Louise Hetherington - work placement case study

"For my placement year (2013-14) I was employed by Hockley and Dawson for 14 months. The company is a small consulting engineers based near Cranleigh in Surrey, who specialise in historic building conservation and maintenance as well as general structural engineering tasks. As a small company (maximum 15 employees during my placement), I was required to be responsible for drawing, modelling, site surveys and calculations throughout the year as well as correspondence with clients and basic administrative tasks. Due to the size of the company, I had the opportunity to work on a very varied selection of jobs, ranging from Hampton Court Palace and a brand new multi million pound stud farm to small domestic extensions and structural surveys.

This placement was particularly interesting for me as I have a love for historic buildings. Throughout the year I had the opportunity to visit Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House and Kew Gardens, both with an engineer and alone, as well as more local mansions and Grade II listed properties.

I thoroughly enjoyed one property in particular, a Grade II listed mansion in Hampshire which required intervention due to the vast loadings with no support below them. The engineer involved with this job, allowed me to accompany him to site from the very beginning of the project and I then went on to produce all drawings and some of the calculations. I was also enlisted to correspond with the contractor, architect and client throughout the job, about matters such as listed building consent and our findings in investigative works on site.

The placement year itself was particularly useful in cementing the information I had learnt in my first two years at university, as well as teaching me new techniques I had not experienced before. The rate of pay at Hockley and Dawson was lower than some other companies, however I had the benefit of living nearby to the office in rented accommodation owned by one of the company directors. Despite the lower rate of pay I have successfully been able to save to help support me during my final two years at University. 

Whilst at Hockley and Dawson I have also been lucky enough to meet some of the most experienced engineers in the historic building industry, with one of my colleagues being a SPAB (Specific Protection of Ancient Buildings) Scholar and my director being a SPAB case worker. As well as this, many of the engineers at Hockley and Dawson have been employed by the company for decades and so have a huge amount of knowledge they are willing to pass on. 

With regard to how Hockley and Dawson have helped me, I have decided to complete my dissertation on the minimum intervention of historic buildings, and so by completing my placement here I have gained invaluable contacts who can assist and guide me towards documents and information necessary to complete a comprehensive dissertation. 

Overall the placement has offered me invaluable experience and networking opportunities, both within the company itself, as well as with other local and London based architects, surveyors and contractors. The amazing work they complete has helped me decide to drop the coastal engineering aspect of the degree and focus on the structural engineering side of the course. I am also aware that my placement has helped me to achieve some of the Chartership development goals before I have even completed my degree."