How would you define structural engineering?
The architect comes with a ‘vision’ for a building – however it often won’t stand up or is impractical to build. The structural engineer works with the architect and the builder to make a design that can be efficiently constructed and will safely stand up.
Structural engineering shapes the built environment – all the buildings we live and work in, and the infrastructure networks that connect and service them – and ensures that people remain safe in using this environment, despite extreme events such as storms and earthquakes. It’s only when buildings or bridges collapse (fortunately infrequently in Ireland and the UK) that the understated importance of structural engineers is widely appreciated.
Who should become a structural engineer?
It’s important to understand the theories and able to do the calculations, but team-work and problem-solving are at the heart of what I do each day – finding ways to balance competing demands, working through innovative products and processes, and understanding how the engineering influences cost, time and quality to deliver value to a client and to society.
As computers become able to do more of the calculation, engineers will be freed up to spend more time coming up with new, creative solutions and working them through – this might encourage different types of people to join the profession.
What does Chartered Membership mean to you?
Chartered Membership is a badge of quality. It says you have been judged competent by your peers. The process of becoming chartered was very valuable to me – reviewing my experiences highlighted areas I had to brush up on, whilst the notes I created for the exam have been a handy reference guide ever since.
I’ve been approached about jobs around the world based largely on my Chartered Membership – I haven’t taken any of them (yet!) but it is proof to me that being Chartered can open doors internationally.
How do you interact with the Institution?
Living in London I tend to focus on events at HQ, which are interesting and informative.
In preparing for the Chartered Membership exam I used the past papers, examiners’ reports and technical guidance notes extensively. As a member and vice-chair of the Institution’s Sustainability Panel I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to learn from other members and get involved in industry-wide initiatives.