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Eleanor Ball

Eleanor Ball

founder and director, Graphic Structures


Design, Structural, Water


United Kingdom
My highlights

Getting chartered (civil and structures) 

Employing and developing other engineers and technicians

Recognised in 2022 WES Top 50 Women in Engineering list

A day in my life

Every day is different but there’s a routine!

After yoga in the morning, I have a meeting with my team at 9am where we catch up on the day’s priorities.

We work in the office twice a week and at home the other days. I will then spend an hour going through my emails and sorting out priorities for the day.

The rest of my day is made up of talking to my colleagues about design challenges, and attending virtual meetings with my clients and other design team members to discuss coordination of the buildings we're designing. I’ll also do company and project admin (which I also enjoy).

I always stop for lunch and go for a short walk. In the evening, I often attend industry events to network and hopefully win new work!

I would recommend a career in civil engineer because of the VARIETY! There are so many different roles, even within the same discipline. Also, it’s hugely rewarding to create infrastructure that positively contributes to our lives.

Which individual project or person inspired you to become a civil engineer?

I can’t remember his name, but an engineer I worked with for only a week when I was on a summer placement was SO enthusiastic about the built environment that he persuaded me to pursue civil engineering. I was previously thinking of electronic engineering.

Prior to that I’d been encouraged into a general engineering course as it played to my strengths – maths and physics.

We asked Eleanor…

Complete this phrase: I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also …

A sailor, skier, hiker, climber, cyclist… in short, an outdoor enthusiast!

What about being a civil engineer gets you out of bed each morning?

For me it’s all about people – the people I work with (my colleagues), the people I work for (my clients) and the people I serve (the community).

What’s one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?

The variety of options open to you.

You have options in how you apply your skills (as a designer, contractor or client), on the sectors you work in (rail, roads, buildings, water), on the projects you work on (education, housing, infrastructure… the list goes on).

I like options.

Which civil engineering project (past or present) do you wish you’d worked on?

I’ve always been quite fascinated by airport design but haven’t yet worked on one – there’s still plenty of time!

Name one civil engineering myth you’d like to bust.

That civil engineering isn’t creative – WRONG.

Civil engineers spend their whole careers thinking creatively about how to solve problems and be more efficient. We are creatives and team players.

What are you doing to help fight against climate change?

As designers, we’re responsible for influencing sustainable design and guiding our clients to make sustainable decisions.

There are many aspects to this, but most quantifiable is reducing the embodied carbon in a project.

In my company, we actively seek to design efficiently (less material = less carbon), use low carbon materials and encourage re-use of material in our projects.

I have a particular interest in Passivhaus design which is becoming a more common design standard to certify high quality sustainable homes.

As a practice, we’re continually researching and developing details to achieve Passivhaus certification on our projects.

As a business, we’ve measured and offset our carbon emissions from the inception of the company and continually seek to reduce emissions on a year-by-year basis.

Any personal causes?

The main driver for me starting a business was that the industry needs more female leaders and founders. I strongly believe that the best way to promote diversity is to provide a positive example.

Image credit: Graphic Structures

Chobham Farm

Concrete frame for Chobham Farm.

Image credit: Graphic Structures and HOK Architects

Northolt Grange

Model of Northolt Grange.

Image credit: Graphic Structures

Passmores School

Passmores School in Harlow.

Eleanor's career path

  • GSCEs and A-Levels at school (maths, biology, physics and philosophy)
  • Master's in general engineering (civil specialism) at Durham University
  • Summer placements in different sectors
  • Year off to travel
  • Started work
  • Gained MICE
  • Gained MIStructE
  • Set up a business!