Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Opportunities in structural engineering

Your career: Leadership

Neil Squibbs, group director, Buro Happold, structures

There is no shortage of high prestige projects, many of them funded by Lottery money. These include football stadia, museums and opera houses - projects that really stretch the abilities of engineers. Over the next few years, transport will be a huge area and Railtrack will be making a £30bn investment in stations, bridges and new track. Structural and civil engineers will be at the forefront of that. In fact, there has been no better time in the last 20 years to be a structural engineer.

To do this job you need: the ability to communicate and visual awareness. Nevertheless, structural engineering is essentially a technical profession and practitioners must have an excellent understanding of the physics of a building.

Working with architects can be challenging: there will be strains in any team where there are different aims to satisfy. I believe we must respect the creativity of the architect without losing sight of the fact that we have to produce a structure that is economic and buildable.

Translating a concept into a structure is perhaps where the greatest skill is required. We have to interpret the architect's proposals - which may be very sketchy at this stage - into elements thatcan be made and put together on site. This is the area in which engineers with a full vocabulary of structural techniques and knowledge of the limitations of various materials can be most effective.

Experimenting with new materials isn't a problem: what appears to be new is the application of existing technology in a new way, orthe combination of well-understood technologies to achieve something new. For instance, the cable net structure and the fabric of the Millennium Dome had been used previously, but for smaller structures.

Structures are the form of construction most easily identified with by the public. While communication skills are important for a structural engineer, it 1s not essential to be able to talk to the media. Being interviewed isn't part of my job - the people who do it are those who are good at it. However, it would be marvellous if more structural engineers were able to talk to the press and explain the projects they were working on. One reason the public sees engineering as dull is because there are very few people who do that.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.