Ben Chase

Ben Chase

Graduate structural engineer

Country UK

Specialisms: Design, structural, conservation

Career highlights

How I became a civil engineer

One of my big career highlights was working on the design of a two storey kindergarten building in Haiti just outside the capital Port Au Prince in 2015.

I produced the seismic and hurricane analysis to inform the bracing design. Then in 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit causing extensive devastation. The kindergarten remained completely intact and was available as a refuge during the storm. It makes me feel really good that our work helped saved lives.

I’ve also been involved in a really exciting project to update the Hintze (main) Hall at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London, including suspending the huge blue whale skeleton (Hope).

Seeing the NHM staff’s enthusiastic reactions at the opening event was very satisfying and it’s rewarding to have played a part in a project that will be seen by millions of visitors. I had my five minutes of fame too for this project being interviewed on the David Attenborough-narrated BBC2 Horizon documentary Dippy and the Whale.

Following my first four months at ACA I was given the opportunity to take the lead on two projects, the renovation of a five storey Georgian property and a complex housing extension. These jobs were both technically difficult and I had a steep learning curve to climb so it was very satisfying when they were successfully finished.

Work on installing Hope nears conclusion

Work on installing Hope nears conclusion

My working day

It usually takes me 20 minutes to drive to the ACA office in Sevenoaks. The office building is a purpose-built studio situated in a private garden surrounded by trees. It’s a well organised and pleasant place to work.

I normally get in at 8:30 and check emails for anything urgent, particularly from contractors. Mornings vary but I typically meet with my colleagues and we discuss projects, site visits and drafting resources. As a small team it’s essential to be aware of what everyone is doing so we can work together effectively.

Most of our projects turn around relatively quickly and I’m therefore normally working on several different projects at any one time. These currently include an extension to a Grade 1 listed church, alterations to a historic town council building and a major housing development on the Isle of Sheppey. I have to check up on all of them regularly to make sure they’re on track.

This involves close liaison with the architects to develop the design, organising investigative work such as opening-up works or soil investigations and the production of models and drawings. The first part of the day focuses on communicating with all involved to make sure the jobs are moving forward.

Most work days will have a design meeting, site inspection or site survey.

During the afternoon, attention turns to reviewing drawings completed by my technician colleagues. Sometimes the need for changes is apparent and these are marked up and passed back.

It’s common to receive calls from contractors on our active construction sites with queries relating to our design, or requests to change what has been shown. Working out what to do next can be a good challenge.

I really enjoy producing calculations and like to work on these late afternoon when the office is quieter, and to discuss technical and business-related issues with my colleagues.

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Engineering is the application of science to solving practical problems so if you enjoy a challenge and want to help people it’s a great career to consider.

Ben Chase

Graduate structural engineer

Education

I studied maths, physics and design technology A-levels and was accepted onto a 5 year sandwich course at the University of Surrey. I was awarded a scholarship with CH2M and carried out two 10 week internships and an industrial placement year at their London office.

ACA won a scheme at Guildford Cathedral which is next to the University of Surrey. As part of the project ACA ran a dissertation research venture at the university. Although I didn’t become involved in the dissertation I met with Adrian Cox, and following a long conversation ended up doing a four week internship at ACA.

The internship was very successful so following my graduation I went to work at ACA.

I want to become a civil engineer.

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