Why engineers must add value- Paul Flatt

Hurley Palmer are proud supporters of Tomorrows Engineers week and want to share Paul Flatt CEO views on ‘Why engineers must add value’.

Do you know an engineer on a mission?


There are many in construction who are concerned about the skills shortages after Britain leaves the European Union. Some believe that companies who are over-reliant on European engineers will be left with gaps in their personnel, but this is simply not the case. I have little sympathy for those who struggle to recruit. Look at the tech-media world, 10 years ago these firms didn’t exist. They have never complained about a skills gap because they have trained up their own workforce. You gave to invest.

The way we at Hurley Palmer Flatt invest in people is through our graduate trainee programme, which was shortlisted for a CIBSE Building Performance Award last month. This Gifted & Talented framework aims to accelerate the progression of promising engineers. Last year we recruited 12 graduates. However, based on the amount of applications we received, we could have taken 70. We’re not struggling to find people in the UK. To join our team, you not only have to be an excellent engineer, but you must be able to communicate and have commercial awareness. Engineers must add value and that is what will keep them alive. A trait our training programme aims to instil into our graduates is to have a commercial mindset.

Regarding communication, the quality of graduates has risen massively over the past 10 years. It surprises me how confident they are in saying what they believe. An older generation would think about an issue but not bring it up, but this generation will. This means they learn more quickly. Schools are to thank for this as they encourage children to mix with people of all ages and backgrounds.

More building services engineering is being done in collaboration with structural engineers, especially in refurbishments. There are more opportunities to save on costs if we integrate the two. Working together mean we van reuse more space effectively and save money for clients. Up until now, everything has been siloed. also working together means a less complex way of communicating. At the moment, there might be three identical contracts for three engineers. It is better to have one contracts, one firm.

We help translate the gap between the engineer and the architects by using our Advanced Building Optimisation tool. We use this tool to ensure that the designs maximise energy savings and space efficiency. The tool considers renewables, material specification, the cost of potential solutions and looks at the life-cycle of a building. Our clients use this tool so opportunities to cut costs and energy are identified at an early stage and to tests the architect’s initial designs. We provide commercial value and it is important that engineers demonstrate this because if they don’t, there is a risk that there will be no engineering consultants in 30 years-time as the developer will speak directly with the manufacturer.

The growing complexity of buildings is giving engineering consultants the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to save client’s money. Engineers are also in an advantageous position to ensure developers are protected from uncertainty over future energy supplies. There is a limited capacity in existing gas and electric grids, they’re under pressure in terms of demand. As a result, more energy production will be local to source, and I don’t just mean CHP. Local energy centres will offer more security and options for increasingly off-grid supply. An advantage of centralising energy production is to remove plant in individual buildings and to generate more development value for the client. Its back to making sure engineers are commercial. We have to be price-driven, not in terms of our fee, but in terms of operational and capital costs.