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Insights Engineering better sustainable places for all

Ujwala, Regional Director, Landscape and Urban Design, Scotland & Northern Ireland

From large-scale strategic city planning and urban regeneration to town centres, schools, greenspaces, active travel and infrastructure design, our Landscape and Urban Design team create the places that matter.

“Recent significant events like COVID-19, declaration of climate, biodiversity and health emergencies and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events have highlighted the need to design sustainable places that make a positive impact on our environment, ecosystems and communities. Local authorities are now recognising the need for improved green spaces and active travel infrastructure that incorporate nature based solutions to build climate resilience, enhance biodiversity and aid mental and physical wellbeing”.

Having been with AtkinsRéalis for 15 years, Regional Director Ujwala Fernandes has seen the team’s project portfolio change every few years depending on government priorities and investment. Recently with liveable neighbourhoods and climate change adaptation hot on the agenda, the portfolio has evolved even further, providing a wide range of diverse opportunities for her team to make a difference.

“Currently there’s a lot of investment coming in from the Scottish Government and organisations like Sustrans and NatureScot towards regeneration of communities and town centres, provision of active travel infrastructure and climate adaptation. Landscape architects are at the forefront of a lot of these projects because our discipline cuts across multiple dimensions. It’s a fantastic time to be a landscape architect at AtkinsRéalis. We work across the whole spectrum to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our society today – there’s nothing we can’t do!”

While some landscape practices are small and niche and tend to work on a limited range and scale of projects, the AtkinsRéalis Landscape & Urban Design practice gives Ujwala the opportunity to switch between large-scale multidisciplinary schemes and smaller, more landscape design-focused projects.

“Although we often work in collaboration with wider environmental disciplines and our colleagues in Transportation on large-scale infrastructure projects, we also have our own identity as a Landscape and Urban Design team in AtkinsRéalis. We drive a lot of our own projects, and I love the diversity of challenges this gives us – I like being kept on my toes.”

One of the most challenging projects Ujwala has worked on so far is the Edinburgh Green Blue Network strategy – a holistic, integrated approach to climate change adaptation for the City of Edinburgh.

“We have a very good relationship with City of Edinburgh Council, and when the Scottish Government declared a state of climate emergency, we got together with our client to figure out how Edinburgh Council could deliver its commitment to achieve a carbon neutral status by 2030. That’s how the idea of developing a green blue infrastructure led blueprint for the city to drive sustainable development was born. Gradually the funding and support grew and grew, and now it’s a mega project – lots of stakeholders have strongly supported the project including SEPA, Scottish Water and NatureScot, and it was one of six projects in Scotland selected by the Scottish Government to be showcased on World Water Day 2021.”

One of the main aims of the Green Blue Network project is to identify opportunities to integrate nature-based solutions into the city of Edinburgh at a strategic and local scale. This is a particular passion for Ujwala, who is one of the national green blue infrastructure leads for AtkinsRéalis and an accredited Building with Nature assessor.

“Building with Nature is the UK’s first green infrastructure benchmark, and I wanted AtkinsRéalis to be at the forefront of this new approach that puts nature and green blue infrastructure at the heart of new developments for the benefit of people and wildlife. I got full support to do the training course, and I’m now working to get as many of our projects awarded with Building with Nature as possible. It’s a great way to raise our profile and shout out about all the brilliant work we do here.”

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