Thursday, 12 February 2015

The value of innovation

As a keen young professional I am constantly asking myself what I can do to add value to those I work with. What can an engineer do to add value to a design team and deliver a successful project outcome every time?

Engineering is commonly perceived as a technical occupation; the application of numbers and mechanics rather than of form and aesthetics. What is not so readily appreciated is that, whilst being technically adept, engineers have the opportunity to develop innovative design solutions to complex and unusual problems using flair and creativity. Engineering is a form of art.

Engineering innovation is the process of applying the fundamental laws of nature and materials in new and creative ways to deliver better solutions that achieve cost or programme benefits or simplicity of design and construction. Sometimes the innovative solution may be to do nothing at all. It is an essential skill of the innovator to be curious and to never stop asking why; why are we doing it this way? What can be done differently? Why does this solution provide the best answer for the client or for the building? There is never a single solution to a problem and it is the engineers privilege to consider a myriad of possibilities and present those he or she is confident meet with the requirements of the design team, the client and the end user. To add value, engineers must have the confidence to try different things, to break from the norm and to see the bigger picture.

"Engineers have the opportunity to develop innovative 
design solutions to complex and unusual problems 
using flair and creativity. Engineering is a form of art"

So how does one innovate? How does one find a solution to a problem that at first appears almost impossible? Firstly it is important to approach a project with an open mind and to engage with clients to fully understand the desired outcomes. One must be curious and consider a variety of options, comparing the advantages and disadvantages of each solution and from many perspectives, does the solution work? Is it buildable? Is it cost effective? Does it reinforce the architectural intent? Does it affect the end user? Does it represent best value?

The application of creativity to engineering design is what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary and it positively contributes to the successful delivery of construction projects. Innovation is a rejection of doing just enough or the 'computer says no' approach, it requires an inherent desire to achieve a positive outcome, a focus on quality, an attention to detail and a client-centered approach to design.

"The application of creativity to engineering design is what 
separates the ordinary from the extraordinary and it positively 
contributes to the successful delivery of construction projects"

Do you agree? Have you recognised the value of innovation in your own projects? How do you think engineers add best value to construction projects?