Why telling sustainable construction stories is important to Marie Grieve

by BIM Academy | March 11, 2022 |  6 min read

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All of this week, in celebration of International Women’s Day 2022, we have been sharing the conversations between BIM Academy’s Dr Melanie Robinson and some of our clients, supporters and partners who are business leaders and subject matter specialists from across the AEC industry.

Our fifth and final interview this week is with Marie Grieve, Founder and Managing Director of Costello Palmer Communications – a marketing consultancy specialising in creativity and innovation, working with leading names in the global construction industry, growing already established brands and inventing new ones. Marie is also a Knowledge Programme Advisor for Futurebuild, a Mentor for London & Partners, and presents regularly on marketing for digital construction at global events.

Marie’s work supports architects, engineers, manufacturers, contractors, membership groups, property developers and technical teams in many industry-leading organisations in the UK, North America, Europe and Australia to tell their client success stories and enter new markets. Through her experience in strategic marketing, Marie places a focus on what makes a brand meaningful today and how to make it even more relevant tomorrow.

Tell us about your role and what you do?

I am the Managing Director of Costello Palmer Communications, a marketing consultancy working with organisations across the AEC industry to enhance their marketing efforts and brand profiles. I started Costello Palmer in 2015 and over the past seven years have led its growth into a global marketing consultancy operating from three offices spanning the UK and US.

Whilst we work with businesses within the built environment, this may sound confined to one industry, but in fact it is incredibly broad, and we work with a multitude of businesses covering everything from architecture and design to property development, construction, engineering and infrastructure.

What attracted you to your industry?

I studied marketing at university, and it has always been a draw for me. I am a creative person, and come from a very creative family who paint, draw and write poetry and short stories. Although my drawing skills are not at the same level as others, I think creatively, and this inspires my thoughts and ideas – that I can then translate into meaningful content for my clients. Typically, when people think of marketing it’s all about the brand and although this is often the case, for me marketing is story telling. Being a marketeer is such a rewarding profession, I get to meet some amazing and talented people and I get to tell their stories.

I would say that as much as I work in marketing, I also class myself as part of the construction industry. There are many diverse roles within construction and marketing is a vital one.

What exciting projects are you working on right now?

At the end of 2020 we launched a new Podcast series for BIM Academy, when its Director, Peter Barker met with some pioneering minds, championing sustainability in the built environment. We supported Peter to cross continents (virtually) to get an international perspective on how sustainability and digital construction can come together to help in the fight against climate change. There were three podcasts in the first series and just last month we launched series 2, with an emphasis on sustainability, offsite manufacture and alternative building materials for the Canadian construction market. The first was with Shaun St Amour whose passion is passive house design. Shaun’s story was a fascinating one and to be able to engage with knowledge-experts like Shaun and the other podcast guests is an honour and I adore hearing their career journeys as well as the exiting projects they are working on.

What steps have you/your company taken in recent years to support climate change action?

For a company personnel perspective, the immediate impact of the pandemic in early 2020 forced us into working from home, with zero travel – as with many other businesses this struck a chord that we can use this to our advantage in being part of a drive to cut carbon emissions generated from our working lives. As a result, we have a adopted a fully remote working policy and all of the team work permanently from home now. In addition, sustainability and searching for sustainable solutions across the construction industry is a big part of what many of our clients do. We support these operational actions through communication the results and how they individually and as part of the wider industry are working towards government net zero carbon targets across the world.

We have this year started supporting ZERO an independent and pioneering industry group of construction professionals set up to support the AEC industry with its net zero targets. This is a not-for-profit initiative that will provide guidance on sustainability action and provide a platform for sourcing information and support to set out individual organisation climate action targets as well as how to meet government targets.

When it comes to sustainability and climate change, what major challengers or opportunities do you foresee for your industry in the next five years?

Adopting a digital-first approach to the way we design, build and maintain our built assets can be the only long-term solution to building more sustainably. The reluctance to adopt digital methods is most certainly a barrier to change. Therefore, I see great opportunity in changing the way people think through powerful education. As someone who works in communication, we need to communicate the benefits of new technologies and embrace what they can offer us; quicker, safer, greener methods of restoring, retrofitting and constructing our building stock. I do get incredibly exciting when hearing or writing about a project that is super green, super energy efficient and seeks to minimise the negative environmental impact of buildings through the use of alternative materials. We need to share more of these types of stories to showcase the benefits of shift to working this way.

What single piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?

Never be afraid to ask for help. This would apply to any profession, whilst we may all be highly skilled, one single person can’t do everything. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a strength – to know where your skills lie and to recognise the skills and talents of others is to be admired.

Name your favourite place in the world?

Venice. The beauty, grace and glamour of the architecture envelops me when I visit, the city has a mystical power to draw one to its uniqueness. It has a presence like nowhere else in the world. I am fascinated by both its history and its mystery, of what lies hidden behind the so many captivating doors. I hope to return again very soon.

What would your superpower be?

Choosing a superpower based on personal gain is the most obvious choice. However, when moving to the realm of superheroes and villains — both in comics and movies — the best superpowers are the ones that will help a person win a battle and save lives. Therefore, as we are fighting a battle against the impact of climate change, I’d chose time travel. To be able to go back in time to change some of the catastrophic events that have irreversibly changed our plant. So, does saving the world count as a superpower?

If not, then I’d like to fly!