Coffee break with… Rob Delahunty

Getting to know the team, the art of hand sketching, and career highlights. We covered it all in five minutes with Rob Delahunty.

Getting to know the team, the art of hand sketching, and career highlights. We covered it all in five minutes with Rob Delahunty.

It’s been almost a year since we welcomed Rob, Technical Director, to the Parmarbrook team. With a career spanning 30 years, Rob possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience in technical delivery.

We recently caught up with him to see how things are going, from project highlights to his most memorable moment so far, over a quick coffee break.

Hi Rob! Tell us, how have you found your (almost) first year at Parmarbrook?

It’s very different to where I was before. I’ve been enjoying the collaborative approach. Parmarbrook feels very much like a team. Everything is done as a team, rather than individuals going off and doing their own thing and reporting back.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending a few events, and when I have, it’s been clear it’s a team event. Everyone is there to promote the Parmarbrook brand. It’s considered and unified.

I’m enjoying the challenge. There’s an element of relearning as I’m involved in different sectors to what I was doing before. Before I joined Parmarbrook, I was working in airports. Now, I’m enjoying getting to grips with all the acronyms and terminology, and getting back into refurbishment, office and commercial projects.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

Thirty High (formerly Portland House), Victoria, and Great Sutton Street, the City. They’ve been a great learning experience for me and a great way to get to know the team here.

Thirty High. CGI by Buckley Gray Yeoman.

Tell us more about getting to know the team.

I’m pleased there’s lots of practical and pragmatic people in the team. Where I’ve worked before, I worked with a lot of technical engineers. But here, there’s a nice blend of people thinking about how we’re actually building things as well as the more technical engineers. It’s refreshing, and it allows for a better quality delivery to our clients.

Can you describe the team in 5 words?

A collaborative and talented team.

You mentioned that you’ve attended some events, can you tell us more about those?

I’ve attended a couple of our quarterly Parmarbrook’s Breakfast at The Wolseley, where we bring like-minded professionals together to discuss hot topics in our industry. At one of them, I reestablished a relationship with someone I knew 12 years ago. It was nice to reconnect.

I was also part of the team representing Parmarbrook at Buildings by Boat 2023, hosted by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), which we co-sponsored. It was great to see so many industry peers get together from a range of professions. Lots of interesting conversations were had while journeying along the Thames taking in London’s iconic skyline.

Photo taken during CTBUH’s Building by Boat 2023.

You’ve got a lot of experience in mentoring and developing the next generation of engineers. What’s your vision for Parmarbrook in this space?

I’ve got lots of ideas. My most recent experience was helping to grow a company from five people to 70. I see Parmarbrook on that trajectory, already growing exponentially since its founding in 2011. As I join Parmarbrook along its way, I see now as the right time to put some more structured mentoring initiatives in place, using my experience in knowing what’s worked and what hasn’t before. Watch this space.

How do you feel Parmarbrook’s engineers embody the studio’s design-led ethos?

I love when engineers hand sketch in meetings. I know things are changing, in this digital-first world, but putting pen to paper is a fantastic way to get facts and ideas across, seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Do you have a memorable moment or highlight from your time at Parmarbrook so far?

While I don’t recommend anyone makes a habit of it, and it’s a rarity, there was one Friday night myself, our BIM Lead, Simon, and Engineer, James, had a 10pm deadline to meet. It was all hands on deck. Everyone was in it together. Once the deadline was met, it felt incredibly rewarding. It’s probably a strange thing to enjoy!

What excites you most about the field of engineering?

The problem solving – coming up with different ideas that allows the client to be able to achieve what they want to, and always finding a better way to do something. I can get very lost in trying to solve problems, and then when I’ve got a solution that works, I get a huge buzz.

What aspect of engineering do you think would most surprise people?

Quite often, I don’t think people appreciate the amount of work that goes into structural engineering prior to producing anything for anybody. Our drawings don’t generally portray the amount of work required upfront. It’s not like architectural sketches where there’s an evolution on paper. There’s a lot of behind the scenes work to engineering, the evolution of which often doesn’t get shared – which can lead to a bit of a misunderstanding of how quickly we do things.

What’s your favourite building?

I don’t really have an absolute favourite but I have a list of buildings that inspire me. I’m not a religious person but walking into any cathedral is always something that humbles me and makes me think about how they were built at the time.

The façade at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, with its light sensitive mechanical ‘shutters’ in the form of screens similar to traditional mashrabiya, is something I could watch for hours as it changes each time the light changes. Unfortunately, the last time I saw it not many were working any more but it is still quite impressive and reminds me of my time spent in the middle east.

The McLaren Technology Centre ticks two boxes for me. Firstly, its primary function as the home of a racing team makes it fascinating to tour. And secondly, the detailing and thought that went into some of the elements such as the hangers for the suspended walkway and the detailing in the glass-faced supports. This really appeals to my love of well-designed and well-engineered things.

© IMA, Thierry Rambaud

What’s the most helpful advice you’ve ever been given in your career to date?

Be yourself and maintain your own reputation, people will remember you and not necessarily the companies you work for.

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