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Living on the edge

Cover Story: Dave Rolton

Two 'big lifts' will be grabbing the headlines in the near future.

Alan Sparks met the man with his reputation on the line on both projects.

Over the coming months, Rolton Group chairman Dave Rolton could be excused if his fingernails take heavy punishment. As the champion of big lifts, he is not only a key member of the BAA T5 team charged with strand jacking the dramatic 2,500t roof sections on Terminal 5's main building 30m up into position, but also has a foot in the Wembley arch lifting camp (NCE 15 January).

But to Rolton, this is nothing new. 'I have built my career around large-scale temporary works. It is my love. I find it is the place where you can 'get the edge'. People who work in it, as a rule, tend to stay, ' he says.

'Big lifts give you the competitive edge to solve problems using modern thinking about off-site production and health and safety working through the medium of structural engineering. Temporary works often pose a greater challenge than the main works.'

On his business card, Rolton describes himself as a professional engineer. He shuns the label 'consultant'. 'The title 'professional engineer' singles you out as somebody who is really useful, ' he insists.

'What engineers need to do is go out and prove themselves to be valuable people and display exactly where they have added this value, ' he believes. 'Engineering services are too often seen as a commodity.'

It is supplying niche expertise rather than basic engineering where Rolton sees British engineering's role overseas.

'For any young engineer wanting to travel, this is the only long term policy. I am lucky to have travelled widely through my work, to China, Europe, Asia and the US, and have absolutely loved this experience.'

Building his business has demanded a great share of Rolton's personal time, but when he does escape the shackles, he can be found on the golf course.

'I enjoy getting away, but I'm glad I don't have to earn a living from it, ' he jokes. 'I also love rugby and follow Northampton Saints when I can.'

But it is engineering where Rolton has made his biggest mark and, at 53, it is here where his future ambitions lie.

'I want to see Rolton Group fulfil its promise and build on what we have already achieved. I want us to grow into a real bluechip company with an international reputation for product and quality.'

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