July 21, 2016

At GSE we are always keen to get young people into structural engineering, historically an industry that attracts more men than women, so when we heard that Hattie Gilbert-Savage was interested in our field we were only to happy to have her join us for her work experience.

Following her time with us Hattie wrote us a short piece about her experiences, we wanted to share this to help bust some preconceptions, not just about engineering itself, but also about women in engineering.

“I started the day somewhat sceptical of how interesting structural engineering could be, as far as I was concerned it involved walking around dirty building sites and discussing dull, complicated things that no ‘normal person’ would otherwise consider! My first visit with the GSE team was to a house in which a basement was being installed. I went down a floor to the basement level and, unsurprisingly, the site was dirty and dark, I thought to myself ‘I have sussed out this engineering malarkey without having seen it in action!’ But as I looked around more closely, I noticed a huge pipe running through the basement and mounds of soil above my head. I was fascinated by what was essentially a hole in the ground and how this dark, dirty space would flourish into bright, comfortable rooms with the assistance of engineering knowledge.

We then went to another house to conduct a structural survey to see if it would be possible to add an extension to it. As we went around the site, I learned some very technical ways of surveying a house:

  1. Knocking on walls to see how hard they were, and…
  2. Knocking through them to discover what was behind them when knocking on them wasn’t quite enough- it seems engineering isn’t as complicated as I first thought!

Looking at the plans, I found it hard to envisage how this tired terraced house would one day become a home that someone would be proud of. However, having seen first hand the transformations of dank, dirty spaces into stunning basements, I knew this house would look fantastic given time and some serious elbow grease!

So, I suppose I learned that though structural engineering is about (at first glance) seemingly ‘boring’ things, such as beam widths and preventing walls from falling down, it really isn’t boring at all! Structural engineers have to take into consideration all the things most of us would never even think about in a build or renovation. They turn vague hand gestures, pie in the sky ideas  and scribbled drawings on scraps of paper, into properly drawn plans and then into houses, offices, and schools, proving that structural engineering really is quite interesting after all, and wherever we look it has had an influence on every building.

Thank you to all of the GSE team for having me, I had a great time!”