthetics for sustainability?
I’m assuring them that, at the end, it is a whole, integrated design process that can result in a building that is not only thermically perfect, but also beautiful and aesthetically rich at the same time. We don’t have to sacrifice aesthetics for sustainability. We can have both. And our job as sustainable consultants is to help architects and engineers design the best buildings they can.
About ‘Carbon Expert of the Month’
Expert Carbone du Mois is One Click LCA’s way to showcase the expertise, inspiration and best practices of One Click LCA users. Each month, we feature experts who are passionate about reducing carbon in general and from materials in particular, who seek to push projects beyond the boundaries of common practice, and who wish to share from their personal experience.