National Security, People Spotlight, Sustainability

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting a major projects director in our National Security business in Europe and providing an insight into his inspiration and 22 years of work experience at AECOM.

Based in our Aldgate London office, Andy leads our National Security team within the Building Engineering group, while also delivering major multidisciplinary projects for our clients. He specializes in design and delivery of multifaceted complex projects working with government departments as well as Tier 1 construction delivery partners, from inception through to completion. He draws on AECOM’s extensive subject matter and technical expertise from across the region to solve our client’s challenges.

Tell us about what inspired you to join the industry.

I knew I wanted a career which had variety — something that enables me to deliver tangible outcomes and that didn’t involve an all-day desk job. I started my career at 16 as a trainee engineer while pursuing education at a local technical college. After four years, I studied Building Services Engineering part-time and graduated with honors.

I became a Chartered Engineer in 2001 and having achieved my professional recognition, I realised that I needed to develop my management and business skills, so I undertook a part-time course in Master of Business Administration. Finally, my formal education concluded with a Post-Graduate Diploma in Adjudication and Construction Law with 15 years of formal part-time study in total.

I really enjoyed the fact that you can use science and engineering to design sustainable systems and spaces for communities. From awareness of energy conservation and climate change of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the industry has changed significantly for the better and I enjoy the fact that there are new challenges every day and we need to constantly push ourselves further to be smarter with our design solutions.

To date, my career has involved me working in Hong Kong for 12 months, all over Europe and five years intermittently in India, the Middle East, as well as every part of the United Kingdom.

What is your favorite AECOM project that you have worked on and why?

An AECOM client with whom we had an existing working relationship in the UK came to us with a problem. They wanted to deliver several high quality secure technical facilities in three remote locations in India and wanted to know if we could help. As the project director, I worked with the client directly to understand their concerns and needs. I reached out to our team in Delhi, who managed to identify engineers and construction management specialists with local knowledge of regulations and permitting and supply chain challenges.

We supported the client in technical design assurance, procurement, construction quality management, health and safety, and eventual handover and acceptance of the facilities. During the five-year project, we overcame many cultural and geographical boundaries, forged positive relationships and friendships, and even travelled to some very remote areas and braved challenging climates. We exceeded our client’s expectations, despite the notorious monkeys removing everything that was screwed to the outside of the building.

Tell us a story of how your work positively impacted the community.

Early in my career, we succeeded in winning a competition to design a new primary school in an underserved area of Coventry, England. The primary school was sited between two divided communities, and each of them wanted their own school. But with the client’s goal of bringing the communities together, it made sense to combine the available capital budgets and build a single new school.

The school had a ‘fan blade design’ — a concept design that represents the fan blade of a prop engine — that reflected the industrial heritage of the area. The design meant a complex roof/building shape that needed detailed building simulation to maximize the benefit of natural ventilation and daylight. Extensive simulation modelling for daylight and natural ventilation, and sustainable credentials created flexible learning spaces to exceed anything that the city had built before.

The early planning sessions and stakeholder engagement were challenging, but with a strong head teacher leadership and an informed client, the community became engaged. The high-quality design and construction brought a sense of pride for the community, students, and the school staff. I often pass the school on the train to London, and it makes me smile that 20 years on it is still achieving what we set it up to do.

Share a piece of career advice.

You never know how far you can take yourself, so if you keep striving for continuous improvement, you will eventually find what helps you thrive and makes you professionally fulfilled.

Always say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, and actively seek it out. Experience, good or bad, shapes you as a person and each interaction positively builds your character and confidence.

Remember humility costs nothing and you will be repaid many times over during your career if you invest wisely in ‘doing the right thing’.

Originally published Jun 14, 2023

Author: Andy Brookes