INTERVIEW WITH A STRUCTURAL ENGINEER
Mark Mason – Sinclair Johnston and Partners
Mark, what is a structural engineer?
Someone who is able to understand, predict and calculate the stability, strength and rigidity of constructional elements and who is able to develop designs and integrate their design with that of other designers.
Structural engineering is based upon applied physical laws and knowledge of the structural performance of different material and geometrics. Utilising a number of relatively simple components we are able to build often complex, yet economic structural systems.
What kind of structures do you work on?
I work on a wide variety of structures that vary between historic buildings where conservation of the original fabric is of prime importance, to the design of new buildings that embrace modernist architectural ideas, often where the use of sustainable materials is of prime importance.
Can you tell us a bit about you and your company?
Sinclair Johnston and Partners were formed in 1983. We have since grown steadily to the point where we are now 25 strong. We are based in Southwark and specialise in the design of difficult inner city projects that are complicated by various Party Wall conditions and other physical constraints and which require innovative solutions. We have developed an expertise in working sensitively with historic and often listed heritage buildings, but also work with leading architects on the design of imaginative contemporary buildings.
I have been involved in structural engineering for more than 40 years, working for a number of London’s leading consultants. I joined SJ&P 1 year ago as a Technical Director and currently oversee a number of complex developments.
How do you see your role in the project team?
The most successful projects are often those where collaboration between the various team members is strong. An early involvement in the design process allows us as structural engineers to directly influence the overall form of the new development in an economic and practical manner. It can be enormously satisfying when a contribution can be incorporated within the final construction.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your projects?
The achievement of high quality in the design and construction processes, in the context of the inevitable pressures of time and cost constraints.
What tips would you give clients looking to carry out projects requiring structural engineering input?
Take advice and undertake background research so as to consider engineers with the experience appropriate to the project being considered.
Developing a personal relationship with the lead engineer is important. Fee levels are of course a consideration but in the overall picture it is more important that a Client can trust and enjoy a collaborative and good working relationship with an engineer.