Engineering and design student insights

Student projects, placements, research and study experiences in the Faculty of Engineering & Design

Everyday life at the Buro


📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

In my second post about my placement in the London Structures department of BuroHappod Engineering, I talk a bit more about what I do on day-to-day basis at work and the projects I have been involved in.

Getting into my day job

In my previous post I mentioned how I’m mainly working on the KAFD Metro Station project in Riyadh. Prior to joining the BuroHappold team in London I had very little, or in some instances, no experience with the programs I now use on an everyday basis. During my first year at University we had a course on AutoCAD, which has now proved to be very useful, as well as a good basis for learning to use other engineering and modelling software.

I most commonly spend my time modelling complex elements of bigger structures on Autodesk Robot, which can be best imagined as a ‘grown-up’ version of the Sims build mode. The completed models can later be used to analyse the self-weight of the building, movements and any critical forces. In addition to hand calcs, I also often use CSC Tedds to check member design to different regional standards as well as elaborate spreadsheets.

For example, a really interesting challenge that I’ve been helping with is the structural design of a skybridge connecting the KAFD Metro station to one of the nearby financial district buildings. This involved setting up a model based on design information received from our Bridges department from an earlier stage, checking this for any discrepancies with the current design, while avoiding clashes with the Building Services routes. Due to the new design criteria the initial structure of the bridge was no longer stable enough and in order to not exceed the spacial limitations, I went on to redesign the main supporting structure with enhanced custom steel beam members.

Working in industry has proved to be great fun as I have already been able to work on some amazing projects with BuroHappold, that are either already under construction or will be built in a few years. Similarly to university, you are still constantly learning and developing new skills but without any of the stress from exams.

KAFD Metro Skybridge model on Autodesk Robot

Gallery Installation

The Structures department is divided into teams per project, with some of the engineers working on more than one project at a time or being ‘borrowed’ for shorter periods of time. Therefore, although I am mainly assigned to work on the KAFD Metro Station project, I have also been able to help out on a small variety of different projects for shorter spans of time.

For example I had an opportunity to contribute to the installation of Magdalene Odundo’s glass sculpture in the James Hockey gallery in Farnham. My project director, Rasti Bartek, had already designed a custom wire net to which each of the 1001 individual glass pieces were attached and my task was to check the existing structure of the gallery room, in order to ensure that it can take the new forces from the installed cable net.

Although it was a very short-span project, I really enjoyed the opportunity to work on something on a very different scale to my main project and which was not specifically building-related. Also, it just looks very pretty.


Photos from Transition II, by Linda Salamoun, BuroHappold

Out of office hours
To finish things off, in addition to project-work, we get up to quite a few extra-curricular activities after working hours, such as team sports, pub-quizzes, STEM outreach and many in-house or institutional talks. For example, the talks I’ve been to with my co-workers have ranged from technical and design lectures to more light hearted talks such as the Stratigraphic Beer talk and tasting session, on the link between quality groundwater and the taste of the brew. I find all of these events a great way to learn new things, get to know the people in the office as well as just generally being a lot of fun!


Our winning team at the YEF quiz


A Cool New Placement

  , ,

📥  Department of Mechanical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

One month into my second placement and I’ve now got my head around what my new team does and, after a slow start, finally have some work to sink my teeth into. My new team is part of the Capital Programme’s Directorate. The projects this directorate are involved with are to renew ageing assets, rebuild some of the network’s most congested stations, increase capacity on the busiest lines and to also replace obsolete systems with the latest technology. These are all critical to supporting the continued growth and regeneration of London.

The works already completed range from upgrading the signalling on the Jubilee line, increasing capacity by a third by allowing trains to run much closer together, to introducing Wi-Fi across the network.

The team I have been placed in is the Integrated Stations Programme, working with the vents and cooling systems in place in the underground. With the capacity of the network on the rise there is an ever increasing amount of heat being produced by the system, whether that be from the regenerative breaking of the trains or the commuters themselves. It is therefore necessary to constantly upgrade and replace the fans and condensers that provide comfort cooling, not quite air conditioning, to the stations.

The work I have been involved in so far in its most basic form is pressure drop calculations. In order to determine what fan is required for installation you must first find the Index Route. This is the route of greatest resistance within the system where the pressure drop will be greatest. Typically, but not in all circumstances, this will be the longest route within the system. Once this route has been calculated you are able to calculate the size of the fan and the flow rate it is required to produce in order to ensure there is sufficient air flow at the extremes of the cooling system.

