Barry runs his own sole trader business, Green Brain Associates, so it’s up to him to win and manage the business, as well as actually doing the work. His work falls into two categories: environmental consultancy, and education. The first includes services such as helping companies obtain, vary or surrender Environmental Permits; manage contaminated land or landfill gas desk studies, intrusive site investigations, risk assessments and clean-ups; and manage construction site waste. The second includes writing and running bespoke private workshops, teaching Environmental Sciences at colleges, lecturing on specialist subjects at universities, and tutoring private students.
Barry went straight from school to work in a hospital Pathology Laboratory, taking an HNC by day-release and specialising in Microbiology. A spell with VSO in Kathmandu opened his eyes to environmental problems, so when he returned to the UK he began a BSc in Environmental Biology at King’s London, and loved it so much he went on to an MSc in Environmental Technology at Imperial College.
From there he walked into the first job he applied for (those were the days!) at AEA Harwell, joining the Environmental Safety Centre as a Junior Scientist. There he worked on R&D into landfill gas optimisation/control and soil remediation, writing papers and presenting at conferences, and gradually progressing to Senior Consulting Scientist. Over the next 20 years he worked for several companies, before deciding in 2006 to launch his own.
In consultancy the rewards are mainly invisible – when I finish with a site unless I've taken ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos there’s little to show that another tiny piece of the UK is that bit cleaner and safer than it was before. But if I totted up all the old gasworks, filling stations, derelict factories, leaking refineries, old landfills, dockyards and so on that I've had a hand in cleaning up I’d get a very satisfying total. My small personal contribution to a better planet.
His biggest and best-known consultancy project is the Gunwharf Quays and Spinnaker Tower Millennium development in Portsmouth. Originally a naval dockyard, the site was a derelict mess when the Mouchel civil engineering team arrived, and a desk study and site investigations revealed multiple organic, inorganic and radioactive contaminants (plus probable unexploded bombs), bat roosts, slow worms, rare invertebrates and so on, and all with potential to impact on the new earthworks, nearby and future residents, fresh water, groundwater and the marine environment. The risk assessment alone took months, and the remediation planning and work had to be done carefully so as not to worsen impacts and took further months.
Barry joined the IES on recommended from a Professor at Imperial whilst at university. At the time the Institution’s focus was very much on academia; whilst this had suited him at AEA, it became less appropriate as he moved to world of mud and machines that is engineering consultancy, so for a while he left the IES. However, when the IES began awarding Chartered Environmentalist he rejoined.
Initially I admit I rejoined purely to get CEnv. However, whilst I had been away the IES had been steadily reinventing itself and is now a lot more relevant to real world environmental work, while retaining an academic flavour that other Institutions lack, so it ‘fitted’ me better. Going solo has finally allowed me to develop the educational side of my occupation as I wish – including becoming an IES mentor - and now I couldn't be in a better professional body.
At the moment Barry is pushing the educational side of his business. Demand for consultancy has reduced to a trickle, in line with the scaling-back of the economy in general and of house-building and local authority work in particular. He is therefore planning to roll out a new tutoring service serving small groups rather than individual students.