“Build bridges, not walls,” says first American president of the CIOB

The first American president of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has called for industry collaboration and a renewed focus on climate change, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement.

Chris Soffe has been president and chief executive of Gleeds Americas since 1991 (CIOB)

Chris Soffe FCIOB, chief executive of Gleeds Americas, became the institute’s 115th president on 9 July. He is the first American citizen to hold the year-long post.

Soffe will use his first public address in Toronto, Canada this week to stress the need for continued action on climate change and collaboration among industry institutions to tackle problems associated with urbanisation.

"Our global society faces huge challenges in terms of increasing urbanisation, outdated infrastructure, climate change and much more – but we are only going to solve them by working together," said Soffe, who is based in Atlanta, Georgia.

"We need to be building bridges, not putting up walls," he said.

UK-born Soffe, who has dual citizenship, sees the challenges at first hand in his home city.

"In the 30 years I have been in Atlanta, the population has grown from 2.7 million to 6.5 million, and the traffic congestion is terrible," he said.

"We’ve been trying to pave our way out of the problem but it’s not the solution. We are big proponents of expanding rapid transit systems, a far more sustainable approach to urban transport, but that’s not happening here at present."

On sustainability, Soffe said: "We can’t have that head-in-the-sand attitude on climate change. There may be a perception that the US has turned its back on the environment because the administration has said it would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, but that’s not true.

"California and other states will adopt its goals regardless of what the federal government says. Also, at a project level, we are delivering greener and greener projects, which is what clients want."

Soffe has been president and chief executive of Gleeds Americas since 1991.

His projects include advising on the reconstruction cost of the World Trade Centre’s Twin Towers after 9/11 – valued at $6.5bn – and working with International Speedway Corporation on the $400m grandstand redevelopment of the famed Daytona International Speedway in Florida.

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