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Chartered Engineer (CEng)

Michael Clifford BEng (Hons) MSc CEng FIFireE CPEng CMEngNZ

Published: 21/09/2022

Education and qualifications:
MSc in Fire Safety Engineering, University of Central Lancashire
BEng (Hons) in Fire Engineering, University of Central Lancashire

Job title:
Senior Fire Engineer

Norman Disney and Young (Auckland, New Zealand Office)

What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
I was already working within the field of fire engineering when I reached the point in my career where I wanted to increase my knowledge. I wanted to fully understand the engineering first principles related to my particular discipline, so I enrolled as a mature student for my Bachelor of Engineering and upon successful completion, continued my education with a Master of Science, both in Fire Engineering.

Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I am a Senior Fire Engineer based in the company’s office in Auckland, New Zealand. My role includes providing current and new clients with fire engineering design reports for building consent purposes. This consists of Building Act and Regulatory compliance; specialist advice on areas such as passive fire protection systems; complex fire modelling; fire protection system specification; fire safety strategy and review; independent peer review; fire engineering cost benefit analysis and fire safety risk assessments, among other services.

Can you describe a typical working day?
A typical working day can include writing up reports, marking-up architectural drawings with design requirements, providing fee proposals, completing quality assurance (QA) on other engineers’ projects, completing complex fire modelling, design calculations, participating in stakeholder meetings and completing construction observation site inspections.

Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
I find the biggest challenge in fire engineering is the diverse range of buildings that I work on; particularly the way I would approach the project, and especially with designs within existing and historic buildings. With the larger design teams, there is a large volume of communication between the different engineering disciplines where I have an input, especially during the coordination stage of the project. At times, it can be a challenge to fulfil the client’s or architectural aspirations while providing a code compliant engineering design. Additionally, as the population of the whole of New Zealand is less than that of London, and dispersed over the whole of the two islands, this results in some projects being geographically far apart from each other. This can lead to a lot of travel, including internal flights, resulting in long days when having to attend site.

What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
The variety of the projects and work packages, the constant challenge of solving a problem to satisfy not only the Building Code but also fulfilling the client’s aspirations. Also, the development of others by mentoring more less-experienced members of the team.

Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
Over the years I have carried out fire safety works on a number of high-profile buildings including the Olympic Park and other temporary stadia for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This involved completing detailed fire risk assessments on the venues initially on plan to provide advice on design and other requirements and then once completed, fire risk assessments for game days. Other projects include high-rise buildings with complex features such as single-stair escape routes and large atriums. Additional projects I have worked on include industrial, commercial and residential projects for both the private and public sector.

What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
I have always recognised the value of professional registration and the significant role of professionally registered engineers in upholding standards within our industry. Attaining Chartered status allowed me to demonstrate my continuance of academic learning, combined with drawing on actual situations within my working life, which together contributed to my development into a fully rounded fire engineer. Chartered status also provides assurance to my peers and clients that I not only conduct myself in a professional and ethical manner, but also that I have been independently assessed as meeting an internationally recognised standard of competence.

In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
Having Chartered Engineer (CEng) status has not only demonstrated that I have gained a professional level of competence but it has improved my career development along with the financial benefits that provides. The letters CEng after my name demonstrate to colleagues, peers, clients and external organisations that I have undertaken an independent assessment of my competence and that I am committed to my profession.

How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
My professional registration assists my employer by giving greater confidence to stakeholders, both clients and regulatory authorities, that I am competent to complete my role as a Senior Fire Engineer.

Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
Begin the journey to professional registration as soon as you feel confident to do so. It can be overwhelming but discuss the benefits and the process with colleagues who are already registered to gain a good understanding of what is required. If possible, link up with a mentor who will be a source of valuable information and support. Do review the Engineering Council’s competency criteria and complete your application form and professional review report diligently, ensuring that you detail all relevant information about yourself so that it validates your capabilities.

Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
Still within the engineering consultancy business and providing a first-rate service to my clients, while maintaining my competence through Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering? For example, do you participate in mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
I am currently a Branch Council member with my professional institution, the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) New Zealand Branch, as the registrants’ coordinator. This allows me to interact with members to provide advice on professional registration. Additionally, we have been instrumental in the instigation and development of the course programme for the new, New Zealand Diploma of Engineering in Fire Engineering. This is the first step to providing a career pathway for young people leaving education to progress into fire engineering.