Career profile: Shamir Ghumra

Published on: 28 May 2019


Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional? 

It wasn’t a definitive moment. In 2008, I was working in mergers and acquisitions when I fell into poor health. After I recovered, I wanted to do something completely different, and ended up doing an engineering doctorate on the life-cycle assessment of concrete. As my knowledge base grew over the first two years of the research, I felt that this was something that was much bigger than one company, and that there was a real moral imperative to the sustainability agenda.

What was your first job in this field? 

I had a gradual introduction to sustainability. After various roles in production and business development industries, I became a territory sales manager for hard landscaping and sustainable drainage. This was my first contact with BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method), more than 12 years ago.

How did you get your first role? 

After finishing my degree in chemical engineering at Loughborough University, I started on the graduate programme at Aggregate Industries. 

What does your current role involve? 

As director of BREEAM, I am ultimately responsible for all the asset level schemes at the Building Research Establishment. These include the Home Quality Mark, CEEQUAL and all the BREEAM schemes, including new construction, communities and those used in existing buildings. The international use of BREEAM is also part of my role. BREEAM is used in more than 70 countries, so it does give you a wider appreciation of asset performance and sustainability challenges in different parts of the world. 

What’s the best part of your work? 

Dealing with like-minded people – whether it be on the social science aspects, technology or more traditional environmental impacts.

What’s the hardest part of your job? 

Reminding myself that this is a marathon and not a sprint. So much has been achieved by BREEAM since 1990, but there is so much more it can become and more it can contribute to a better built environment. 

What was the last development event you attended? 

The IEMA Fellows roundtable on the circular economy. 

What did you bring back to your job? 

Further thinking on how future BREEAM schemes might need to develop, not just in terms of content but from a process/assessment perspective.

Sustainability professionals will always be needed – as the agenda widens, new areas of specialism will emerge

Where do you see the profession going? 

I used to believe the role of the sustainability professional was to put themselves out of a job, because the issues of sustainability would be integrated into day-to-day working and behaviour in a business. Now I think that sustainability professionals will always be needed – perhaps under another name. As the agenda widens, new areas of specialism will emerge and interact with other professions. As with other professions, we must continue to learn and adapt. 

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession? 

Network within the IEMA membership, as it is vast and full of interesting people. I would also recommend getting involved with the regional groups – something that I did not do enough of. 

How do you use the IEMA Skills Map? 

I find it a useful guide on where I might want to develop, and how this area overlaps with other developmental needs in this role.

What motivates you? 

Believing that BREEAM is playing its part in creating a more sustainable built environment. BREEAM is the original scheme of its kind. With more than 500,000 certified buildings around the world, it is a privilege to have this role and work with such a great team.

What would be your personal motto? 

Never forget your humanity. 

If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet? 

My grandfather – I was quite young when he died at the age of 64. I often reflect on how we might have shared our approaches to life, and how his strong sense of moral judgement helped him to set up his own business.