• 17 June 2019

From a passion for LEGO to shaping our cityscapes

I suppose it was just a natural assumption I would be involved with engineering as a career. My dad was an Architect and, growing up, I often helped survey sites holding a staff and theodolite in some hard to reach locations. I absolutely love going into the field so, combined with my ‘experience’, an interest in the natural and built environment and a passion for LEGO, I found it all went hand in hand.

Growing up in London, I visited Canary Wharf on numerous occasions with my school and at university. I wasn’t interested in actually working in the buildings or travelling on the DLR, but I find it fascinating to understand how the former docklands has developed and see the way it’s been shaped over the years by the people who live and work there. Since I graduated with a degree in Geography and a Masters in Planning, I’ve worked at Waterman for a number of years managing the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) for urban regeneration schemes and have been fortunate to work on a several projects in the Tower Hamlets area, such as the 48-storey residential tower at 225 Marsh Wall and Royal Mint Court, so in some way I have also contributed to how this area is being formed.

Working alongside flood risk, highways, wind microclimate and structures engineers means I’ve met some fabulously talented and dedicated individuals during my career. I’m inspired by my colleagues and it spurs me on to learn from them, gaining their insight into challenging scenarios and working collaboratively to achieve a solution. I enjoy the multidisciplinary nature of projects and the opportunity to work with many different people with technical expertise. One minute I can be discussing piling methods or the archaeological potential of the site, and the next I am part of discussions to maximise the amount of daylight a living room will achieve, seeking solutions to mitigate air quality impacts, or the quantum of new play space a development will be providing.

Looking to the future, I really hope for the opportunity to work on more buildings which incorporate large landscaped roof terraces and internal public spaces – particularly ones with great views. Having worked in EIA for so long, I can appreciate the importance of incorporating spaces to reflect and step away from work, as well as great sustainable features which increase biodiversity and incorporate water management features.

Although I’m open to pushing myself and embracing new challenges, the thought of presenting to members of the public at consultation events was daunting at first. However, I’ve since been involved with numerous exhibitions and presentations and it’s a great opportunity to explain how a development will be realised and allay any concerns the public may have. It’s also great to gain a new perspective from people on the ‘other side’ who may not have a technical background but can make you look and think about things differently – it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae.

As an EIA coordinator there is a misconception that I’m a report writer and paper shuffler! Hardly! I do so much more than report on the technical assessments done by others; I have to understand in great detail the emerging design of a building and communicate this to others focussing on their relevant technical disciplines, all whilst bearing in mind how any design change made to minimise one environmental impact may affect another. I need to make sure we keep in budget and deliver a quality product on time and understand the legalities of EIA to ensure our reporting is robust and transparent.

International Women in Engineering Day is a great opportunity to allow women within our industry to celebrate their achievements and inspire the next generation. It’s not just about encouraging women to be engineers, it’s about realising that a diversity of views, experience and expertise often gives the best results.

With so many opportunities in the industry, for those considering a career in engineering I would suggest they think carefully about their personality – do they like talking to other people, do they like number crunching, do they like report writing, would they prefer presenting to clients? Maybe they’re more suited to all of these! The best thing you can do is keep an open mind and gain as much exposure and experience as possible.

Ros Boalch


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