Published: 18 March 2015

Engineering The UAE


Brian Cole BSc (Eng) MICE MIStructE is a Director of Buro Happold and has been a member of the Institution since 1978. He has a long record of service for our Western Counties Regional Group and served on many of our award panels. For five years he has been based in The United Arab Emirates, working on an iconic new museum for Abu Dhabi. Here he talks about his career and the challenges of engineering in the Middle East.

I became a structural engineer because I always had a fascination with building things, and engineering was a career that offered me the chance to pursue my interest in design, as well as the traditional science and maths subjects. I was also attracted by the idea of collaborative working, and the opportunities for overseas travel. I was very lucky to come into contact with some extraordinary and inspiring engineers during my early career with Ove Arup, including Ian Liddell and Peter Rice.

There are a number of projects I’ve worked on during my career of which I am particularly proud, including the Jubilee Line Extension project for London Underground in the 1990s, and the Sidra Trees project in Doha – a really challenging engineering brief. I’m especially pleased to be working on the Louvre Abu Dhabi project at the moment.

The Sidra Trees Project

The Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum is a major new iconic landmark being built just off the coast of Saadiyat Island.  I am leading a large Buro Happold engineering team  on the project, which involves a number of challenges, like supporting the 180  metre diameter steelwork dome on only four bearings, and the construction of a basement that extends 10 metres below sea level. 

The UAE is an interesting, challenging place to work, with its own set of challenges for the structural engineer– you are generally working in extreme heat in a marine environment with all the associated technical issues of excessive heat of hydration, corrosion, condensation  etc. plus there is generally a shortage of skilled labour. That said there are many iconic buildings in the country to inspire the structural engineer, and plenty of interesting projects on the horizon.

Other than the UAE I’ve worked on projects throughout the UK, and  in  Hong Kong, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon  and the US – it just goes to show the wonderful scope offered by engineering careers.

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