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Rhona Kerr

Rhona Kerr

structural engineer, Buro Happold


Design, Structural


United Kingdom
My highlights

Working on site at the Co-op Live Arena in Manchester

ICE President’s Future Leader 2021/22

ICE QUEST scholar

A day in my life

Each and every day as a structural engineer is different, it’s one of the things I love about the job!

In general, my main tasks include:

  • Liaising with other members of the design team to co-ordinate interfaces between design packages.
  • Calculating the embodied carbon of structural elements of a project.
  • Analysing and designing structural elements.
  • Preparing sketches and drawings to communicate design.

I’d recommend a career in civil engineering because it allows you to solve some of the planet’s greatest design challenges and improve the world we live in for future generations.

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

I first realised how transformative great civil engineering can be when I went to the London 2012 Paralympic Games. That whole area of Stratford had been transformed to provide these world-class facilities and there was a real feeling of community, not just in the Olympic Park but across the whole country.

I believe good civil engineering should not just aspire to create infrastructure but should bring together communities in a socially sustainable way.

We asked Rhona...

What is the most complex thing you’ve made out of Lego?

One Christmas I received the Hogwarts Castle Lego set. It took my whole family until Boxing Day to complete it at my grandma’s… just to take it apart a day later to transport it home.

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

I love the collaborative nature of the job. Every day I get to work with a great team of diverse people. I also have the opportunity to make a difference within communities through the transformational projects we work on.

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

I wish I’d worked on the One Angel Square building in Manchester. It was completed just before I joined Buro Happold as the new headquarters for Co-op.

At the time of construction, it held the world record for the highest ever BREEAM score. (BREEAM is a method of assessing and rating sustainability of buildings). The building is an energy plus building, which means it produces surplus energy and has zero carbon emissions from its operation.

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

The collaboration between teams across disciplines and companies to achieve the best solutions for your project.

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

Design engineers just sit in an office all day doing calculations. In reality, most of my time is spent communicating and collaborating with the rest of the teams working on the project. Teamwork and co-ordination are at the heart of every design solution.

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

A volunteer, I’ve been a guide leader for the past seven years and currently run a Rangers group for 25 girls.

It’s given me some great opportunities, including being a qualified assistant sailing instructor and travelling to Morocco to build a shop for the local community.

Rhona's career path

I started my career in civil engineering by completing an MEng degree in Civil and Structural Engineering at the University of Sheffield. While at university, I was on the ICE QUEST scholarship scheme and completed placements with both Interserve and Buro Happold. After which I started working for Buro Happold.