The role of an engineer has changed. My role as an engineer has changed. Whatever type of engineer we are, we cannot restrict our view of the bigger picture.
It has been said previously that architects are often guilty of designing just with their eyes. This is indeed a problem, but is it any different to me, as an Acoustic engineer, designing solely with my ears? What use to a design team is a structural engineer who only cares about whether things stand up, or a services engineer who only cares about whether a building will be the right temperature? As engineers we are all trained to think this way, but we need to be so much more.
Think about the difference between knowledge and wisdom: wisdom is the practical implementation of knowledge, based on experience. The difference between science and engineering is the same. Just so, engineers must be aware of the greater environment being created. As an Acoustic engineer I must also be aware and interested about how buildings look, feel, stand up, are heated/cooled, breathe, are protected against fire etc. The best way to learn about this is to listen, pay attention, ask questions and get our hands dirty.
Now, of course I cannot take design responsibility for whether a building will stand up or burn down but it is my responsibility, as it is of the whole design team, to not work in a vacuum or to be selfish, but to work together with our colleagues to design truly great and exciting buildings.
Another integral strand that runs through every design process is that of sustainability. This is no longer a bolt-on that gets us brownie points, but something that underpins and predicates all we do. Every project we work on should be the best possible for the end user and building owner, given budget and other constraints, but none of this should be at the expense of future generations.
So, key qualities that define a good engineer must include the following, in addition to a knowledge of their particular area of expertise (which is a given):
- Passionate about their work
- Interested in the needs of others
- Accommodating of the needs of others
I guess what I am trying to say is that, as engineers, we have to take a macroscopic, as well as microscopic, approach to design. It’s all about added value to our clients and a responsibility to each other.
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