Young generation of structural engineers at Vahanen guided by industry veterans

Change of generation is ongoing at Vahanen’s structural engineering unit. Having spent decades in the industry, the senior engineering heavyweights are slowly getting ready to enjoy their well-deserved days of retirement while a new, younger generation of structural engineers is taking more and more responsibility over the designs. In order to preserve the extensive professional knowledge of Vahanen’s senior designers and link it to modern ways of working, a Senior Adviser model has been created where the junior designers are always supported by senior professionals in their projects.

– The junior designers represent the future and modern knowledge. They are capable of executing very demanding projects in a careful and engaged manner. The Senior Advisers again support the younger generation and advise them in challenging projects through their extensive professional knowledge and experience, says Hannu Lehtonen, Project Director of structural engineering at Vahanen.

Forming a part of the new generation of structural engineers at Vahanen are the promising young talents Heikki Kivinen, Juho Aittola and Jussi Ritola. They bring fresh thoughts and ideas to the house, while receiving support and advice from the senior designers in completing demanding projects and finding best practises. Ritola, who graduated a year ago as structural engineer, has found this model particularly useful in renovation projects.

– In structural design for renovation projects one has to often consider old structures, materials and methods. These are things that our veteran designers have been part of designing and executing back in the day and they might even have first-hand knowledge of them. I always try to use every opportunity to take in the knowledge from them that one can’t find from text books, Ritola says.

– This Senior Adviser model is great for developing my own professional skills. But in my opinion the expertise that can be gained from these industry-wide renowned senior designers is also a prerequisite for responsible structural engineering, especially when dealing with the more challenging projects, Kivinen adds.

One of the Senior Advisers for Heikki, Juho and Jussi is a real structural engineering master, M.Sc. Techn. Vilho Pekkala, who has worked at Vahanen for 45 years. During his career Pekkala has been involved in various demanding structural engineering projects, in Finland and internationally. In addition to guiding project work, as a Senior Adviser he has held dozens of study lectures and guided several Master’s theses on varying topics.

– In fact the actual project work with the team is an excellent example of Senior Adviser activity, whether one specifically means it to be or not. I believe that those of us who have gained some valuable knowledge to themselves during the years, should be available to the younger designers in some suitable role, Pekkala describes his thoughts on Senior Advisers’ role.

– From Pekkala I’ve received good advice on various design-related questions and he also currently guides my Master’s thesis. The Senior Advisers at Vahanen have a vast amount of silent knowledge and insight on several different topics. It is useful to have your ideas reinforced by the more experienced designers and these conversations are both useful and interesting to me, says Aittola, who is graduating from Aalto University School of Technology during spring 2014.

– One truly important aspect here at Vahanen is that we have an atmosphere that encourages everyone to continuous learning and professional development with sufficient learning tools provided. One can learn from both the experienced veterans of structural engineering as well as from the younger crowd every time they share their knowledge, as long as you yourself understand to listen, Ritola adds.

The structural engineering unit at Vahanen currently consists of over 50 designers, project managers, drawers and architects. The offices in Finland are located in Espoo and Hämeenlinna.