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Laura Bayliss named NCE/ACE Young Consultant of the Year

The NCE/ACE Young Consultant of the Year Award finalists epitomise the creativity, diversity and technical ability that the engineering and consultancy profession needs. Winner Laura Bayliss is an exceptional professional with a great future ahead of her.

The Young Consultant of the Year has to be someone who can act as an ambassador for the industry. This year’s winner is already fulfilling that role.

Laura Bayliss is a dynamic young lighting engineer who has appeared in the media promoting the role of lighting, organised “guerrilla lighting” events and worked on projects that bring communities together and stimulate debate about the places in which we live and work.

She took an unconventional route into engineering consultancy. After A-levels in maths, biology and art, she did a degree in fine art, but became more interested in how best to light her art works.

“I became fascinated by light as an artistic medium in relation to the built environment,” she explains. “At the time of graduating I didn’t know that architectural lighting designers actually existed, but I knew I wanted to be one.”

She followed up her degree with technical lighting design courses, picking up a “young lighter of the year” award along the way for her study into the effects of light on human health, before joining multi-disciplinary consultant BDP in London. It wasn’t long before her value to the company was recognised, and she was asked to relocate to BDP’s Manchester office to build up the lighting team there.

Bayliss has enormous enthusiasm for lighting and the way it can be used to improve living and working environments. Equally, however, she has inspirational managerial capabilities that have enabled her to build that team from one person to nine full time lighting designers in just two years.

In that time she has demonstrated the value of her team’s work – and technical capabilities – to more traditional disciplines within the design process, such as structural, building services and sustainability engineers, and has built up an impressive client list that includes Grosvenor, Deloitte and Land Securities. Last year, at 29, Bayliss was promoted to lighting director – the youngest in the company.

Bayliss feels that energy is the biggest challenge facing engineers in the future. “We will always need light on our streets and buildings, but I believe in finding the most innovative solution for delivering artificial light, as well as promoting the use of daylight,” she says.

“I always keep abreast of new technologies that can push our designs to be more creative or more sustainable.”

Bayliss’ energy, drive and passion really impressed the judges. They said: “Laura is bursting with enthusiasm both for her discipline and for engineering as a whole. She is lively and passionate about her work, and has demonstrated her aptitude for working across various sectors of the industry to drive industry forward and improve the built environment.

“Laura left us in no doubt that she is an inspirational leader and demonstrated that she can communicate her enthusiasm to both technical and non-technical audiences, both inside the industry and out,” they added. “She is already proving herself to be a forceful ambassador for the profession.”

Finalist: Gareth Evans

After three years working on UK rail projects for Mott MacDonald, Gareth Evans accepted a post working in joint venture with one of the consultant’s major clients – a post that involved relocating to Johannesburg. The experience, he says, has “far exceeded expectations” and given him the chance to work at a higher level than if he had stayed in the UK.

The client runs South Africa’s port, rail and pipeline infrastructure, and Evans has been involved in the rail element of a five year, R100bn (£6.8bn) scheme to modernise and improve that infrastructure. After 18 months, Evans was seconded full time to the client organisation to work in the capital projects planning group.

Working with engineers from around the world has taught Evans, 29, to be open to new ways of thinking, challenge accepted practice and be prepared to innovate – lessons he is now putting into practice on his UK project work.

The judges said: “Gareth has obviously found his experience of working in South Africa extremely fulfilling, and has made the most of his opportunities to learn from other engineers and to progress both personally and professionally.

“His focus on developing effective client relationships and his desire to challenge established practices and improve knowledge sharing are highly commendable.”

Finalist: John Roycroft

John Roycroft’s submission for this award read like an adventure story, as he described being a young project engineer responsible for design and construction supervision of a complex gridshell structure.

He has great enthusiasm for engineering, engendered by childhood tales of his grandfather’s exploits, and cites innovative engineers like Brunel, Ted Happold and Mark Whitby as role models.

Roycroft brings a fresh approach to the profession, combining technical ability with a desire to communicate.

Now 34, Roycroft is a director at BDP where, he says, the big challenge for the future is sustainability. “For a long time we have spanned further and built higher at the expense of materials with high embodied energy. I am now focused and committed to delivering sustainable solutions across
the group.”

He adds: “It is a time of economic uncertainty, and it is at times like this that I believe we need to innovate.”

The judges said: “John has wonderful communication skills that enable him to convey complex ideas to a wide range of audiences. He also has an infectious enthusiasm for the profession that should be harnessed to benefit both his company and the industry as a whole.”

Finalist: Lee Canning

In a conservative industry like construction, it can be difficult to convince clients and designers of the benefits of new materials and technologies, but Lee Canning’s determination to promote the use of fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) composites has contributed to the industry’s take-up of this material. Canning, 34, has harnessed his considerable technical ability to develop and promote FRP for use in bridge construction, and his career may inspire many other engineers who are pushing the boundaries of new materials.

He has published widely in technical journals and spoken at conferences around the world, and last year saw the world’s first FRP deck installed to support full railway loading. Canning’s motivation for promoting the material comes from a desire to reduce lifecycle costs of structures and minimise disruption to the public.

“Lee is already an acknowledged expert in the field of FRP bridge construction, and he has worked hard to see the technique adopted by the engineering community,” said the judges. “His technical leadership is extremely valuable to young engineers, for whom he is an admirable role model.”

The Young Consultant of the Year Award is sponsored by Hays Civil & Structural, the UK’s leading specialist recruitment consultancy. Working with the UK’s top employers, specialist recruitment consultants are actively involved in the industry, possess a unique knowledge of the market and have an in-depth understanding of individual role requirements. For further information visit