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As champions of both company innovation and diversity, Bryden Wood are delighted to have three exceptional team members selected as finalists for the prestigious European Women In Construction and Engineering Awards. The WICE Awards, currently celebrating their fifth year, highlight the leading contributions being made by women within the industry. It’s a unique opportunity and honour, for both nominees and the eventual winners, with finalists evaluated by an expert panel of judges on the basis of outstanding achievement and contribution within the field. In an industry in which women are still substantially underrepresented, the WICE Awards offer an opportunity to champion the contributions from the most outstanding female workers in construction and engineering, as they compete against hundreds of high performing nominees from across Europe to win the top accolade within their categories.
With their focus on ‘breaking down barriers and building new heights,’ the WICE Awards report that just 9% of current UK engineering roles are occupied by women and only 11% of jobs within the construction industry.
Bryden Wood, who pride themselves on being driven by the core principles of maximising innovation, efficiency and creating pioneering and value-driven solutions to the industry, are proud that so many of their team members are women.
‘50% of our Architects at Bryden Wood are amazing, talented, creative and inspirational women,’ says Board Director for Architecture Paul O’Neill.
Indeed, female team members play crucial roles all across the company, with three out of four directors of the innovative Creative Technologies team being WICE award finalists.
Architecture Director Jami Cresser-Brown leads Bryden Wood’s ‘Central Logic’ approach and is a finalist for the ‘Best Woman Architect’ award. According to Phil Langley, Board Director for Creative Technologies, ‘her industry-leading work sits at the intersection between architecture, design for manufacture (DfMA) and digital innovation.’
Having completed her Master’s Degree at the University of Westminster, Cresser-Brown led the construction phase of The South Terminal Pier 1 at Gatwick Airport, noting that Bryden Wood were using BIM innovatively in its early days. Basing her case study around the experience, she qualified as an architect in 2012 after completing her RIBA Part III studies, for which she received a distinction.
In addition to acting as a mentor for colleagues completing their architectural studies, she has since attended multiple universities as a guest critic, where she has presented cutting-edge Bryden Wood projects.
In 2018, Jami ‘led the development of several projects that have pushed the boundaries of traditional architectural design and delivered groundbreaking solutions for both public and private sector clients, particularly in the residential sector,’ says Langley.
Cresser-Brown notes the importance of embracing new technologies and explains that her work leading the ‘Central Logic’ approach at Bryden Wood embeds ‘logic driven methodologies into digital workflows to accelerate design processes at varying scales and across a broad range of sectors.’
With a goal of working smarter and more efficiently, standardising elements, which can be repeated without being detrimental to the overall design, is a key part of the solution. Ultimately, such a process allows a focus of effort on architectural features which enhance the built environment, says Jami.
She is currently working with the Creative Technologies team on two such projects. The first is a web app to accelerate the design of precision manufactured housing in London for the Greater London Authority (GLA). It allows users to create intelligent models within a 3D context, based on government space standards and DfMA rationale. Adaptability and feedback on the suitability of certain DfMA construction systems are just some of its features. Cresser-Brown notes that because designs are generated at speed, it allows users to ‘make objective decisions based on far greater exploratory studies than possible using traditional feasibility workflows.’
Phil Langley points out that ‘the app encodes... ‘best practice’ design guidance from across the manufacturing and systemisation industry and will be made freely available and open source.’
Jami is also currently working on an Innovate UK funded project for the design configuration of primary schools. The project is also delivered as an open source, web app and as she says, ‘enables architects, teachers and pupils alike to quickly and easily configure early stage design proposals...’
Digital school models feature ‘clusters’ of rooms, which adhere to Department for Education area/adjacency requirements. The goal is to achieve compliant school design from the outset, whilst simultaneously maintaining flexibility and creativity.
An openness and willingness to share ideas is important to Cresser-Brown, who recognises the unique position the industry currently finds itself in resulting from new digital and manufacturing opportunities. She expresses a desire to help create a better built environment and enthuses about the fact that both of these existing projects are being released on an open source basis. ‘Sharing current thinking and best practices freely,’ she says, ‘is the best way that we can shape the industry as a whole.’
Bryden Wood’s Head of XR + Interaction, Director Elite Sher, says her focus lies in ‘combining software engineering and design, in innovative and creative applications, using cutting-edge technologies.’
Sher is a finalist in the ‘Best Woman Software Engineer’ category of the WICE Awards and has an MSc in Adaptive Architecture and Computation from UCL, The Bartlett. It was there, she says, that she gained ‘theoretical and practical experience dealing with robotics, AI, machine learning, software engineering, and creative computation.’
A founding member of Bryden Wood’s Creative Technologies team, Elite says she initially worked to develop ‘bespoke tools focusing on data collection and visualisation.’ She subsequently expanded her experience as a lead developer in the R&D department for HOK and perfected her software development skills as a full stack developer for a FinTech start up, developing both front and back end. Asked by Microsoft in 2015 to join their ‘Creative Studios’ R&D team, Sher acted as an innovation engineer and designer for the tech giant, specialising in virtual reality and augmented reality technologies.