Alongside this I have been introduced to the Microstation, a CAD programme used to model the position of the vents and grilles by overlaying them above the floor plan of the station. By working from the CAD files and copies of the original installation drawings I created a Grille Schedule. As a new set of standards have recently been introduced the required flow rates for the various rooms within the station, such as ticket offices, mess rooms, or toilets, has changed, and it is therefore necessary to determine what the new required flow rate is and from this source an appropriate grille to be installed in the update.

As I am now approaching 6 months with TFL towards the end of March I had my mid-year probation review a couple of weeks back. This is part of the P&D (Progress & Development) process that everyone at TFL goes through and it involves a sit-down with the Scheme Advisor, personal mentor and sponsor to discuss your time so far with the company and assess your progress towards the objectives set at the beginning of the placement.  As you might imagine this tends to be more of a formality as I have regularly been meeting with all 3 over the course of the placement but it will be very useful should I decide to return for the grad-scheme in future.

Reflecting on my time at DTU

  , , ,

📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

Author: Adam Engstrom

Hey guys so I have now come back to Bath from my stay at DTU. After a bit of reflection I’d like to in this post give my impressions of the exchange overall as I’ve already gone into quite a bit of detail on the university bit in my previous post.

The most important thing to know is that Copenhagen is an amazing city, absolutely loved it. I loved how though it’s a big city it still has a very relaxed feel to it, like Amsterdam. I really enjoyed everything being just a short bike ride away instead of having to get on a bus or metro to get around. It would have been nice to have been there during the spring/summer to make better use of the fact that the best way to see and enjoy the city is by bike but there’s not too much to do about that. There’s still loads of things I haven’t been to during my stay such as Christiania or getting to know Nørrebro better.

In terms of accommodation Elliot and I definitely didn’t have the best of luck, but it was still much better than others. Loads of people didn’t have a place to live for about the first month. Some of the other dormitories we heard about also didn’t sound good, especially Albertslund. I think the main issue about many of the dorms was that they were not completely rented out by students, for our dorm locals lived on the first floor. In many cases they were actually worse than us with people throwing underage parties in the student common rooms, absolutely trashing the place. The thing that was the biggest problem with our dorm was the fact that there were no common kitchens and therefore not very much interaction between people as everyone would cook and stick to their rooms unless you really made an effort to gather people together. Although living on campus would have been really fun and easy, it was really nice to be quite close to town so you could enjoy the city in your free time.

The most enjoyable and, in my opinion, biggest reason to go on Erasmus is to meet new people. It was really cool to meet people from certain countries which you don’t see many from here in England such as Iceland and the Faroe Islands and learn about their cultures etc. In general, the Erasmus crowd are a really good bunch as everyone is in the same situation as you and there to meet as many new people and do and see as many things as possible. Everyone has a really positive and outgoing attitude. The one negative about our Erasmus experience was the fact that our grades mattered while we were over there meaning we had to still work. This meant we couldn’t participate in a lot of Erasmus trips and doing things with other students etc. The fact that we were only in Copenhagen for a semester was a bit of shame as it was only towards the final months that we got settled in and had made good friends with people. Working with other Erasmus students who were on a pass/fail was a bit frustrating as they would more often than not only put in minimal effort into projects. I would also recommend doing a sport while over as it’s another way to meet more people. As DTU didn’t have a floorball team I ended up playing with a local team, getting to know loads of Danish people. Also, on a personal note, I ended up seeing a really good friend for the first time in about 10 years. It was great to hang out and catch up with him again.

In conclusion, the Erasmus has been a really great experience. Meeting and making friends with loads of people from all around Europe was a lot of fun. Do be aware however that it can be quite tough to make friends with Danish students as more often than not you’re group together with international and Erasmus students. In terms of the university, it was really cool to do quite different subjects which has probably helped me grow as a person and had an influence on the type of things I would like to do as for a career. Although studying at DTU was fun, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to do my entire degree there as I was a bit underwhelmed by the quality of teaching and some other aspects. Hopefully our blogs will help students in other years decide what to do and stay clear of the bad courses which Elliot and I sadly had to experience. Also, the campus was really cool due to the number of bars creating a really good student life.

I would definitely recommend as many people as possible to go on Erasmus as it is quite an eye-opening experience and a lot of fun. Just remember that you still have to work while over there!



Further insights from DTU

  , , ,

📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

Author: Adam Engstrom

Hi again. It’s been a while since I last wrote, coursework, exams etc really piled on towards the end of the semester to say the least. What I thought I’d do in this post is to describe my experiences in the courses I wrote about last time and give a final evaluation of my time in Copenhagen.

