Last month was the COINS Grand Challenge, where finalists from no less than 6 countries presented their unique ideas at Cambridge University. The Leadership 35 Award targeted an individual (under the age of 35) with the vision and personal qualities to bring a new approach to sustainability leadership within the construction industry. The winner, who stood out to the panel of 12 knowledgeable judges, was Toby Quirk.

At 24, Toby is currently on the Taylor Wimpey Graduate Scheme and likes to spend his spare time playing rugby, boxing and spending time with close friends. We caught up with Toby to find out more about his idea and what winning the Award meant to him.

My idea is to create a government organization that encourages and rewards the development and purchase of more sustainable homes through the creation of new government schemes and policies. The organisations macro goal is to create homes at volume that produce more energy than they use throughout their life cycle while keeping development profitable for businesses that sign up.

Toby Quirk

An idea he’s had for a while, Toby claimed that until now he hasn’t have access to the platform to articulate it meaning that it remained just that, an idea. This all changed after stumbling across COINS Grand Challenge in the company monthly newsletter, where he deemed it to be the perfect opportunity to turn his thoughts into action.

He was inspired to get involved in environmental sustainability within the construction industry after acknowledging that construction is one of the biggest contributors to one of the biggest threats we’re up against, climate change. Toby feels we’re currently on the tipping point and that if drastic action is not taken the consequences we will see over the next 50-100 years will be unfathomable and are certainly not something to be taken lightly. The focus now needs to be on methods that can be implemented to reverse the issue and the factors leading towards the problem.

Winning the Leadership 35 Award means a great deal to me, especially as the competition was so strong. Having spoken to the other finalists and hearing their ideas, it was clear that the Award could have gone to any one of us so I feel very grateful and honoured to be chosen as the recipient.

Toby Quirk

Speaking of the event, Toby described to us how it felt to be part of the process, what the atmosphere was like and the relief he felt once it was over, culminating in an outcome he clearly didn’t take for granted.

The experience of being involved in the COINS Grand Challenge, let alone winning, is not something I will be forgetting anytime soon! The day was stressful yet exciting for both finalists and judges alike. I was the last of the 12 nominees to present and there was definitely a sigh of relief at the end of a mentally straining day. The awards ceremony was a great success and highlighted the amount of effort and time that had been put into this competition by both COINS Global and the University of Cambridge.

Toby Quirk

Toby was grateful for the constructive criticism that he received from the judges towards his ideas and going forward he plans to take on board what was said and work to overcome any hurdles that may prevent this idea from becoming a reality.

The winning prize is a place at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership – Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business or Sustainable Value Chains and a place on one of the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership’s Laboratories. In addition to this is a 3 month paid Internship in Bouygues UK In-House Sustainability Department.