Having rejoined Bryden Wood in 2017 with the purpose of establishing a VR and AR development team, Elite says the move was a great opportunity. Board Director Phil Langley describes the XR + Interaction group’s focus, as being on game engine technology for virtual reality, augmented reality and web/mobile app development. The aim, he says, is on creating and implementing ‘BIM driven workflows for VR and AR across Bryden Wood, as well as a number of highly innovative apps for both public and private sector clients.’
Sher has, in fact, led the team in the design of the two pioneering, web-based, open source configuration apps on which Jami Cresser-Brown is also working: the Innovate UK funded project for the rapid design of primary schools, as well as the design accelerator for systemised housing in London supported by the GLA.
‘Elite contributes not just software engineering skills,’ says Langley, ‘but also a creative perspective on software development. Her approach and impact is apparent in each of the apps and tools that the team creates, and has led to the establishment of a unique capability within Bryden Wood.’
In 2017 Sher was also invited by Conscious Cities (Conference No. 2) to give a talk on the potential and possible implementation of VR technologies in the construction industry, which she says, ‘initialised a great discussion around the implementation of cutting-edge technologies and the AEC industry.’
In 2018 she initiated a public industry event hosted by Bryden Wood in collaboration with Simply Rhino, highlighting Bryden Wood’s unique data analysis and VR work, developed by Sher’s team, which ultimately enables what she describes as a '“tailored” use of VR, mobile and desktop applications, and solves various common issues faced by the industry in dealing with model and data transfer between BIM and VR/mobile/desktop platforms.’
Sher speaks about how much she values both the diversity of her team, as well as the openness and creativity of the Bryden Wood environment. In addition to acting as a mentor for young women in her professional role, she also regularly participates in panels for high school students, which are designed to provide young people with exposure to the field of engineering, in the hope they will consider pursuing an associated career.
Elite is a visiting lecturer at the University of Westminster, where she introduces architecture students to both VR and AR technologies. She comments that she is ‘always fascinated by the endless possibilities and creative implementations current technologies can offer,’ and looks forward to a technologically rewarding and multidisciplinary future.
According to ‘Digital Innovation’ finalist, Maria Mamoura, ‘technology is the tool, a medium, to design a world that functions better.’
Mamoura is a director and founding member of Bryden Wood’s Creative Technologies team where she leads work on algorithmic design and simulation. She began her career as an architecture student in Athens, before advancing to an MSc in Adaptive Architecture and Computation from the Bartlett, UCL. She says that this experience has led to a ‘deep interest in algorithmic design and new technologies in engineering.’
Her initial computational design work for Foster + Partners saw her involved with major international projects, including the New International Airport of Mexico City, a role she says allowed her to ‘experiment with the algorithmic approach to architecture, focusing on complex geometries for large scale projects,’ and which, ‘involved automation of design processes through the whole project lifespan from concept to detailing.’
Maria says that currently, working at Bryden Wood has allowed her to ‘focus on the core of her interest,’ where she is actively engaged in pushing the boundaries of data-driven design.
For the past twelve months, Mamoura has led the development of the company’s ‘Rapid Engineering Model’ (REM), which Board Director Phil Langley describes as ‘a radical and disruptive new approach to automated design for Highways England, developed by Bryden Wood Technology Ltd. for the Smart Motorways Programme (SMP).’
Assembled from a range of different technologies, rather than a single piece of software, REM is ‘digitally driven and collaboratively enabled,’ comments Langley, which means that ‘SMP schemes can be designed automatically - in a much smarter and faster way.’
Langley commends Maria’s role at the helm of the multidisciplinary project team, comprising a diverse range of specialists from architects, engineers and computational designers, to GIS specialists and other software developers. ‘This requires not only a deep understanding of many different design disciplines and digital platforms,’ he says, ‘but also a considerate approach to organising and managing diverse team members, who all benefit from Maria’s technical rigour and creative outlook, which has helped build a unique, rich and inspiring project.’
Maria credits her individual ‘way of thinking,’ taking initiative and pushing projects in ‘a more ambitious direction,’ as the primary factor behind her success at Bryden Wood.
‘As a matter of principle,’ she says, ‘I weigh creativity and innovation far above a task-based approach to work and my key contribution comes through bringing all these elements together in one piece.’ Whilst Mamoura is acknowledged as a natural leader, she appreciates the importance of teamwork and expresses her belief that the first point of importance is actually, ‘respect to the individuals,’ and an ‘understanding that everyone is unique.’
As for her current status as a finalist in the WICE Awards, Maria considers the very nomination itself a reward for her work, speculating thoughtfully that competitions such as WICE provide not only an opportunity to forge new and positive role models for young women, but also serve as an important step on the path towards what she predicts will ultimately be a gender-equal future.
Elite Sher won the Best Woman Software Engineer category.