Right after my last blog post, we had a week holiday. This was really nice as it gave us a little break after having quite a few deadlines the week before. I decided to stay in Copenhagen this week and tried to every day do some sightseeing I hadn’t already done. I ended up going to quite a few museums as the weather wasn’t great. Most museums have free entry every Wednesday and you can find those that are free on other days as well, so you can basically go to something for free every day. The Danish Architecture Centre had an exhibition about the most iconic constructions by Danish architects and engineers which was free for DTU students which I highly recommend. They also have a really cool bookshop which I bought a couple of books from. That holiday was needed as it had gotten pretty hectic with groupwork and individual assignments.

One common trend that both Elliot and I have noticed is that working in groups here has for the most part been bad. The quality is not up to standard that we’re used to back in Bath. We both had experiences of group members not pulling their weight, not producing pieces of reports they were responsible for etc, and when finally producing a piece of writing it was often so badly that it had to be rewritten by one of us others. What I also noticed is that when group work is planned for in the schedule, people wouldn’t work past the designated hours even though there was still work to do. This was very frustrating.

Another trend I’ve noticed is that courses and students here are heavily computer reliant. Most of the lectures rely on you bringing a laptop and working on it. I don’t particularly mind this but would have been annoying if I had a large laptop I had to carry around. What I don’t particularly like about this is that the Danish students seem to be very reliant on computers. Whereas Elliot and I are used to working out for example structural questions visually and by hand, students here seem to almost directly chuck it into a program like Robot or start coding on Matlab. It seems like they don’t really analyze it themselves at any point.

Right, let’s get into the courses.

Smart, Connected & Liveable Cities has probably been my favorite course. I really enjoyed the broad scope of it and how it made me think about what I value in a city. I enjoyed how different it was in its outline compared to most of the courses I have studied throughout university. The final coursework which consisted of writing a short story about a dystopian future for a city we also wrote a report on was challenging as I, personally , hadn’t done such a thing since like 11th grade of high school. Though different, it made sense why we were given this assignment as it made you think critically about the values of a city, how it functioned etc. The field trips that were part of this course was also a nice as it let me see certain parts of Copenhagen I hadn’t been to before.
I ended up being quite disappointed by Building Energy – Technical Services and Integrated Design. I had hoped it would have been a course where I would’ve learnt about building environment in combination with an energy modeling program but it ended up solely focusing on learning how to use the computer program. It was just not interesting at all, with the lectures just going through certain issues you might run into when using the program instead of teaching us about the subject. I was also placed in a really bad group in this class with none of my group members having any real experience in building environment or building design in general. As I was the only one with any experience of using design programs such as Sketchup or CAD, I ended up doing the architectural bits of the project while others dedicated time to the program and creating the building in it. This created a problem, as a few days before the final hand-in when going through the energy model I noticed they had created a building with 1.5m thick walls! I managed to halve the thicknesses but it was still very thick walls. I couldn’t really trust the engineering judgment of my group members. To summarize, what I thought would be a building environment design project ended up solely focusing on a piece of software, which at least in the UK is not widely used. There was apparently a 10 credit course similar to this called Sustainable Buildings which sounded better and more interesting (although from some I’ve heard it was also a bit useless) which might have been better.

Building Energy was still not as disappointing as Bridge Structures however. As I described in my first post, it started out quite well but as it went on just got worse and worse. Elliot and I didn’t really learn much new and within the fields new to us, not much was learnt as the teaching was really bad. Throughout the course the teacher was very distant, you could just tell he didn’t care. The only reading material we were given was a textbook which he was a co-author on. This book was really bad, as it went deep into the maths of bridges, with pages full of complicated equations that were never actually explained. Most of the courseworks for the class consisted of finding some obscure equation in this book, and then trying to work out what each symbol actually meant, instead of actually testing our understanding of bridges. This was especially true for the last coursework on dynamic loading of bridges, which became a test of our mathematical abilities instead of engineering abilities. The teacher assumed we had done dynamic loading before. As we hadn’t, the coursework was basically impossible to do. The tutorials, where we could get help, were also pretty useless as there was only one assistant there to help 100 students. This meant just sitting around for 2 hours to try and get help, which we didn’t manage for this particular coursework. We also tried to get in touch with the lecturer to get help but he never responded to us and was never in his office. We also never got any feedback on the coursework, so throughout the course we had no idea if we were actually doing things correctly.
The exam was equally as bad. It was an oral exam where Elliot and I were examined together. This exam was really unpleasant. I’ve had oral exams before and I’ve found them really good as it’s usually a quite relaxed atmosphere where the teachers are there to guide you, helping you show as much of your knowledge as you can. This was not the case for this exam. It mostly involved the teachers pitting me and Elliot against each other, when one of us answered a question they would always ask the other one if they agreed with the answer creating doubt. They also asked us very technical questions, such as moduli of various types of cables. In the end we were given a 7, which we thought was low as we had still been able to answer most questions etc. It turned out it was because we hadn’t done well on the dynamic loading coursework, this was infuriating as we had tried to seek assistance countless times and so on.
We ended up filing a complaint about this exam and the course as we felt we had not been treated fairly and had not actually been tested on our understanding of bridges. Looking at the feedback from other students, it’s clear we weren’t the only ones. There were a lot of complaint about the teacher and his behavior such as sitting on his phone, checking mails etc. during the examinations and in some cases even walking out midway through certain peoples’.
I would definitely not recommend this course.

