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Applying Bath's integrated design principles to a civil engineering career

William Arnold, Young Structural Engineering Professional of the Year 2017, reflects on his career in civil engineering and his time studying at Bath.

Will works on sketches at his desk in an office
Will works as a Senior Structural Engineer at Arup, an independent firm working across all aspects of the built environment. (Copyright Daniel Imade/Arup)
‘The technical grounding taught at Bath gave me a great start to my career with Arup, but I would argue that equally as important was the mantra of 'total design' through studying and working alongside architecture students.’
Will Arnold MEng (hons) Civil Engineering graduate, 2010

Will started working at Arup seven years ago after graduating with a master's degree in civil engineering. His work on three outstanding projects secured him the title of Young Structural Engineering Professional of the Year 2017 from the Institution of Structural Engineers. The projects included the Fubon Tower in Taipei, a whiskey distillery in Scotland and Wadham College in Oxford.

Award-winning projects founded on collaboration

Will works closely with architects and other engineers to find the right balance between structural and architectural design: "I guess one of the features that stands out for me in these three projects, is that the structural engineering is celebrated in all of them and drives the architectural quality. I've been really fortunate to work for some amazing engineers in the last seven years at Arup, who have instilled in me the importance of getting the structural diagram right. This ensures efficient use of material in the building, and adds clarity to the rest of the design as the layout of services, finishes and facades follow suit."

Building this collaborative relationship to solve innovative design solutions is something Will developed during his time in our joint Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering. "Bath's approach towards 'total design' had a real impact on me, we worked alongside the architects right from the start of each project, working through the design together. I can't imagine designing in anything other than complete collaboration now.

"For the roof of the Fubon Museum, I spent a lot of time sketching up engineering solutions that combined structure with mechanical, electrical, lighting and finishes. For these sketches I had to feed in ideas from the various services engineers, the architects, the daylighting consultant, and between us we pieced it all together until we had an aesthetically neat solution."

Pursuing a creative career

It was at 14 that Will decided he wanted to become a structural engineer after talking with a family friend who had worked for Arup - the company that helped to design the Sydney Opera House. In his first year of university; however, he briefly wavered and attempted to change his course to architecture.

"I'd been enjoying the design studio sessions so much that I was convinced I wanted to be an Architect. A lecturer advised me to stick with engineering and tried to explain that I could apply a love of creative design to engineering with just as much gusto as any Architect. I was a little disappointed at the time, but I have since learnt what an incredibly creative career engineering can be.

"Working as an engineer is not just a career or a trade, but a way of thinking. It's about cultivating a desire to solve problems and come up with solutions that are the best that they can possibly be. You will never know everything, or be able to design an entire project by yourself. So instead, you will need to communicate with others, ask lots of questions, admit when you don't know, and be happy to keep learning."

Looking forward, Will predicts the future of civil engineering will be increasingly automated with computers taking on the more repetitive tasks and low-energy robots manning silent construction sites. "This might sound as though our jobs will be at risk, but I disagree. We will not be simply accepting change, but rather we will be the ones orchestrating it, giving us back the time to concentrate on adding value to design through our creativity, intelligence and foresight. I can’t wait."

Will's award winning project

Will's work on three outstanding projects secured him the title of Young Structural Engineering Professional of the Year from the Institution of Structural Engineers.

Civil engineering study

Read more stories about becoming a Civil Engineer at Bath.

Will's 5 top career tips

Read Will's blog post