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The Growth of a Green Architect – Kamelia Encheva

Green building is architectural science’s new arsenal against the climate crisis. We had the opportunity to interview Kamelia Encheva, who is a planning coordinator at ZECH Bau, while also simultaneously pursuing her Masters in Green Building Design at Berlin University of Applied Sciences and Technology. In Kamelia’s own words, “the main goal is to have a building with the lowest CO2 footprint. This is not just limited to the choice of building materials, but it’s a design process that starts way early, to make the least impact on the environment”. “So, this is not only putting green on the facade”, she says with a smile, “but also what material is used in the facade, if solar energy can be used in the facade, how to use wind, solar energy, and the warmth of the earth instead of gas and electricity”. Read on as Kamelia shares with us her story, from her childhood in Bulgaria to her blossoming career as a professional architect in Germany!

What inspired you to choose architecture?

I was rather young, 5 or 10 years old when I said I wanted to be an architect. I had a pretty creative childhood, playing and creating things with absolutely anything I could find around the house – which I now believe is almost a fundamental nature for this career. My father is a Construction Management Engineer and my mom is a Landscape Architect, so I guess I fall somewhere in between! But I was never coerced nor persuaded by my parents to join this industry. I kind of saw myself there, and I never questioned that.

Why did you choose to study and work in a professional environment simultaneously? How did you manage your schedule?

I wanted to work before joining a Master’s program, to get a better understanding of how things happen in real industry applications. I can definitely say my two years of work experience before my Master’s helped me perform better! I didn’t want to stop working while doing my Master, but it wasn’t the easiest choice to go with. I worked 20 hours a week, and mostly alone without much coordination with others, so my timings were flexible. I would have my lectures during the morning and would work during the evening, and over the weekend, I would prepare for the coming week.

Can you tell us about your current job?

As a Planning Coordinator, I bridge the communication among professionals from different disciplines of a construction project. It is quite common in Germany for professionals to be hired from different companies. My company acts as a single point of contact for the customer, so the customer doesn’t need to talk to the architect, the engineers, and so on – we talk to the customer and coordinate the work with everyone else. If someone makes a mistake, I need to be able to see it, question it, discuss it, and find an answer. This was actually the hardest part for me. In the beginning, it was challenging to find mistakes in someone else’s work, and more uncomfortable to point it out! Over time and with more experience, my assessments developed, and I started to believe in myself more.

What are the current projects you are working on in your Master?

Each semester, we had one big design project. In the first semester, we designed a small house for students, which had to be cheap and green, but still of good quality for student life. The second semester was the construction of a new office building for the citizens’ support centre of Berlin. The third semester had a slightly bigger project, to plan new buildings for sciences and sports for an international school. And for my fourth semester, I will be working on my master thesis for women in the construction sector.

What do you do when you’re not working or studying?

My main hobby, especially since the start of COVID, has been to work on the design of a lunar habitat! Partnering with a few friends, we are developing a habitat that could be used by astronauts to live on the moon. But until it’s ready for outer space, we are building a version for use on Earth.

Did you face any challenges as a woman in this industry? Is there anything you would like to tell girls who want to take the same path as you?

Of course, it is a challenge, because you’re always a woman before anything else. Often, people don’t take your opinion seriously. If I had to offer one piece of advice to the younger generations, ignore the noise coming from the crowd. Focus on what you like doing, and do it.

My driving factor has always been my willingness to get to the point that I’m an independent architect who builds homes. And I’m proud of where I am now. I’m proud that I took financial care of myself while still getting good grades. I’m proud that I found a job like mine, especially without prior experience. I’m taking every challenge on the way as a step towards my goal to be an architect and a sustainable designer

-Kamelia Encheva

Content Editor: Krithika Kathiresan
Reviewer: Maanasa Sachidanand
Interviewer: Maanasa Sachidanand

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