Daylight and Lighting Design was a course I was very happy with and recommend to anyone doing Architectural Engineering or is particularly interested in lighting design, as me. In the end, I ended up learning how to use Velux Daylight Visualizer, DIALux and Daysim. The course also taught me how to use SketchUp well. The only thing I would say for anyone interested is that this course is very computer reliant. All these programs are PC only, which meant I had to run them on Bootcamp for Mac which was a bit complicated. There were also a lot of cases where, as some of these programs are still a bit buggy, the programs would not work and people therefore had a lot of problems completing the courseworks. There’s a computer room on campus with these programs installed but apparently there were a lot of difficulties with those computers as well.
The exam for this course was quite easy. I asked the teacher about this, as I thought that this course was evaluated 100% exam. It turns out he only used the exam as a formal check just to make sure people were not simply copying other peoples’ courseworks. The majority of the grade was based on the courseworks. Again, no feedback was given the coursework which was annoying, but that is about the only bad thing I can say about that course. I really enjoyed it.

In the end, I quite enjoyed Energy & Sustainability. The teaching was not very good, so it relied a lot on the subject being self-taught. When reading it on your own, I found the subject really interesting. The biggest negative about the course was that it was way too much work for 5 credits, with two large pieces of coursework. I described the first assignment in my previous blog, so I won’t write about it again. The second assignment was less work heavy and consisted of performing a lifecycle assessment on a combination of renewable energy systems. We then had to create a poster about this. Our group won a prize for ours. This was one of the few modules where I was happy with my group.
The exam for this course was quite bizarre. It was an electronic exam which meant the exam was taken and answered on your laptop you brought to the exam hall. It was pretty much like taking a written exam but more annoying as it would take ages to type out equations etc. I didn’t see any point in having the exam be electronic as there were no really complicated calculations or real need to use Excel.
To summarize, for this course you do need a real prior interest in sustainability and the environment as the teachers do not really get you enthusiastic about it. I enjoyed it and I do think engineers should take courses like these as an understanding about the taught topics are, in my opinion, really important and a I would expect an even heavier focus on sustainability to become more common in the building industry.

Finally, I also took a 3-week intensive course in January called Environmental Engineering in Developing Countries. This was a very enjoyable course, very different from what we’re used to back in Bath. At the beginning of the course, we were assigned groups and a location either in India or Tanzania that we were going to act as an NGO for and provide sanitation and water supply solutions. What was good about this course was that it was very hands-on. This was largely down to being assigned a real location where we were intervening and that we were really acting as a real NGO. Be warned however that these 3-week courses are very intense, with normal working hours being 9-5 every day. Everyday basically consisted of a short lecture in the morning followed by groupwork for the rest of the day. The first two weeks were spent on coming up with what sanitation and water supply solutions were the most suitable and economical for our area. The final week was spent drafting an application for funding to carry the project, giving an impression of what work within an NGO is really like. It was also really enlightening to talk with the teacher and assistants about the personal experiences of work both in the project areas or elsewhere such as South Sudan.
This course was made available to both bachelor and master students meaning the level of English was not always great as bachelor students are taught in Danish. Everyone in my group were bachelor students. As I speak Swedish we ended up just speaking Danish within the group and gave me some good language practice. I got along really well with the group, the only downside was that none of the others were used to writing in English which meant I ended up proofreading and rewriting other peoples’ sections in the reports we produced.
These courses also seemed much less formal than normal ones as you see the same group of people everyday for three weeks straight. During the first day the lecturer brought his guitar and played a song as part of his presentation and he also arranged a course party during the first week which I sadly couldn’t attend but heard it was good fun.

