The first in a series of blogs highlighting the exceptional talent we have here at HLN Engineering Ltd, we had a chat with senior civil engineer Joel Wall about his day to day routine at work and his thoughts on the profession.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name’s Joel Wall and I’m a civil engineer here at HLN Engineering. Currently I’m working on a number of projects that involve infrastructure, highways, drainage and structural design.
How long have you been a civil engineer?
I graduated in 2013 and have been following my passion ever since. I’ve been with HLN for 2 ½ years and really enjoy my time here. It’s a great environment to work in – I love how the office is right next to the park. HLN has a lot more going on than other places I’ve worked at.
One problem you experience when you’re a civil engineer is that you can easily be pigeon holed: it’s such a big profession, you can end up just working on roads, drainage or utilities. What’s great about HLN is that they work on a wide variety of different projects. As a result, my work load is extremely varied.
What inspired you to become a civil engineer?
From a young age, I’ve always been interested in how structures are designed and how they function. As a civil engineer, you’re taught not to focus on the small things and to concentrate on the bigger picture, or the most important elements of a structure.
When you’re training to be an engineer, your view of buildings completely changes. You start to ask questions such as ‘what’s the purpose of this building?’, ‘how do you get there?’ and ‘how will it function?’, as opposed to focusing on the smaller things or the aesthetic qualities.
What does a typical day look like for you at HLN Engineering?
It varies. Today was fairly typical, though. Earlier, I was looking into attenuation ponds for a factory site, a colleague and I were discussing surfacing and drive-thrus for Starbucks, I also had to consider how we would approach a new design for a school hard standing.
This was followed up by a very small housing development that I’m collaborating on with another civil engineer. On this project, we’re designing the loads for the houses and looking at a range of calculations…so today has seen a little bit of everything!
What’s the difference between civil engineering and structural engineering?
It’s a classic misconception that structural engineering and civil engineering are different things. They’re essentially the same thing. Or more precisely, structural engineering is a specialism within the broader spectrum of civil engineering. Civil engineering encompasses everything. Luckily, I’m multi-disciplined so I get to work on building design and well as highways and drainage.
What project are you currently working on? That’s taking up most of your time?
We have a non-disclosure on that job so I can’t talk about it!I won’t name it, but it’s an industrial development for an external hard standing of about 9 hectares.
As part of the project we’ll be looking at everything from the front-end planning, right through to construction for the hard standing and storage areas. We’re also working on highways, drainage, utiliites, performing ecology assessments and considering the wider flood impact.
One project I can talk about is the Pill regeneration scheme we recently finished. It was a housing redevelopment and renovation project in the Pillgwenlly area of Newport.During this project we updated all the houses in the area and worked on the highways schemes to meet the impact of the security elements they have on site.
Over the years the area has experienced wide scale vandalism and the police have identified it as a high-risk area. As a result, they put forward a scheme to minimise any areas that can be isolated or difficult for officers to access.
Overall, it involved opening up streets, removing houses and gardens and closing off back alleys. It was a big external project with quite a complex highways application.
What was interesting is that they found a sink hold on site! The external elements were quite challenging but nothing we haven’t been able to handle.
What’s been your best moment to date at HLN Engineering?
My Favourite project was a small job. It was referred by an architect we work with occasionally in reading. It was simply a semi-detached block, 2 small houses, built on a remote site in a beautiful area of Swindon.
Working with the architect, I took that project from initial ideas right through to construction.
It went really well – it was a great project and I thoroughly enjoyed working on it. It wasn’t anything fancy, but something I was proud of because it was my first solo project.
What do you think the future of civil engineering is in your eyes?
For me, the biggest issue is trying to get people to understand why a large scale civil engineering project may need to be undertaken in a certain area.
Unfortunately, some people don’t consider the long-term impact of a civil engineering project, they just focus on the things that are close to them.
Public awareness is an issue – people tend to understate the importance of civil engineering and it doesn’t get the respect it deserves. We’re capable of doing such great things, yet there are many road blocks in the way.
Joel and the team specialise in large-scale structural and civil engineering projects. Get in touch today.