Construction and civil engineer Chris loves to help people. And he can now help more people than ever.
“The internet is a wonderful tool,” Chris enthuses. “Physically I can only reach one maybe two people needing advice a day (but) over the internet I can reach hundreds. I enjoy helping those that have issues with their projects, especially from a structural point of view.”
But surprisingly, Chris came to engineering later in life. “I was inspired to go back to university as a mature-age student to study engineering by my father-in-law who was an engineering legend here in Perth,” Chris explains. Previously, Chris was self-employed in the construction industry in administration and design. “Engineering seemed like a natural progression.”
Now Chris has both hands-on construction skills and experience as well as design skills, which he feels is “rare these days”. “Not many follow through to uni with TAFE or trade qualifications,” he notes.
Chris enjoys the variety of work. “I like being hands-on, so half a day I spend on site physically working with the tools, and the other half I am involved in design engineering.”
Married with four children, Chris says his eldest son is also an engineer. Meanwhile, his middle son is studying to be a pilot and his youngest studying medicine while both work in construction. “Our daughter, who has Down syndrome, works in a supported disability industry but has aspirations to work in a café,” Chris adds.
Recent projects Chris has worked on include house renovations, structural concrete and masonry repairs, and inspection work. Chris advises that the most important reason to engage an engineer (apart from compliance with building codes) is that “sound engineering can avoid costly repairs later on”.
If he could change anything about the typical Australian home, Chris would add in structural elements that easily facilitate cost-effective upgrades and renovations down the track.
Unlike some professionals, Chris actively encourages people to have a go at D.I.Y. “Never doubt one’s ability to undertake projects,” Chris says encouragingly. “Most people just require a little help at the start.”
It was this “can-do” attitude that drew him to the Workshop community. “(I liked) its unique format and diversity of topics,” Chris says of Workshop. “It empowers D.I.Y’ers to show and share projects.”
But Chris also warns that he does see a lot of problems that are the result of D.I.Y. attempts gone wrong. “I am seeing more and more as people take to social media seeking advice,” Chris says.
“The secret is to check and fix things before issues are covered up, concreted, bricked in and completed.”
When not contributing to other people’s projects, Chris can often be found working on his own home and garden. He also loves cooking and preserving. Chris lives in a renovated house on a large block, and his next major project (currently in the planning stage) is building a unit for his daughter.
His favourite past project has strong sentimental value. “It would have to be the toolbox in my workshop - an old discarded plan cabinet that I converted to a toolbox. It belonged in my father-in-law’s office and once stored 50 years of engineering plans for major Western Australian projects that generated a lot of wealth for WA farmers, miners and governments.”
Favourite tools include a graphing calculator, 3D modelling software, cordless drill, nail gun and saw. “Look after your tools and your tools will look after you,” Chris advises.
Another invaluable tool is his PC, and Chris says his days often start early on the computer. “Engineers are renowned for waking up in the middle of the night with a ‘Eureka moment’. It’s hard to get back to sleep after that!”