Lastly, one thing I would like to also talk about is hteir feedback system which was quite different from back in Bath and seemed to be quite an important thing for DTU with teachers taking the feedback very seriously. We were asked to halfway through and at the end of a course to evaluate it and provide feedback, not very different from Bath. What was different however was feedback sessions were held during lectures, summarizing the received feedback, creating a open discussion between lecturer and students where they could voice their opinion. I really enjoyed this as I felt we as students had more say in how things were done, it felt as we had a much greater impact on the course. I felt this also us as students care more about the course and our education.


Changing Tracks


📥  Department of Mechanical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate


This second blog is later than I had planned, mainly due to the hectic month I have just finished with the Asset & Operational Support team. Four months have flown by, and so too did my time within the team at Canary Wharf. The past four weeks have been a bit of a blur, trying to finish off as many of my projects as possible before the handover to the next Year in Industry student at the start of February.

One of my major projects that I managed to rush to completion before the end of my time was the testing of various protective wrappings for the axles of the trailer cars on the Victoria Line 2009 tube stock. A complete train is made up of 2 units, with each unit composed of 4 cars:

The DM, or Driving Motor, car.

The T, or Trailer, car.

The NDM, or Non-Driving Motor, car.

The SNDM, or Special Non-Driving Motor, car.

The trailer car, being the only car in the unit without four traction motors, has a far more exposed undercarriage than the other cars in the unit. The axles are therefore far more exposed and at risk to impact from debris and litter on the track. In order to mitigate some of the damage caused by impacts such as these, and to extend the service life of these axles, they are covered in protective wrappings that also serve as protection against corrosion.

Recently it has been found that Pandrol Clips, the metal clips that are used to secure the rail to the sleepers, are occasionally snapping and striking the axle. Impact craters deeper than 0.5mm are cause for scrapping an axle therefore there is a lot of interest in any wrapping that could be applied to extend their lifespan.

The test I designed focused on replicating the impact of a track clip striking the axle when the train is moving at top speed, which is limited to 80km/h during service on the Victoria line. Attaching a section of track clip to a secure mounting bracket and attaching this to the end of a weighted pendulum arm we spent a day striking the various wrappings we had covered the axle in. These included a thin ‘Solotape’ wrapping that is currently used, which ultimately came out as our recommendation going forward

Unfortunately I was unable to finish one of my others major design projects, but I am pleased to come away from my time with the AOS team with a nice portfolio of work to my name.

Following my four months with the AOS team I have now moved to the Integrated Stations programme, part of the Capital Programme’s Directorate. This is the second part of the yearlong plan of experiencing work within the track, rolling stock and stations teams within TFL.


Post Five: End of Exchange

  , , ,

📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

I think it would only be correct to write an overall summary of being a part of an exchange scheme. I would say overall I had a excellent time, I made some great friends and learnt a lot whilst at the University. Although I complained quite a bit about the accommodation, it was quite poor, it was however good to live in college dormitory with my friends, probably the main reason I stayed. It is nice to live with thirty or so friends and a chance to create a friends group. One of my concerns moving to Denmark was that it would be difficult to make friends but this definitely was not the case and was assisted by the living. It’s probably worth pointing out, I did not meet a single English person at the University. There were a few, maybe three, in the rugby club. There are a lot of Spanish, Germans and Norwegians, and Danish (obviously), but they are all good fun and friendly none the less.

However, a few negatives whilst being on exchange. I had zero grasp of the language, I tried but failed.  The language is not too hard to read but to speak is incredibly difficult. I would try and say the basics but it would result in a volley of Danish back and I would have to say ‘Sorry, I can only speak English’. Although not a huge problem as every Dane I met spoke perfect English, I could not understand anything going on around me, which feels a little strange for six months. The other slight negative is that the exchange is in the final year, it is worth quite a lot of to my overall degree and is quite a risk. I ‘think’ I have good grades overall but we shall see in due course. Overall this means that you do actually have to work and work quite hard at that. I would describe the work load similar to second semester third year.

