Five minutes with Lucy Marsland, Future Green Leader of the Year, 2023

28 Nov 2023

At TRANSFORM in March 2023 we celebrated Lucy Marsland as our Future Green Leader of the Year. Lucy leads Atelier Ten's Materials and Embodied Carbon practice, is a certified GSAP and co-chairs a MECLA working group and we recently caught up to ask about their experience as the Future Green Leader, lessons learnt, and we find out what’s next for Lucy.

As you've progressed in your career, have your values and priorities evolved?

I have always had a shared love of maths and engineering, as well as creative artistic pursuits. Moving through my early career, my aspirations were to design beautiful structures that push the boundaries of engineering and result in elegant systems. I still love beautiful structures and designs that innovate through creative solutions; however, I now find myself equally focused on contributing to projects that are centered around a meaningful positive impact to community. Community resilience, self-determination and inclusive places are just as important to me as elegant trusses and innovative materials.

How do these changes influence your career decisions now?

Now I approach sustainable design as an investment of resource to achieve a high value outcome for the inhabitants of the building or community, the most beautifully designed building is not successful if it is not used by its community. What has not changed for me is that, both creative engineering innovation and designing for community require collaboration and integration: talking to design teams and to community stakeholders are critical to co-design something unique and special. Taking the time to accommodate those conversations throughout the design process is something I try to prioritise and encourage on the projects I participate in.

Can you share an instance when you had to step out of your comfort zone to achieve a career goal? What did you learn from that experience?

I kicked off my career in the built environment as an undergraduate engineering student taking the opportunity to work for a construction company as a site engineer. Joining a team of excavators, carpenters and concreters was a completely new experience for me. Jumping in the deep end was an incredible opportunity to understand how infrastructure projects come together on site and those lessons anchor my approach to project design in my current role.

The most important lesson I took from working with a diverse site team was the importance of respect and curiosity. I had access to the expertise of skilled trades and by approaching challenges with mutual respect and a sense of curiosity I quickly built knowledge and relationships. The single most important (and pragmatic) lesson I learnt is to get on the phone to sort out a problem or to ask for help. In our integrated project teams, we need to collaborate to push the boundaries of sustainable development. The first step to that collaboration is to build relationships, a simple phone call can go a long way!

If you were to give Future Green Leaders one piece of career, what would it be, and why do you believe it's so important? 

I would say that every experience you’ve had; professional, personal, and even working in an ice cream truck, every experience contributes to your expertise as a designer. I would encourage anyone new to sustainable design to be empowered to share and use their diverse experience and further, to speak up and speak out to shape the projects we work on.

Being empowered comes with a responsibility to contribute to work in line with your personal values. I think when we are early professionals, we focus on learning from those that have been in industry for longer. However, one of the most valuable parts of being in a new industry is the opportunity to share knowledge and challenge business as usual ways of working. Particularly as a GSAP, we are all advocates for the projects we work on and so that unique personal expertise and personal ethics go hand in hand.

Lucy, it's been a pleasure to have you on board as our Future Green Leader of the year 2023. Why would you encourage others to apply and what's next for you?

It has been a joy and honor to be FGL of the year 2023, I am very grateful for the opportunity to challenge, lead and connect with the GBCA’s support. For me, the FGL program is a challenge laid down to connect and empower early career sustainability professionals. I would strongly encourage others to sit down with the FGL nomination questions and reflect on what you have achieved, what you are proud of and what passion you want to pursue next. Stepping through the nomination process, (whether you win or not!)  is a really powerful moment to recognize your unique expertise and focus your intentions looking ahead. For me, I am focusing my intentions on integrating design with diverse interdisciplinary expertise, particularly with MECLA and also through teaching with the University of Melbourne. I am chasing the opportunities to engage early with our construction experts and enable sustainable site activities through thoughtful design. I don’t think, as an industry, we have taken advantage of this expertise enough. With the mandate to reduce upfront carbon and to re-use existing resources particularly, this collaboration comes to the forefront, and I am excited to tackle this next great challenge.

Nominations for the Future Green Leader of the year award 2024 are now open! Individuals aged 18-32 who demonstrate a significant contribution to furthering the sustainable transformation of the build environment are encouraged to apply. Applications close February 5 2024, learn more here.