An Interview with WA's Top Young Engineer for 2017, James Leiper

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This September, James Leiper - Structural Project Leader with Pritchard Francis, has been recognised by Engineers Australia as Western Australia's top young engineer for 2017.

Engineers Australia caught up with James for a quick interview following the award recognition and we've included the interview below:

James Leiper, Structural Project Leader

James Leiper MIEAust CPEng NER has been announced as the 2017 WA Young Professional Engineers of the Year at the recent WA Leaders Conference.

James is a structural engineer who has been working across a broad range of commercial, residential and industrial projects for the last eight years. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours, is a Green Building Council of Australia Green Star Accredited Professional and an Infrastructure Sustainability Accredited Professional.

What is the significance of winning this award?

Winning this award has a huge significance to me at this point in my career. This recognition really motivates me to keep pushing to make a difference, especially in the sustainability field in which I’m passionate.

What is your current job title and function?

I’m a Project Leader in the Structural team at Pritchard Francis, responsible for all aspects of the delivery of projects. This includes everything from bids preparation, through the design phase and through to construction administration on site, with management of the project team throughout.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I really enjoy the concept design phase of projects, where we get the chance to propose innovative ways of solving unique problems. Also, being able to see the project come to life upon completion is incredibly rewarding.

What projects are you currently working on?

While I’m leading a number of projects across a variety of sectors, a highlight over the past year has been the Kings Square rejuvenation project in Fremantle.

The project is set to re-shape the heart of Fremantle and it’s been exciting to be involved as the structural lead. We’ve been able to retain the majority of the existing structure and adaptively re-use the space through some innovative design. It’s been challenging in design, and I can’t wait to see the project develop on site.

What has helped you get ahead and what strategies have helped give you the edge?

I like to remain enthusiastic about my work and bring energy to the role, always being open to suggestions and new possibilities. In the dynamic industry we’re in, I’ve found that it’s vital to stay up to date with the latest trends and compliment my project work with additional research to stay at the cutting edge.

Tell us about your greatest achievement as an engineer.

Leading the structural design of the Toyota WA Head Office was definitely a highlight, as it went on to win a prestigious Architectural award and achieved a 5-Star Green Star rating due to its sustainable design. The opportunity to host site tours and present on the efficient structural design and sustainability of this building has also been rewarding.

What are the engineering challenges in WA?

With the nature of work and the economy changing at such a rapid pace, I see flexibility in designs as being a significant challenge in our field. I strongly believe adaptive re-use will be drawn on more in the years to come, where we can re-use existing buildings for new purposes and retain existing structure as much as possible. While this can be challenging, the environmental and economic value can be well and truly worth it.

I also see the adoption of renewables in the energy sector as a major challenge but a necessity in the future to sustainably meet our growing energy needs.

Do you have any advice for young engineers just starting their career?

Always be enthusiastic and energetic about your work. This rubs off on those around you and creates a better working environment! Also, don’t underestimate the value of a good mentor in helping you through any stage of your career.

Who is your engineering hero?

Tristram Carfrae, the designer of the Beijing Water Cube would have to be a bit of a hero. He is an advocate for collaboration across the engineering and design disciplines, and is known for finding inspiration for designs from nature and other sources.

What is your favourite movie?

Donnie Darko, nearly for the soundtrack alone!

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I love being active and taking my dog to the beach, playing hockey and the odd round of golf. I also try to go home to the farm in Esperance when I can to get my hands dirty!


For more about James, visit his bio on our website or connect with him via .

This article originally appeared on the Engineers Australia website on 18 September 2017.