Ian Hamilton, 30, has worked in engineering since 2007, and has been a member of the Institution since 2013. He was one of the joint winners of our Educational Trust’s Pai Lin Li Travel Award, which funds young structural engineers on research trips outside their home nations. Here he talks about his work, and what the prize meant for his career.

My day to day work involves working with architects, clients and other engineers to develop great buildings and infrastructure. Almost everything you see in the built environment relies on the work of civil and structural engineers, from houses and bridges to skyscrapers and tunnels.

Most people probably think structural engineers spend their time on construction sites. However, a lot of work goes into a project before construction begins, including surveys, analysis and design. The part of my job that I enjoy the most is working with architects.

A well thought-through structural design can be the key to enabling a great building. The Olympic Velodrome and the 2012 Olympic Stadium are both examples of great structural engineering. Structural engineers used lightweight cable net roofs, sustainably sourced timber and even recycled gas pipes to deliver fantastic, sustainable buildings in time for the games.

At the moment I am working at Engenuiti on a project called the National Automotive Innovation Centre. Located at Warwick University, it will provide state of the art research and development facilities to develop new generations of vehicles, like electric cars. The centre has a large hybrid timber and steel roof, and my work involves working with architects, contractors and other engineers to develop a design that can realise the architectural ambition on time and to budget.

The Pail Lin Li Travel Award has been a great opportunity to build my knowledge of sustainability issues, and apply it to a new context.

My entry for the Award was titled:  “Green Building in Sri Lanka: Understanding the Challenge of Embodied Energy in Tropical Buildings”. I picked this topic because I have a number of Sri Lankan friends and colleagues, and Sri Lanka faces many challenges in delivering buildings and infrastructure in a sustainable way.

I travelled to Sri Lanka, and undertook a series of project visits and interviews with industry professionals. Sri Lanka has a growing interest in sustainability and green building issues, with a number of industry professionals in Sri Lanka working hard to promote sustainability in engineering and architecture. Much of the guidance for sustainable building design, however, is focussed on European and US markets.

The prize was a great opportunity to travel abroad and investigate the challenges that industry professionals face when delivering sustainable buildings in such a different economic, geographic and social context. It was a fascinating trip, and a unique opportunity to broaden my horizons about world engineering practise.


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