Yet another chat done! Feeling good :)
I have worked as a receptionist in Watford, as a placement engineer in Swindon for Atkins Rail, and as a research engineer for Buro Happold which is where I am now.
My title is ‘Research Engineer’ whilst I’m at Buro Happold studying for my EngD
Buro Happold Ltd. (as well as the IDC in Systems and University of Bath)
I want to shout about buildings made from straw, earth, and bamboo; it’s not as crazy as it sounds!
Hello! I’m Tish and I am investigating what natural and recycled building materials are out there and how we can use more of them in the U.K. I am also looking at how engineers compare and choose what building materials to use on projects.
Have you ever thought about what your house is made from? Bricks? Concrete blocks? Why were these materials chosen? It was probably because they were cheap, easy to build with, easily accessible, and strong amongst other things.
But did you know that you can build a strong sturdy house out of straw? Or build a school out of earth?
This building (below) is made of cardboard and is 74m long and 25m wide; thats big enough to fit 4 blue whales inside!
My research has shown that to build more out of these materials there needs to be a demand for these materials. Imagine if a baker in his bakery sees that it is the sausage rolls that everyone wants; he’ll make more sausage rolls than anything else in the bakery.
But to get the demand in the first place there needs to be awareness; how can you know that you want something unless you know about it?
So that’s what I have been working on; increasing awareness of these building materials for the general public, architects, and engineers. This is so that when clients come up to us wanting a sustainable building, we can say ‘have you thought about building it from straw?’
The next bit of work I’m doing is looking at how engineers view building materials; do they think they can influence them? Where do they get their information from? What type of information do they need to design with? I am in the very early stages of this work and so I don’t know the answers to these questions yet! To get them I’m going to be chatting to the engineers in my company and seeing if there are any similarities in what they tell me. This will then let me know what they are doing at the moment and where there are gaps in their knowledge, or where they are struggling to get information.
My Typical Day
Very varied! I could be doing structural calculations; I could be reading papers on natural materials; I could be pulling together images and data for a new bid for work!
I come into the Buro Happold office in Bath around 9.30 and check my emails for the day. These may range from some design work that I need to do, meetings i might need to attend tomorrow, new journal papers I might want to read, or talks I might want to attend.
At the moment I am working on a materials selection tool for a large project in Saudi Arabia. We are using Microsoft Excel to put together a spreasheet tool for the structural engineers on the project to look at various materials and compare them in terms of cost, distance from the construction site, the amount of toxic chemicals in the materials etc. This means we have to really think about the process by which someone will use this tool and we need to write code for the spreadsheet so that it will put in various bits of information when we need it.
Lunchtime is from 1 til 2; sometimes I go into town and pick up a sandwich, sometimes I sit with my friends and watch some of the others play table football in the canteen (my reactions are too slow to be any good! No one wants me on their team!)
I might also work on some structural design; recently I worked on the calculations for this small timber house for the caretaker at an archtiecture school in Dorset (http://www.invisiblestudio.org/category/caretakers-house/). What this meant is that by looking at how strong the wood is and how heavy the things like the roof (and hwo heavy snow on top of it) would be, I had to work out whether the wooden beams and walls would bend under this weight would break. From this I could work out how big they need to be.
I usually head home around 6 although I might be needed to stay later if there are last minute changes to a design or if someone really needs something by the morning.
Sometimes I spend the day at my research centre talking about engineering to school kids, sometimes I might be at a conference. My days vary week on week; it pays to be organised!
I hope this gives you a good overview of what I get up to on a typical day!
I would use the money to buy materials so that i can show how you would build something out of natural building materials, and show how strong and durable it can be.
For straw I would build a wall and show how difficult it is to push it over and how, because it is packed so tightly, it charrs rather than burns away easily.
I would also build a large dome out of bamboo or carboard tubes to show how something you might think of as weak individually, when used correctly, can be very strong.
For both of these I would require volunteers and space; so it would be at either a science festival or a sustainability festival. I’ll be letting you know so that some of the kids (and teachers!) I talk to have to opportunity to come along!
If I have money left over, I’d be donating it to RedR which is a disaster relief charity http://www.redr.org.uk/
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Proactive, Friendly, Geeky
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Florence and the Machine (although it changes a lot!)
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Tubing down a river in Thailand; it was difficult to control how fast you went!
What did you want to be after you left school?
An engineer; and now I am!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
We used to leave at lunch to get tasty sandwiches from down the road instead of having school meals but we didn’t get caught ;)
What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?
Do the calculations for a timber house and then go to the housewarming party! http://www.invisiblestudio.org/selected_work/caretakers-house-hooke-park/
Tell us a joke.
Why did the chicken cross the Moebius strip? To get to the other….err….hmmmm