After some initial years working in London, under the mentorship of the renowned Frank Newby, he moved to Dublin in the late 1980s. Shortly afterwards he set up a specialist conservation engineering practice. This was a period when Ireland’s heritage building stock was under distinct threat from the bulldozer, and he proved a pioneer in the conservation of heritage buildings in danger of collapse in both Dublin and Cork.
Working with organisations such as the Dublin Civic Trust, An Taisce, the Georgian Society, Temple Bar Properties and Cork City Council, he helped to preserve the earliest urban buildings and heritage landscapes in both cities. He has spent the last 30 years conserving Ireland’s built heritage, of every variety, scale and importance, from castles and cathedrals through to vernacular cottages and agricultural outbuildings.
He has been the conservation engineer on the team of many award-winning projects, in collaboration with a range of architectural and engineering companies, including awards from the Irish Architectural Association, Irish Construction Federation, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Federation of Town Planners and the Irish Planning Institute. While several of these awards were for conservation and regeneration work, he was also awarded in respect of his engineering design work on a new build at the Connemara West Furniture Centre with O’ Donnell + Tuomey Architects.
Indeed, in recognition of his engineering output, the Institute of Engineers in Ireland made Chris a Fellow of its body in 2007, an honorary position which recognises those in leadership positions within the field of engineering in Ireland.
Recently he has led the Southgate associates team into areas of heritage policy, heritage led regeneration and master planning. Recent projects involve the co-authorship of a conservation management plan for Dublin Port and heritage based master plans for Ireland's towns and cities. This can be seen as a philosophy which does not preserve individual buildings as a fossilised and dead history for the sake of it, but promotes heritage landscape connected to communities, allowing a sense of belonging to a place with a connection to the past and a vision to the future.