Principal Engineer at AECOM, Kristina Scheibler-Frood, is a winner of the coveted IStructE’s ‘Young Structural Engineering Professional Award' and enjoying a varied technical career


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Kristina Scheibler-Frood is thriving as a Principal Engineer at AECOM

Kristina Scheibler-Frood is thriving as a Principal Engineer at AECOM

Image courtesy of StopTalking Photography Ltd and The Institution of Structural Engineers

Kristina Scheibler-Frood is a Principal Engineer in the AECOM London Structures team. She joined AECOM after graduating with a first-class master’s honours degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Nottingham.

Kristina is a Chartered Engineer with the Engineering Council and a member of both the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE). She recently won the IStructE’s ‘Young Structural Engineering Professional Award 2019’.

Kristina shares what it was like winning the award, and insights into the role of a Principal Engineer at AECOM.

What the submission process involved

When asked what she had to do to enter the award, Kristina explains that the submission required a three-minute video which she based around one of her recent projects, No.1 Palace Street.

“This contained footage from site which helped to demonstrate the intricacy and complexity of the job. To support this, I developed two A1 posters with photos and text describing the key challenges that were overcome during the design and construction. Finally, I composed a short opinion piece on the United Nation’s sustainability goals and how I could work towards achieving these over the coming years through my role as a structural engineer.”

The award took place at BMA House at Tavistock Square and was part of the IStructE’s ‘People and Papers Awards’ which celebrates both individual accomplishments and the best articles published in The Structural Engineer magazine. The awards were presented by the IStructE’s president, Joseph Kindregan, and following this there was a sit-down lunch.

Award presentation Tavistock

Image courtesy of StopTalking Photography Ltd and The Institution of Structural Engineers

“Although I believe I have done a great job at No. 1 Palace Street and really showcased my abilities, I never dreamt that I would actually win the award. It took 2-3 weeks for the news to sink in and now I just feel so proud every time I am asked about it. It proves to me that working hard is always worth it and will be recognized.”

A wealth of experience

Kristina has been working on No. 1 Palace Street for the last five years. She has been involved from the early design stages, through a top-down basement redesign when the contractor was engaged, to finally nearing completion of the structural frame. “With two Grade II listed buildings and over 150m of retained façade, the interfaces between the new and existing structure are vast and complex,” explains Kristina.

“With no area being ‘typical’, special attendance was required on site so that I could develop structural details to accommodate the existing structure’s quirks. The complexity of the project has certainly challenged my technical skills and my ability to work under pressure but having come out the other side I can firmly say that it has been worth it and I have gained a wealth of experience,” says Kristina.

AECOM day in the life engineer

A day in the life of a Principal Engineer at AECOM

“Every day can be so different, and that’s what is so great”, says Kristina. “In a nutshell, my role as structural engineer is to develop a strong and stable structural system to meet the client’s brief, the Architect’s vision and accommodate the engineering services alongside this. However, I have to consider the wider aspects such as balancing the design’s efficiency and buildability too.”

“This starts at the feasibility stage of a project where I can influence the construction materials used, the layouts and even the type of construction. I give the team ideas of how it could be built, until this has been reviewed and refined into a final structural solution.”

“Of course, it is not always that simple. Many projects that we work on are existing. This means analysing and justifying someone else’s structure, perhaps modifying it slightly or significantly. For me, that’s where it gets interesting. As a structural engineer, I attend site visits regularly to ensure the construction matches my design drawings and resolve any issues or clashes that are inevitable in such a complex industry.”

AECOM engineer Kristina plans

I built that!

When asked what attracted her to structural engineering, Kristina says “being able to see your work happen. Depending on the size of a project, it can be a long time in the designing and planning but to see your design come to life as it is constructed gives a very real sense of achievement. Every time you walk past that building, where you know all the intricacies and nuances, a feeling of pride comes spilling out and you just have to tell the person you’re with – I built that.”

Play to your strengths

So, what’s Kristina’s best piece of career advice? “Make sure you are part of a great team who you can rely on,” says Kristina. “It can be difficult to delegate work and rely on others to do something as you had imagined it. But if you can build up a team – know how they work, play to their strengths, it will give you the opportunity to play to your strengths too and ultimately provide an efficient and effective team.”

Kristina continues to say that there are so many different qualities and skills that engineers have, all of which are needed and make teams stronger: “Logical thinking and having the confidence to challenge convention are two important qualities in structural engineering. Engineers need to bring diverse views to the role to achieve smarter solutions to an ever challenging and changing industry.”

Kristina says that she looks up to a lot of different people in the industry and, like with her team, they all have very different skill sets. “I work with some colleagues who thrive under pressure and work best at the forefront remaining calm and collected, whilst others have the ability to simplify structural challenges, breaking these down into straightforward components which are easier to resolve. Everyone has a place in the team; play to your own strengths, and the rest will follow.”

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