I thought it would be good to briefly talk about some misconceptions. Everyone I spoke to before coming out here said either ‘the weather is awful’ or ‘its very expensive’. Yes it is expensive, the prices are similar to Bath or London. However, careful budgeting should deal with this just fine. On a side note, I am writing this post on my flight back to England, the flight cost 39dkk (£3.90!!) (standard airfare), so at least the international transport is cheap. The weather being awful is not exactly true. I would generally say the weather is better than in England. There are long periods of clear skies and sunny weather, followed by shorter periods of bad weather. However, when it does rain, it really rains. Equally, January was cold, lows of -15deg at night and -10deg during the day. This meant that we got a lot of snow!

With respect to the teaching at DTU, it is a little hit and miss. Some lecturers are great and are always willing to help and spend extra time trying to help. Some are less so. The content of lectures are a little different, with most lectures requiring a lot of pre-reading in order for the lecture to make sense. Also, it is probably worth mentioning that what you expect in a course from the course description is not the same as what is taught or the style of teaching. This can make starting at the University a little confusing.

In conclusion, I would say if you are willing to try out something a bit different to Bath, meet new people, live in an amazing city and cycle a lot (!) I would highly recommend the exchange. Please read the previous posts as they give more of an idea about the teaching and learning. Sorry I did not post more! If you want more information about my experience living abroad please do not hesitate to contact me. My email is or social media. I hope these posts helped!


End of Exchange - Final Day

End of Exchange - Final Day


Post Four: January Course

  , , ,

📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

The intensive January course sure did live up to the name, it was intensive. I took Environmental Engineering in Developing Countries as I have an interest in persuing some NGO work post-University. The course was split into  small teams and each team focused on an area in India or Africa. The course aimed to educate about hygiene and sanitation problems in those areas and was assessed by reports and an overall application for funding.

At the start I thought it would be great to only have one course and my sole focus was on that module, as did many feel the same way. However, after spending three weeks of just focusing on the design of a water project, I felt I needed a change. The course was very interesting and the lecturer very helpful, he even threw us a party on the first week and provided free drinks, in return we had to cook!

The work involved creating a technical report of our proposed solutions and subsequent reasonings and calculations. The technical report was further supplimented with three working papers. After the technical report, we had to produce a 15 page application for funding to a Danish Government Ministry. So quite a lot of work in total!

The lecturer also held a small competition for the best drawings, presentations and reports. Our team won one of the prizes for best drawing was awarded 200dkk (£20).  Bearing in mind we had just worked on a project in a area with low income, we decided to give our winnings to a charity working in the area.

I would say overall, I would highly recommend this course, however there is quite a lot of work to do but is a great chance to do something a little different and still apply our engineering knowledge.


Frozen Lakes - Peblinge Sø

Frozen Lakes - Peblinge Sø


Part time blogger, full time engineer


📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

My first introductory post with some key points of my placement with BuroHappold Engineering in London.  

Hi! My name is Hanna and I am a Civil Engineering student on placement with BuroHappold in London. It’s been almost four months since I started my placement and a lot has been going on: moving to a new house, getting used to the London lifestyle and starting my first full-time job at an engineering practice. Hopefully this blog will give some insight into what one might expect from a year in industry, as well as life and work in London in general with a quick breakdown to follow.

The Company

I am working for the international professional services company BuroHappold Engineering, in their second biggest office in London, situated just off the tourist stuffed Oxford Street. With 24 locations and roughly 1500 employees worldwide, the company’s headquarters are situated in Bath. Being a multidisciplinary engineering consultancy, BuroHappold has several teams such as Infrastructure, Facades, Building Services and SMART Solutions operating in London. I am placed in the Structures team alongside roughly 80 other professionals.




Our Newman Street office currently holds a gallery exhibition on Stratford

The Structures Department

BuroHappold is involved in a variety of projects from multi-million pound developments in the Middle-East to much more local projects for the community, such as the Burntwood School which recently won the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize. Therefore, the Structures department is divided into project teams with some of the engineers working on more than one project at a time.

The Structures team office floor in the spirit of Christmas

The Project

I have been assigned to work on the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) Metro Station in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This station is planned as one of the major interchanges in the new Riyadh Metro network, with BuroHappold having been commissioned for work on eighteen disciplines, including Structural Engineering. Being a huge international project, BuroHappold is working alongside several other organisations, mainly the architects at Zaha Hadid.


An external and internal view of the planned Zaha Hadid designed KAFD Metro station with both images copyright of ZHA at

So far, the project and the people I am working with have been my favourite part of my placement. Working on a huge international project, I have been able to gain an insight into how one liaises with clients, architects, contractors and other involved parties, as well as how the work of a multidisciplinary team all pulls together.

