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Working lives - Early starter

Born in the UK, raised in the US and having worked as an engineer in both countries, Damien Rogan feels the US could learn a lot from UK design philosophy.

It has been an eventful year for Damien Rogan.

In January, he flew out to Antarctica to present Buro Happold's bid to design and build the new Halley VI British Antarctic Survey (BAS) research station. Rogan spent a month there with the other two finalists of the competition - Michael Wright from FaberMaunsell and Chris Dunlop of Expedition Engineering - to see how their initial designs would stand up to the harsh Antarctic conditions, and experience daily life on the station at first hand.

The competitors turned collaborators carried out such successful vehicle testing that they plan to publish their findings in a paper.

'It's just a real challenge - a big amazing thing to be part of, and probably the most complicated structure I'll have to look at, ' says Rogan.

'You have to consider how the structure is to fit within the conditions of snow and ice and the necessity of moving the building, the overall form of the building and how to integrate it with the mechanical systems'.

Rogan crossed the Atlantic to join Buro Happold in 2002, but had been impressed with the company years earlier.

While studying civil engineering at Washington University, St Louis, he had originally planned to do a Masters degree in architecture until a chance 'friend of a friend' connection led to a two month summer placement with Buro Happold at the Millennium Dome in London.

Working with the consultant's structural team, 20 year old Rogan realised 'how engineers can have more of a role in the aesthetics of a building'.

'I was impressed with the role of structural engineers and how structures could be the focal point of a building; how good structural design can improve both the appearance of a building and its function'.

After graduating in 1999, Rogan joined structural consultant Dewhurst McFarlane in New York and got the chance to work on the David Lawrence Convention Centre, Pittsburgh.

'The oldest person in the team was 32. We were all in pretty deep and there was a lot of pressure' says Rogan.

When three senior people quit mid-project, Rogan suddenly found himself, at just 21 years of age, in charge of the whole steelwork package.

'That was where I learned the most out of any single project - it was so diverse and complex. There were something like 50 prime contractors for the main structural elements'.

Rogan has been struck by the contrast in philosophy on design between the two countries. 'Most US engineers get things done quickly and cheaply. They expect buildings to be obsolete in 10 years.

'The UK takes a longer view on buildings. People see the value of building high quality the first time around.'

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