Quickfire Questions with Catherine Cosgrove

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Quickfire Questions with Catherine Cosgrove

Catherine Cosgrove

When did you join Austin-Smith:Lord?
February 2006

What is your role within our Creative Collective?
I’m an Associate, an Architect and our sustainability champion. Having dual sustainability and conservation accreditations means I work on a wide variety of projects.

What are you working on at the moment?
Fabric repairs to New Register House in Edinburgh. With it being a Grade A listed building containing a one of a kind collection we’re being very careful in identifying all the current problems before working out the repairs required.

What inspires you most in your work?
Learning and doing. Each project has a unique set of challenges and problems that leads me to searching out knowledge and information in all sorts of places. This then feeds into the next project and I can bring the knowledge together in new ways. There’s so much to learn from existing buildings that we’ve forgotten or overlooked.

What aspects of your work are you most proud of?
I’ve been involved in sustainable design for more than 30 years and during that time it has moved from being a niche subject to being central to our profession. During that time my confidence in speaking out about sustainability has grown and I’d like to think that the people I’ve worked with have all picked up some of my knowledge and enthusiasm.

What lessons have you learned in your work?
No question is too silly to ask, especially when you don’t understand something. That’s how you learn. And to add in a couple of spare incoming services ducts before the concrete floor slab gets poured.

Which designers / projects do you most admire and why?
The many sustainability pioneers that I’ve met over the years and their dedication to keep reaching for the best sustainable design despite the problems in their way. Howard Liddell and Sandy Halliday of the Gaia Group have probably been the most influential in how I approach projects.
Image in header: Howard Liddell and Gaia Architects’ house Plummerswood. Photograph by Sandy Halliday

What is your favourite Austin-Smith:Lord project and why?
Two that I worked on at the same time: South Lanarkshire College Low Carbon Teaching Building; and Kew Garden Great Pagoda. The Low Carbon Teaching Building is the most sustainable project that I’ve worked on – net zero energy use, environmental certification for all materials, zero waste in construction and BREEAM Outstanding. The Kew Pagoda was more about restoring the Grade 1 building without making it look like any new work had been carried out and adding in the 80 new dragons! Both were incredibly challenging in different ways and I learned a lot in a very short space of time.

What’s something you’re planning on doing in the next year that you’ve never done?
Learning how to make films using my mobile phone. One step closer to an ASL vlog!

What’s something that recently made you smile?
Shaun Keaveny’s Community Garden podcast

What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?
Don’t tie your shoelace in a revolving door

Complete the following –  “I couldn’t get through the week without……..”
Music, music, music! If there’s no music around me, there’s always music playing in my head…