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Written 17th March 2022

Introducing the HTS+ Innovation and Research Team, Part One



Since its inception, our HTS+ programme has been an integral part of our design process. A self-funded research initiative, the programme allows our practice to test and develop new structural techniques and technologies to deliver better sustainable practice.

Over the last six years, our team has grown from one full time research engineer to a team of five, strengthening the technical capability across the practice and delivering a number of industry-leading research projects.

We sat down with our HTS+ team: Ella, Jack, Laura, Vinish and Susan, to explore their specialism within the team and to take a closer look at their ongoing innovation projects and research topics. ⁣⁣

In the first of our two-part miniseries, we meet Ella, Laura and Jack.


Jack Scarr


What is your specialism within the team? 

Having previously worked on large RC schemes in London as a structural engineer, concrete has become a specialism through experience. At HTS I have continued to expand my knowledge in low carbon concrete and the wider sustainability landscape of the material. The research into the timber life cycle has led to one of my specialisms within the team.

Growing up in the Welsh countryside, timber and other natural materials have always been an interest to me. They have the potential to deliver low carbon structures right now, and don’t rely on the need for technological innovations to radically decarbonise the industry. Reading ‘The Case for Tall Wood Buildings’ by Michael Green Architecture curated my desire to work on timber projects and realise there were opportunities to positively address the carbon emissions when working as structural engineer

How did you start working within in a research focused role?

I was a member of the ‘green team’ at the company I previously worked for. I learnt the foundation of my sustainability knowledge over this time, carrying out embodied carbon assessments and research into low carbon design. I also used to attend sustainability and timber focused webinars so that I could actively develop my knowledge in these areas. A year ago, I was looking to have a slight change in career focus, the innovation and research role at HTS was the perfect opportunity to focus on my passion for sustainable design, whilst still working closely to the industry.   

How do you go about researching sustainable design solutions and disseminating these across the practice?

When beginning my research into a sustainable design solution I will typically look over the academic literature surrounding the topic. Reading journal papers provides a good idea of the past and current research done on that topic. I will draw on my previous project experience to consider the implications of incorporating the idea into a project and note any considerations that may not be highlighted in academic research. Understanding the manufacturing process of these materials helps to assess the wider sustainability implications of the solution. We have an Embodied Carbon Notebook where we write and update our research, which is open access for everyone at HTS. This provides as a central resource to help aid low carbon design. Additionally, we do an HTS+ update every month during the company Friday meeting to summarise the research we have been doing and highlight any new ideas or technology.  


Ella Warren

What is your role within the innovation and research team?

I bridge the gap between research & innovation and practical application on projects.

What are you currently working on?

Alongside others across the practice I’m working on an exciting framework to reuse structural steel, taking existing steel directly from one site and reusing it on another.

I’m heavily involved in our first reuse project, Holbein Gardens, as well as involved in best practice guidance across the practice, researching and sharing knowledge to push this concept further. Having gone through the process of steel reuse at Holbein, we’re in a unique position to be able to guide future design teams on future projects.

I’m also working on a project with Sheffield University which studies the dynamics of timber structures. Mass timber structures are typically ‘lively’ due to their lightweight nature, through our study we are carrying out physical testing on recently finished buildings. This is providing really useful information to be able to validate the way we analyse the structure but also informs us as to what the human perception of vibration is – what the figures we are designing for actually mean.

What area of the industry are you most passionate about?

I am really passionate about increasing the use of mass timber across the industry and the potential of the material to achieve truly sustainable structures.

The use of timber does come with challenges that need to be addressed and overcome if we are to see significant increase in its use, however there is so much development within the timber industry making it a fascinating area to be researching.

I would say my specialism is the experience I have brought to the team having worked on many projects of various sizes and sectors. I know where the stumbling blocks on projects usually are and where efficiencies in design can be made.

How did you start working within in a research focused role?

It really started from my interests in timber and technical innovation, I had always wanted to have more time to delve in the details of projects which I never had the time for when running multiple jobs.

I wanted the time to question why we are designing certain things in certain ways, and to be able to research better solutions. Especially when designing with timber, which can be a very fluid area to work within.

You are also a part of the HTS Timber Focus Group, are there any crossovers between your HTS+ work and your work within the focus group?

Yes, lots of cross over and lots of opportunity, I’m able to take ideas away from the focus group, research them, carry out detailed analysis and then feed it back into the team and implement on real projects. It also gives me an opportunity to see a whole range of applications of timber across the practice. 


Laura Batty

What is your role within the innovation and research team?

I was the first full time research engineer which has allowed me to help shape the direction and suggest research projects based on HTS and industry priority.

Our team works in quite a fluid nature, we don’t really have defined roles and prefer to be involved in everything (it helps to challenge each other and provide cover when someone is away) I oversee most of the projects and try to make sure we are staying at the forefront of the conversation with lots of external events and knowledge sharing

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently involved in testing various circular economy principles in real projects across the practice including the reuse of steel from a tricky donor site as well as material passports in a refurbished building.

I’m also working on building a data set of HTS project embodied carbon to draw out trends and encourage some friendly competition within the practice.

What is your specialism within the team? 

My specialism is embodied carbon and circularity of engineering materials, particularly a wider understanding of the global issues around material availability and the impact of design choices.

I also enjoy scientific and mathematical aspects like materials properties, optimised design, interpreting analysis models, writing basic code etc. so have spent lots of time in the role doing theory-based work as well.

Your role at HTS shifted to technical research in late 2018, how has the language around sustainable design changed over the last 2-3 years?

People in my professional circle have become way more aware of the construction industry’s impact and their personal agency in helping to tackle it. Now our design teams here at HTS feel empowered to look at and suggest sustainable design alternatives even when they are not part of the brief, and I hear about similar things at other leading engineering and design firms.

In terms of the wider industry, we are all on a journey, and some are far further along than others. In my opinion we need industry (and especially volunteer industry groups like LETI and ACAN) to be the pioneers and inform regulation, to then force up the slow adopters and improves the overall industry.