Sustainability engineer scoops inaugural New Zealand green leadership award

23 April 2019

"Beyond excited" was how the very first winner of the Future Thinker of the Year Award, Kate Boylan, described her feelings when her name was announced at the celebratory ceremony.

Kate, a sustainability engineer at Tonkin + Taylor, wowed the audience at the gala event at Auckland University with a five minute presentation, which each of the four high-quality finalists had to give to a packed room at Auckland University.

Future Thinkers is a network of professionals, students and recent graduates who are committed to creating a sustainable built environment in Aotearoa. The Future Thinker of the Year Award is presented to a young, passionate green building advocate, with thought leader attributes, who has already demonstrated environmental initiative and authority.

Opening with a motivating quote from Greta Thunberg, Kate’s presentation was full of inspiration and highlighted the power of leading by example. Her recognition of other green trailblazers emphasized her focus on collaboration, combining a bottom up approach in industry with a government led policy approach.

Kate is walking the talk, having founded the sustainability team in her work place. She used her platform on the night to draw a comparison between possibilities for future climate policy and the immediate industry response to the Health and Safety at Work Act.

After being announced as the inaugural Future Thinker of the Year, Kate said: “I was incredibly humbled, inspired and overwhelmed all at once, all the feels!” and expressed her thanks to all those involved.

She says she intends to use the platform to “inform, educate, and inspire – and be inspired. I will aim to stay positive and promote communication and collaboration.”

The Green Building Council’s Joanne Duggan said: “Congratulations to Kate, and to all the finalists. The Future Thinkers Award has identified amazing young professionals and students across the country who are passionate and knowledgeable about the sustainable built environment.

“We are excited to give this group a platform from which to have their ideas heard, to challenge the industry status quo and we look forward to creating meaningful change together.”

Kate Boylan collects her award from Professor Deidre Brown and Ibrahim Al-Zu'bi.

The night was made extra special by the attendance of Professor Deidre Brown, the recently appointed head of Architecture and Planning at Auckland University, and Ibrahim Al-Zu'bi, a global leader in sustainability who was the keynote speaker for the Green Property Summit the following day.

On the night, Ibrahim spoke of his journey working for the UN with Kofi Annan to now being head of sustainability for Majid al Futtaim, responsible for developing and driving a net positive sustainability strategy across the company’s different business units. He was selected as one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Europe and the Middle East by the Center for Sustainability and Excellence in the US, and is also an ambassador for the Former US Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality initiative.

The judging panel included Phil Eaton of Greenstone Group, Lloyd Budd from Bayleys Real Estate, Mott MacDonald’s Warner Brunton, Ritva Vilppolla, a former intern with the Green Building Council who kicked off her promising career with WSP Australia as a sustainability consultant, and Joanne Duggan.

Warner Brunton said: “I was thoroughly impressed by the calibre of the candidates from academia, trades and private sector.

“Their depth of understanding of one of the most pressing challenges of our time and their ability to plan and articulate their engagement strategy for change was inspiring. My hope is for all of the finalists to work together to make a difference in 2019 and beyond.”

Each of the four finalists presented plans and visions which were warmly applauded by everyone in the room.

Alongside Kate, the other finalists included Alice Couchman, Assistant Development Manager, Willis Bond & Co, Delight M Sedzro, PhD Engineering, AUT University and Priscila Besen, PhD Architecture, University of Auckland.

Joanne Duggan said: “We were stunned at the standard of entries, and each of our four finalists are amazing.

“A massive thanks too to sponsors Bayleys and Greenstone Group.”

Finalists Priscila Besen, Alice Couchman and Delight M Sedzro, line up with Kate Boylan, and Future Thinker supporters Lloyd Budd and Phil Eaton.

More photos on NZGBC Future Thinkers facebook page.