What is more, the London office has a buzzing social life with many talks, sports events, wine and cheese evenings and pub quizzes going on. All of this, together with the large number of young people and graduates, has made getting used to office life and getting to know my 400 co-workers very easy and fun.

Christmas jumper day in the office

I hope this short introductory post has given a general idea of what my placement is about! Stay tuned for more posts where I’m hoping to talk further about life in London, my project and what we get up to in the London office.

A snap from the London Christmas party


Post Three: Before Christmas

  , , ,

📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate


I am very conscious that I have not posted for quite some time, I think it would be best to provide a general overview of the exchange programme and elaborate a little on each module, explaining a little about the course.

Following my last post we had a one week semester break in October to relax a little after the first 6 weeks. There was a great event on the last day of term called Kulturnatten where the city was opened up and you could visit places that are normally closed to the public, for example Parliament, military bases or the UN Head Office. The city was full and there was free food on open fire pits, free drinks on boats and street parties. The event ran from 3pm to 5am and was an excellent way to see another side of the city and see attractions you would not normally see. I decided to spend  the remainder of the break to visit the city some more and catch up on my work.

The second half of the term however was very intensive with multiple hand ins each week, mid term exams and many presentations. I would describe the work load as rather heavy and gave little time to really appreciate the exchange. The final three weeks of term were especially difficult with exams and coursework ongoing at the same time. Thankfully I finished on the 18th December and a group of friends came over to visit (the flight cost 50dkk or £5 each, very cheap). The one key benefit of exams before the Christmas break was that there was no work to be completed over the holiday. It was a time to rest and recuperate before the intensive January course.... and visit the Christmas Market.

Christmas Market


I also played rugby for DTU 1st XV later in the term in the last game of the season. We played a team called Hundested, a team in the North of the island. They were top of 1st division and we were playing in the quarter finals. I played in the second row position for the full game (I am not built for that). The final score was unfortunately 3-64 to Hundested. We were taught a lesson and took quite a battering unfortunately. I had an okay game and put in some good tackles and made a few good runs but this was not good enough to change the score line. In my opinion, joining the rugby club was a great decision as I got to meet a lot of new people and play sport as part of a team. Although I did pick up a few injuries, it was great social and great fitness.

I will go through each of the modules explain what I thought about each, in no particular order.

Transport, Economics, Planning, Organisation and policy

Although the title is a bit long winded, it was an excellent management module and made me really think about policy implementation. The module was focused around a central piece of coursework, about 15,000 words in length, with lectures from people in industry. Lecturers included CEO's of public bodies, Operations Directors and senior researchers. Although not strictly civil engineering it was still a really good module to understand the processes and difficulties in implementing policies. We also got the chance to go to the Danish Parliament and see areas closed to the public, in addition, we also had a two hour meeting with the current Transport Minister.


Danish Parliment


Smart Connected Liveable Cities

Probably my favourite module. The module focused on urban planning and the various sections that need to be considered in the design of a city. The course was rather 'holistic' and used slightly different methods of assessment than normal. There were six small courseworks that were completed generally in class. There was one reading assignment, where we had to review a utopian or dystopian book. We also had a writing assignment where we had to right a short story, 5000 words, about the development and growth of a city in the next 100 years. The story had to incorporate all the values taught earlier in the course. We also had a number of visits to various parts of the Copenhagen region. These were also very interesting and aided the learning intentions of the course. I would highly recommend this course!

Fire Structural Design

Fire structural design is exactly as it sounds. The design of various structural elements under a fire load, applying eurocode and including the Danish and Swedish annex. The module builds upon what is taught in structures 1,2 and 3 plus structural design and construction but not too heavily. All is explained well and the supplementary notes and textbook are very helpful. Although the tutorials were very difficult and took quite some time to understand, if you do take this course persevere with the tutorials, you will get there! The lecturer was very good and has appeared on National Geographic a number of times. The module was not too difficult and developed my structural engineering skills. I would recommend this course!

Water Resources Management
Water resources management was probably by far the hardest and least satisfying module. The module focused on solving water shortages on the North China Plain.  The coursework was centred around matlab programming at a much higher level than that I had been taught, using optimisation operators within a dynamic script linked with a function for over 25 variables. We received quite a lot of assistance but this did not really help in producing a quality piece of work.

The mid term exam was equally not good as it was negatively marked. Overall I would say to a prospective Bath student to avoid this module. There is little or nothing taught at Bath that relates to this module. It greatly sapped any time that I had and I spent nearly every day working on the programmes.

