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The ultimate goal is to make the built environment more sustainable

Richard Acquah, assistant researcher; Main areas or research: construction informatics and life cycle performance of renewable building materials

  • Where were you living in childhood and where do you live now?

I grew up in a small gold mining town in Ghana called Obuasi. I lived a few years in the capital of Ghana and biggest city by population called Accra until I moved to Slovenia. Currently, I live at the beautiful coast in Slovenia.

  • What have you studied and what were the motives for your decision?

For my bachelor’s degree, I studied Building Technology. After that I moved to Slovenia and took the Sustainable Built Environment master program at the University of Primorska. For my undergraduate, my only motive was that the program was “cool” (quite shallow but I later found love for the study area). The knowledge I acquired during my undergraduate studies inspired me to pursue further studies in sustainable construction. The curriculum of my master’s study program met my academic aspirations and even better, I had a “free lunch” to study in Slovenia.

  • How would you describe your work to someone outside your field?

I explore the use of renewable materials for construction, assess the performance of these materials within the scope of buildings, brainstorm how to make these materials perform better using different technologies. In summary, I basically gather and analyze data and present the findings in areas relating to construction technologies and renewable materials for construction. The ultimate goal is to make the built environment more sustainable.

  • What does your typical working day look like?

When I arrive at the office, usually the first thing I do is make myself a cup of tea. While enjoying my tea I go through the list of things I intend to do within the day and adjust the list when necessary. Then I read my emails and respond to those that require a response. I then start executing the items on my list. I go to the lab if I have any experiment or simulations to perform. I set up the simulation and run it. I will typically turn to do other things on my office laptop while the simulations run on the background on another computer in the lab.

  • What makes you excited about your work?

Personally, I am excited and motivated when I find solutions to problems. My work gives me the opportunity to explore scientific accomplishments of others, to learn from and work with smart colleagues and to contribute to solving scientific problems. These make me excited about my work.

  • And what is the biggest challenge at your work?

Over the short period of working as a PhD researcher, I will name one of my challenges as “so much to do, so little time to do it”. Assigning relevant research work to the time I have and at the same time trying not to exceed stress levels can be a challenge. Also, I have a habit of leaving the office still having on my mind the problem I am trying to solve at work. I hope that at some point, I will be able to tune myself to leave everything connected to work at the office and enjoy the “non-working” hours as much as possible.

  • Which scientist or scientific achievement are you fascinated by and why?

One that I can think of now is the discovery and evolution of electricity. I am most fascinated by scientific contributions to harness and develop it commercially. It has paved way to discoveries across several disciplines. It really is the greatest scientific achievement of the previous century.

  • Tell us about the work of art (books, music, movies, theatre, dance, visual arts) that has a special place in your life.

I like reading books. The one that I draw inspiration from is “The art of war” by Sun Tzu. Although the book itself is an ancient Chinese military treatise, it can influence one’s lifestyle, legal strategy, business tactics etc.  Also, I will mention the most recent movie I watched, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”. I loved it because it brought me back to my African origins, since the scenery is in Africa, but it also taught me that we should value time spent with loved ones because no one knows what comes tomorrow.

  • What have you read, listened to, or watched lately?

One of the interesting things I watched recently was about exascale computers. Exascale computers are described as supercomputing systems that can perform at least one quintillion operations per second. I find this as an important milestone for advances in fields including artificial intelligence, scientific simulations, modelling and forecasting.

As of music, lately, I have been relaxing listening the album “The Villain I Never Was” by Black Sherrif.

  • Which place on the Slovene coast do you like the most?

I like Koper the most. I enjoy watching the ships from the platform at Belvedere. I also enjoy walking from the city center to the central city park Bonifika and to the new beach.

  • What makes you enthusiastic?

 Someone once defined happiness as “knowing what you want and passionately working to get it”. So, I am enthusiastic about accomplishing my life goals and desires. Also, planning fun activities with my family makes me an enthusiast.

  • Characterize your life’s guidance or an important realization (or epiphany) you have experienced.

 Life is shorter than it seems to be, so enjoy the moment and let go the weight. The worse than could ever happen in anyone’s life is death. If you have a chance to live, make the best of it.

  • What does the charm of wood mean to you?

Most humans find wood very charming. It is simply beautiful. It contribute to our wellbeing and has a potential of saving the world from global warming.