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John Davey
Featured Profile: 
At A Glance
Licensed Body: 
Scientist Type: 
First Degree: 
Works For: 
A major Middle East architectural and engineering consultancy
Pet Hates: 
Burning Ambition: 
Professionally, to increase my involvement with green building projects; Generally, to publish a novel I have recently completed and another non-fiction book I am working on
Big Picture
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist? 
At school I had a flair for the natural world and always did best at ‘project’ work. I had long been a fan of the great Victorian Engineers such as Telford and Brunel, who each had a few failures among their successes, usually arising from a lack of scientific background to their engineering.
What do you love about your job and being a “scientist”? 
It involves a lot of travel and the opportunity to get to know new countries and cultures. Perhaps rather obscurely, I get great satisfaction from arguing for sustainability with Clients who want it but don’t want to pay for it. Seeing a project come to fruition and knowing it is far more environmentally-friendly and sustainable that it would have been without your involvement also feels great.
What qualifications did you take at school? 
Just the usual O and A levels, and not too successfully at that, but I then worked for 6 years before I decided to go to university
Why did you choose your first degree subject? 
Applied Geology at the University of Bristol. My interest in geology went back to childhood and was strengthened by working 6 years in the HQ of a major quarrying company.
Do you have a Masters or PhD? If not, was it difficult to demonstrate Masters-level equivalence in order to achieve CSci? 
How do you describe your job when you meet people at a party? 
I tend to say I’m a ‘Development Environmentalist’ and that I try to improve otherwise eco-unfriendly planning and construction projects to impart environmentally-responsible features and sustainability. They usually then ask if I’m an Engineer, and of course I explain I am a Scientist!
What is ‘cutting-edge’ about your work? 
The sustainable approach to projects – widely embracing in single buildings site selection and building orientation, renewable energy, water conservation, the use of environmentally-responsible materials, waste recycling, and indoor environmental quality. For larger urban planning projects we address street layout and orientation, access to public transport, walkability, and in the Arab World, the incorporation of often ancient Arabic architectural features such as wind towers and shaded windows, which were incredibly energy efficient before the advent of air conditioners.
What are the biggest implications your work will/could have in the future? 
Buildings and developments that will last at least 50+ years will be less of a drain on the environment and contribute less to climate change and global warming. The adoption of energy-efficient and environmentally-responsible innovative ideas
Describe briefly how your career has progressed to date. 
Really very mundanely and mostly unplanned! From geology I got into hydrogeology and ground water; then into water supply. Somewhere along the line someone decided if I could do water I could probably do sewage, then marine work. When EIAs became mandatory I seem to be the obvious choise to undertake them. Most recently, and perhaps most easily, I made the transition onto green buildings (I became a US Green Building Council LEED Accredited Professional) and sustainability.
How is your job cross-disciplinary? 
Perhaps my job is the ultimate cross-disciplinary occupation, covering all aspects our natural and built environment, from geology, hydrology, water treatment, history and archaeology, through ecology and natural habitats, to socio-economical issues such as housing, employment, community facilities, health and safety, and women’s issues, and many others
How do you see your field developing over the next 5-10 years? 
The field is already developing exponentially. But the present intense ‘cutting edge’ aspect will diminish as sustainable development becomes conventional
What’s the most unexpected thing about your job? 
That I still have to constantly argue that what I do is beneficial to those who often stand to gain the most
What’s the biggest achievement of your career so far? 
My biggest achievements have often not been the most satisfying. In terms of career achievement I would have to say becoming a Director of a major international consulting engineering practice in the UK, subsequently being UK Operations Manager for a French company, and later surviving, and thriving, 15 years as an Independent Consultant. Way back in 1989 the then IWEM awarded me its Overseas Paper Prize for an article on urban water supply in Yemen. But in terms of personal satisfaction I would have to highlight my secondment to UN HQ New York for the Socotra Island Master Plan; water supply projects in Malaysia, leading infrastructure design for Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, my first EIA for a residential tower, ditto for an urban master plan, development projects in The Gambia and Jamaica, and humanitarian aid agency work in Sri Lanka the immediate aftermath of the 2005 tsunami.
Would you say you have a good standard of living/ work-life balance? 
Like many scientists, a good standard of living, yes, but the work-life balance is inevitably tilted towards work.
What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax? 
Reading novels, writing, some cinema, swimming, a good restaurant with good company and a good bottle of wine, involvement with British Community events, and the British-Lebanese Business Group
Why did you choose to apply for CSci and what do you value most about being a Chartered Scientist? 
I have been a CSci (through CIWEM) since its inception. Being a Chartered Geologist and Chartered Environmentalist, this seemed the next logical step. CSci imparts a vision of myself that the others do not. Overseas, perhaps particularly in Lebanon, it probably does not impart the image the Science Council would wish. Most people don’t know it and don’t understand it. But when I travel and meet British and European colleagues it is obviously well recognized and appreciated.
What is the value of professional bodies? 
Professional bodies provide a focus on the discipline for both its practitioners and the public, including the media. They are a one-stop-shop for considered comment on issues with which the practitioners are, or should be, concerned. In return the bodies have the right to expect practitioners to maintain certain standards with respect to their knowledge-base and professional ethics.
How important is CPD? What do you think of the revalidation process in ensuring that CSci is a mark of current competence? 
I have maintained a CDP record since they were introduced voluntarily in 1996. Science in general and my field in particular is continually changing. The rate of change and the demand for professional services is also increasing. I believe it should be a commitment on all professionals of whatever discipline, not only science, to maintain their knowledge-base and adopt new techniques, ideas and working practices. CDP has its critics. It may be less than perfect and certainly, one-size-does-not-fit-all, but it goes a long way to ensuring these commitments are met.
Advice & Reflection
What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field? 
1. Do so. 2. Read widely. 3. Keep an open mind. 4. Not all the good ideas have already been thought of.
How important is the mentoring process in your field and to you personally? 
Good mentoring can kick-start a career and steer it to the calm seas of experience. Having worked for 6 years before going to university, mentoring was very important and I was fortunate in having mentors who were willing to give of their time to help me. I subsequently tried to do likewise and continue to do with junior staff on my team.
What would you do differently if you were starting out in your career now? 
The easiest thing in the world is to be wise with hindsight. Yes, opportunities were missed, other taken that may have been better missed, but it worked out in the end and I have no regrets. Having graduated at a time when environmental disciplines were neither popular nor readily available, only subsequently did I migrate to my present work. But had I done an environmental degree I would have missed all the fun of my years of geology. So No, it’s been great, I would not change a thing.
What would you like people to remember about your life as a scientist? 
That quietly and professionally I made a small contribution that benefited those that came after me.
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