Our Structural team is expanding, and we recently recruited James Foster as a Senior Structural Engineer in our Dubai office. James has been with us since February 2021 and joined directly from South Africa. Find out more about James below.
Why did you choose a career in structural engineering?
I have always been attracted to studying and focussing on physical science, however, a work experience day during school, showed me how structural engineers experience creative new challenges every day that directly and very quickly affect the built environment around us.
What’s been the most exciting project you’ve worked on, and what would be your dream project?
I’ve been involved in a number of industrial projects in Africa where entire towns and communities have quickly formed and evolved, out of poverty. Now, a number of projects we are working on in KSA are part of the major development drive there, on a much grander scale, where towns are being formed and cities expanding at an incredible rate, requiring inspiring engineering input. I am also particularly enjoying a resort project in the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah with an excellent focus on sustainability and appreciation of the natural beauty there.
A dream for me would be to contribute to a project that brings together cutting-edge solutions by leading contributors from different disciplines and sciences to address a construction challenge that best models and shows how the built environment should shape and evolve. I suppose that describes what we are doing but I guess that I’m imagining a more extreme project addressing lifestyle, environment, and sustainability issues at a larger scale than what’s been seen before.
Sustainability is becoming more and more important, and the traditional building materials have high amounts of embedded carbon. What changes do you foresee for dealing with this?
I’m expecting lifecycle assessment and whole-life carbon to more widely become the central driving focus for projects across the industry, directing how we form and shape projects with full multi-disciplinary and all-party involvement. Material selection, reuse, and adaptability are already a major focus for structural engineers, where traditional methods and materials with a cost-only focus are not sufficient.
We are seeing, and are actively involved in, numerous projects that utilise adobe materials and more renewable sources for construction materials.
What is exciting is where material science is growing to address these challenges in new ways as the industry is reshaping.
Previously you were in South Africa. What attracted you to the UAE and does it match up to your expectations?
The construction industry in the UAE is an exciting and inspiring industry to be a part of, fully living up to my expectations. The incredible development that has happened here and is continuing in the UAE and throughout the Gulf region brings together incredible engineering and professional minds from all around the world.
What I’ve particularly enjoyed in projects here in WME is the team’s focus on creatively addressing project challenges. Within WME I am interacting daily with engineers from our different international branches and have benefitted from excellent internal training sessions.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time, and what would you want to be if you weren’t an engineer?
I am really enjoying being a father to an almost 2-year-old daughter, so family has very much been the focus of my spare time.
I had professional sporting aspirations in school but unfortunately, my eyesight failed me.
If I didn’t have engineering challenges to inspire me, I would quickly change focus back to studying physical science and look to be directly involved in shaping built environment decisions on an academic and political management level with a focus on the less developed world.