By Philip King
How do you think the rest of the world perceives engineers? Are we seen as imaginative, dynamic or creative? I fear not. Rather, we are seen as decidedly unexciting characters, uninspiring even and, perhaps, most distressing considering our combined and collective achievements over hundreds of years, as nerdy and dull. Is this the fault of the media or the scientific, mathematical bent of our work?
So many words in our language which describe the intelligent and dedicated carry a whiff of the derogatory — boffin, egghead, and so on. Engineering is a fact-and-figure-based subject which demands patience and perseverance. It is also wide ranging, covering anything from fixing washing machines to enabling space travel. So unless Hollywood casts an engineer as the next action hero, we are unlikely to change our reputation in the imminent future.
Fame is not everything, but what does worry me is that our public image is a deterrent to a vast reserve of potential talent. We are not attracting those more creative, free-thinking minds that I believe our industry needs, and it seems there is little we can do to tackle that situation. So instead, we need to teach all those wonderful young mathematicians and scientists how to engage the right side of the brain — the creative side — and bring imagination and lateral thinking to the future of engineering.
But why do we need creativity, when our work requires the full command of digits and angles? Sustainability is the answer. For the last 10 years, we have been designing new buildings to perform better environmentally than ever before. The problem is that new buildings make up such a tiny proportion of the built environment and deliver only marginal improvements. We need to focus on the 99% of our buildings which are existing, old stock, and where making improvements is much more challenging. READ MORE >>