Bridge Engineering

I would unfortunately say that this class is on the same level as water resources management. The course was poorly explained, examination method was highly unfair and no help provided. I hoped that this module would develop on what was taught at Bath by Mark but did little to develop our bridge engineering skills. The courseworks focused upon our ability to plug numbers into complex equations to provide an answer that had little or no meaning. Equally, I would avoid this course.

Apologies for the two bits of negativity but I feel it is important to explain the course. I am in the process of completing an intensive January course. I will post an overall review of exchange in the next fortnight or so.


Engineer in Training


📥  Department of Mechanical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

Tucked away by the river, in one of the UK’s two major financial centres, you would be forgiven for not expecting Canary Wharf to be home to nearly 1,300 engineers, working for Transport for London to keep London moving.

My name is Ben and, halfway through the first of my three, four-month, placements within TFL, I am currently working with the AOS engineering team, focusing on Rolling Stock (the trains themselves). The AOS, Asset & Operational Support, team provide engineering support for London Underground Rolling Stock. This covers emergency response, large maintenance programmes, and long-term reliability improvements.

So far I have mainly been involved with the reliability improvements, with a couple design projects thrown in for good measure. I’ll go into these in more detail in future posts, and this will be more of an introductory blog.

blog 1 photo

Engineering with a view

Induction overview

Starting in mid-September, it was a longer summer for me than many of those out on placement this year, with some having two months of work experience under their belts before I began the first of my two weeks of training we had to go through before we could begin actual work.

Previous grads have described these introductory weeks as death by PowerPoint, with presentations ranging from the experiences of previous grads to the various trade unions we will encounter crammed into the first week. Integrated with all of those on the Grad Scheme, the out of office events were the highlight of the first two weeks.

Networking is a term that you will hear bandied about just about everywhere nowadays, and TFL is no exception. A networking event held at the Transport Museum in Covent Garden gave us a chance early on to meet our placement sponsors and mentors, as well as hear from Mike Brown, commissioner of the company. This was followed by the one and only open bar TFL holds each year, providing a great opportunity to get to know the other students on placement, whilst ensuring you weren’t making too much of a fool of yourself in front of the various senior staff in attendance!

A visit to Mayor’s Questions proved surprisingly eventful, with rowdy Black cab drivers forcing the Chair to clear the chamber, as well as call in the Riot Police. Escorted out of a back exit, covering anything that would identify us as an employee of TfL, this was not how I envisaged my first few days of work to pan out. The remaining week of induction events was relatively dull in comparison, but served the useful purpose of both introducing us to the inner workings of the company, and allowing us to settle into our new routine before the work began.

Placement schedule

As I mentioned earlier, the Year in Industry with TFL is split into three individual parts, with the idea of allowing us to see as much of the company as possible within our time here. Once I have completed my time here within rolling stock I will spend four months working within stations & infrastructure, and then four within a track department, getting a more hands on experience to the engineering here.

Once the introductions were over, and most of the names promptly forgotten, I sat down with my manager and a couple of members of the team to go through my initial projects. My first long term project involved issuing a Change to Rolling Stock, CRS, along with the calculations and proof required before it can be authorised by the fleet manager, and the procedure implemented onto the network.

My other major project involves designing a bracket to mount a data logger within the equipment box that hangs below the train.

Stem events

Finished by five every day, I find myself with a lot more spare time than I had back in Bath. This has given me the chance to attend a couple of talks at the IMechE in the last few weeks, finally making use of that free membership we all have. Whilst not sounding like the most gripping of subjects, the most recent, ‘The Art of Boarding and Alighting: Designing Trains and Stations to Ensure Safety and Efficiency’ gave a surprisingly interesting overview of the engineering behind maximising the efficiency of the metro system, as well as the psychology behind the design choices involved.

As part of our placement objectives set by the company we have been encouraged to take part in a number of STEM events with local schools, ‘inspiring the next generation of engineers.’ The morning involved assisting with a ‘braking eggsperiment,’ I was a fan as soon as I saw the pun, an activity that involved the kids, a mix of years 8 & 9, safely transporting an egg down a constructed track, stopping it safely at the platform.

The afternoon was spent being interviewed by groups of 5 or 6, a surprisingly tough activity when they run out of questions 5 minutes into a 15 minute interview, leaving me to freestyle on an industry I had spent all of 5 weeks in at the time. Whilst I may not have convinced all the doubters to turn to a life of engineering, I had a great time, and so did the kids judging by the feedback after the event.

As this is intended to be a monthly blog this will be my one and only until the new year so, until then, have a happy Christmas and New Year.