The greatest woman builder revealed

Image for women builders

To mark International Women’s Day, Barbara Jones has been voted as the most inspirational woman builder by readers of CIOB’s editorial titles.

Barbara Jones, founder of Straw Works, has been voted as the greatest woman builder of all time. 

Receiving a resounding 40% of the votes, Jones is a clear favourite across CIOB’s international membership and the wider built environment sector. 

Barabara Jones has been voted as the greatest woman builder of all time (Image: LinkedIn)
Barabara Jones has been voted as the greatest woman builder of all time (Image: LinkedIn)

Jones began her career as a carpenter, joiner and roofer and launched her own women’s roofing company – Amazon Nails – in 1989. 

She has since gained prominence as a strawbale building pioneer. Throughout her career, it is estimated that Jones has delivered some 300 straw buildings.

Having stepped down from her role as director at Straw Works in 2021, Jones now advises on innovative and traditional methods, none of which use cement.

While Jones claimed the top spot, the other shortlisted candidates also illustrate the significant contributions women have made to the built environment throughout history.

Julie Wood, multi-disciplinary engineer and director at Mott MacDonald, and the Waterloo Bridge team that was integral to the construction of the iconic London structure, were voted second and third respectively. 

Top 10 greatest women builders

  1. Barbara Jones
  2. Julie Wood
  3. Waterloo Bridge team
  4. Thandeka Nombanjinji-Nzama
  5. Bess of Hardwick
  6. Li Shirong
  7. Dame Jo da Silva
  8. Barbara Wells
  9. Elisa Bonaparte
  10. Carol Bell

See the full shortlist here.

Commenting on the poll result, CIOB president Sandi Rhys Jones said: “A true pioneer, Barbara is one of those women who quickly abandoned her first job (childcare) and despite the lack of role models or training opportunities went on to build an amazing career as a carpenter and joiner, businesswoman, employer, teacher, author, designer, housebuilder and – since discovering strawbale building in 1994 – champion for natural and sustainable construction. 

“Since first meeting her some 20 years ago, I have watched admiringly her commitment to sharing her skills and knowledge. Just this week the RIBA published the book Materials: An Environmental Primer, including her chapter on strawbale building. 

“Well deserved, Barbara Jones – CIOB Fellowship next?”

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