"Chartered status gives credit to my ambition and expertise in protecting and enhancing our precious and fragile environment. I strongly believe that engineers should not simply "harness the great sources of nature for the use and benefit of man" but should allocate an intrinsic value to its existence."
Kate Cairns BEng (Hons) MSc DIC CEnv CEng FICE is an Independent Sustainability Advisor based in the North East of England. As a Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) and Chartered Engineer, Kate has pursued a career over two decades combining civil engineering and sustainable development. She is also a leading campaigner in the fight to improve industry safety. Most recently, she was appointed the role of Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor: Embedding Sustainability & Inclusivity in Engineering, at Durham University.
Her environmental expertise is credited by her status as a CEnv – a recognition she gained in 2017 via the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), where she is also a Fellow (FICE). Kate traces her interest in sustainability back to her childhood, growing up on the beautiful wild beaches of Northumberland – meaning she has great respect and understanding for the natural environment and its fragility.
Kate is a thought leader; an early indication was the prescience of her environmental projects. Nearly two decades ago she managed a European research project investigating passive downdraft evaporative cooling (PDEC) techniques when working at WSP. PDEC is a low-tech low-energy solution to help cope with rising temperatures and the heat island affect in cities – an issue that is only growing in importance due to the impact of climate change.
At that time she project managed an industry-wide consultative report on actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Compelled to influence the wider infrastructure sector beyond her own projects to not only mitigate impacts but to restore and enhance the environment, Kate helped instigate and develop a new “first of its kind in the world” [ICE 200] standard for improving environmental performance in civil engineering, landscape and the public realm (CEEQUAL). She has advised on the evolution of the standard, worked in the roles of Assessor and Verifier, as well as contributing at strategic level as a board director for 8 years.
Following the death of her sister, Eilidh Cairns, run down from behind by a tipper lorry in 2009, Kate founded the See Me Save Me Campaign and has worked tirelessly to successfully convince MEPs, MPs and policy makers to bring changes to EU law and UK policy to eliminate the disproportionate lorry danger posed to the public. 500 people are killed or seriously injured every year under HGV wheels off-site, four times all fatalities on-site. With HGV danger cited as the biggest deterrent to cycling, Kate’s work not only protects the lives of others but helps create greener safer streets and facilitate the huge need for more active travel.
Beyond influencing policy Kate also engages industry leaders on the instigation, inception and development of (another!) “world-first” award-winning standard CLOCS (construction logistics and community safety) which addresses vehicle safety, driver competence and operational culture. Kate is now leading the regional city engagement programme for the adoption of CLOCS across the UK; it's not just a London issue, the rate of deaths is similar across all UK cities.
Now a renowned subject expert matter and acclaimed professional speaker, Kate works with her clients to help sharpen focus on the huge human cost of road risk, the reputational damage caused, and how to implement CLOCS to not only manage and reduce the chance of catastrophic consequences but to create business opportunity, improve community relations and to make financial savings.
Kate authors papers and articles and presents at conferences, forums and industry events, and is often interviewed on various media platforms including TV and radio. She also speaks on, and is an advocate for, inclusive infrastructure and engineering, holding positions such as Chair of the ICE Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) Panel.
Her work has led to many prestigious recognitions, including: listing among The Telegraph/ WES ‘Top 50 Women Engineer (WE50) 2018’; an award for Excellent Supplier Performance for her “contribution to environmental, social and ethical responsibility” by Newcastle University in 2017; and as one of 12 invisible superheroes that are helping to shape the world in which we live, celebrated as part of the 2018 Great North Engineering Experience. Earlier this year she was declared recipient of the 'Above and Beyond' Award by New Civil Engineer for the culture change she has brought through her See Me Save Me campaign.
"By attaining CEnv, I gained respect and credibility from colleagues and clients."