The winner of the Young Engineer Award at Engineering New Zealand’s ENVI Awards 2023 says his passion for buildings grew when he started working on projects where he saw firsthand the significant impact they had on people and communities.

Recognised for demonstrating outstanding leadership and his commitment to lowering carbon emissions, Southbase Construction's new Design Manager Kishan Seger CMEngNZ loves engineering because it involves constantly building on knowledge, and learning through experience.

“Also, it’s challenging, and being a problem solver at heart, I naturally gravitated towards it.”

Kishan says the building profession “is about everyone coming together to deliver a common goal”.

“It’s truly a team-first profession. And I’ve been fortunate to lead and be a part of some great teams.”

A project from his recent role as a structural engineer at Beca that illustrates his passions and strengths was for the Department of Corrections in the central North Island, for low-security inmates where he was Engineering Lead for Beca.

“What really resonated with me with this project was the Department’s vision to reimagine how we approach rehabilitation for prisoners by creating interactive spaces to promote rehabilitation, and mental and physical wellbeing, provide a sense of connection with the community, and allow for frequent korero with whānau.”

He adds, “Led by the architects, we got as much stakeholder feedback as possible to create a facility that was warm and welcoming, but still secure and robust. This led to the use of engineered timber, which is structurally efficient for low-rise structures but gives a soft biophilic feeling for occupants.“

Kishan says because the site was a rural, live prison environment, they needed to create a design that was simple, safe, and easy to build, so some structures were prefabricated and bolted together on site.

Kishan managed a team of more than 100 people across New Zealand, Australia, Thailand and Indonesia and coordinated several engineering disciplines, including sustainability, structural, civil, geotechnical, mechanical, electrical and surveying services.

“To make that project successful I tried to learn a bit about each discipline, sitting in on some of their meetings to hear what was important to them, because when managing a project, you’ve got to approach it with a considered outcome for everybody.”

As sustainability was a central focus, during the design phase Kishan measured and cross-checked the embodied carbon impact of potential designs by using an Excel-based embodied carbon calculator he’d helped develop.

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Photo: Tim Hamilton/VisionWorks Photography

“The majority of the embodied carbon in a building arises from the structure and gets locked in once the building is built, so structural engineers are best placed to help reduce the impacts of it. However, this requires engineers to be in the room early to influence decision-making and impact scope to deliver pragmatic, cost-effective, low-carbon solutions.”

He adds: “A project needs the right balance between sustainability, safety, function and cost – all aspects need to stack up if the project is to go ahead and have a positive impact on the community.”

Information sharing is vital to see a real shift to more sustainable construction.

“There are a few key easy-to-adopt solutions that some engineers don’t necessarily know of, or don’t realise that they are already doing a great job but with a few tweaks it could be much better.”

Kishan is passionate about sharing what he has learned.

“My vision is that everybody is on an even playing field and enhancing the built environment with environmentally considered designs, not only in structural engineering, but in all disciplines.”

He believes good leaders are approachable and can make decisions that are well considered, weighing out all the risks and opportunities.

“I can only talk from personal experience, but I think it is somebody who is empathetic, can listen, and has the ability to see things from other people’s perspectives. Someone who can bring everyone together from different backgrounds and create a fun working environment. I think it is very important to treat all people kindly and with respect.”

He says it has always been vital to him to learn and grow, and he enjoys helping others do the same.

“When I started out at Beca there was always someone to get advice from and I felt like it was my responsibility to do the same for others.”

Kishan advises young engineers intent on making an impact early in their careers to approach everything they do with a sense of purpose.

“Be willing to grow and learn and take on advice from others.”

Kishan hopes his legacy will be that he had an impact on the built environment, on community and sustainability.

“And I hope people will say they enjoyed working with me, that I cared about the people I worked with, and for.”