Civil engineer and Director, Matt Ford, heads up our Birmingham office. Here we quiz him on what led him to a career in engineering and what he and his growing team are getting up to in the Midlands!
Did you always want to be an engineer?
I didn’t! I started life as an Architectural Technician, where I started off on a drawing board and then learnt AutoCAD and building surveying. I then moved to Acer Engineering (who later became Hyder), which is where my engineering career began. At Acer, our primary business was water reclamation works which I found really interesting, and when I relocated to London I became involved in some major highway schemes.
Lots of potential engineers of the future may be reading this so tell us, how have you got to where you are today?
After starting my engineering career at Acer (Hyder), I relocated to London, where I spent three years at the Hyder office in Hammersmith, later moving to Victoria. Missing the Midlands and my beloved Birmingham City I moved back home and joined Cameron Taylor Bedford, before moving to Joynes Pike and later Cox Turner Morse (CTM).
It was at CTM where my design experience really developed. Steve Brown who was MD at the time was instrumental in my career progression from this point and I owe Steve a debt of gratitude. I then joined Couch Consulting, where I progressed to Associate, before joining Woods Hardwick as an Associate Director and since 2017, as a Director and Head of the Birmingham office.
What are the projects you have been proud to be involved in and why?
There are so many! At CTM one of my main projects was Midpoint 2, Business Park, Minworth, which was a 42 hectare site providing 117,000 sqm. of industrial floor space, sited on former sewage sludge drying beds. The sludge was treated with lime to form the capping layers for the industrial park ensuring minimal material was removed from site. There was also a major river widening scheme and large culverts beneath the roads to deal with the surface water as the area of development was severely flooded during the major floods of 2007 prior to being developed. There were lots of factors that we as engineers needed to understand and address to ensure the viability of the entire development. It literally rested on its engineering foundations!
Other projects of note include the Forte Landau academies which were part of the governments ‘Building Schools for Future’ programme, along with many extra care schemes including a 260-bed retirement village in Longbridge, Birmingham.
Since moving to Woods Hardwick I have been involved in some major residential developments, including a 600 unit consortium scheme, for Bovis, Bellway and Taylor Wimpey. This had a strong emphasis on sustainable drainage through the use of swales and attenuation ponds, strategically located throughout the site.
But…the project I am most proud of is the Woods Hardwick Birmingham office. After the business had been located in Bedford for 30 years, this was the first time that Woods Hardwick had opened another office. Through hard work, long hours and a fantastic team we have seen the office develop from four staff to 14 in just three years, and we now have architecture and planning departments together with our team of engineers – we can only see a bright future ahead with plans to continue our growth.
What are your thoughts on development in the Midlands – where are the growth areas and how is WH already getting involved?
It is extremely exciting times for the Midlands and primarily Birmingham. As a Birmingham boy, born and bred, I’m extremely proud of this city and it has been great to see it develop into a really exciting place to live and work. There are many major residential and commercial development plans for the city centre and the surrounding areas with HS2 being a major driver and we can’t wait to get heavily involved.
Here in the civil and structural engineering teams at Woods Hardwick we are currently recruiting for a number of roles in both our Birmingham and Bedford offices. Visit our Careers page to find out more and how you could join our great team.