For the next instalment of our in conversation series we spoke to associate director David Miller. David has recently returned to HTS to head up the Manchester office. Working with HTS from 2011-2016, he has led several award-winning projects for the practice. Now located in Manchester he has spent the last five years delivering high-profile projects across the North West. Read on to learn more about his background, what inspired him to become an engineer and what we have planned for HTS Manchester.
Growing up in the North East I was surrounded by engineering: chemicals, steel manufacture, ship building. Our local beach was back-dropped by a British Steel blast furnace. All of which contributed and planted a seed. I still get a huge buzz of pride when we’re digging around an existing building and the steel work is marked with ‘Dorman Long - Middlesbrough’ as it so often is.
I got a lot of support from friends and neighbours growing up, giving part time jobs, amazing summer placements and a proper hands-on taste for engineering. It got me some great exposure to the chemical industry, which dominates Teesside - It fascinated me, and I genuinely loved it. But I was always quite arty; drawing and sketching, I used to draw buildings all the time growing up... and with all that and a flair for maths, I just kind of fell naturally into structural engineering. Under the surface it is a creative profession. I love the variety. Its dogmatic research, hunting out old photographs, drawings and records. It is collaboration with all manner of other professionals and inspiring creatives. And it’s problem solving and mathematics.
From my roots in the North East, I was drawn to the big city and to chase the dream in Manchester at University, unlike most of my mates who upped sticks for London after graduation, I stayed on in Manchester with my first job at Ramboll whitbybird. They were special years, and that was most definitely down to the amazing people I met and worked with.
From then I knew that Manchester was my home from home, and I’d live out my days here, but I still had an itch to scratch and had to get London out of my system. I was only ever meant to leave for a year or two, but it ended up being a tad longer...
It did mean I got to do some pretty awesome stuff. Working on U2’s touring stage in 2009 and some of the earliest CLT frames in the UK at Atelier One before joining HTS in 2011 and settling into a growing and ambitious business, genuinely trailblazing through the London scene.
After a 9 year stint in London I returned to Manchester in 2016 and joined Renaissance. I’ve been fortunate to work on a diverse range of projects with some fantastic clients and collaborators; the refurbishment of a grade II listed pub in Stockport, facilitating complex modifications to the iconic Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, bringing swathes of near-derelict terraces housing back to life at Welsh Streets in Liverpool, the refurbishment of the magical Octagon Theatre in Bolton, and not least a number of incredibly ambitious new build high rise residential buildings in Manchester and Salford. At the time your head is down getting on with it, but on reflection it’s been a real privilege and it’s amazing how the time has flown by.
I originally joined HTS in 2011 when there were only 18 of us, and I was part of some significant early growth and development of the business. That personal investment stays with you, and if it weren’t for wanting to bring my kids up in Manchester, I would probably never have left.
HTS got a great taste for the North west with their work on the Cotton Quay Masterplan, and a summer trip to Manchester and Liverpool in 2019 opened the eyes of many to this great city.
I think the company, its ambitions and general culture is unique in many ways. So, the idea of an exciting new challenge to bring the enthusiastic, pro-active and hands on approach of HTS coupled with my local experience is a perfect marriage.
It’s an obvious cliché, but the people, proximity to the countryside and the social scene. I love the fact you can walk across the city in 20mins, but still, it has so much to offer. It is a great place to bring up a family.
The area has amazing and diverse buildings and developments, new and old. I love buildings like John Rylands & The Central library, The Express Building and the Whitworth Art Gallery, and am very excited about the new RHS Bridgewater. The quality of development in the city is only getting better.
Manchester has a thriving and ambitious construction scene, and a great community of open-minded and enthusiastic professionals with a culture of ‘getting things done’.
We want to forge relationships with great clients, architects and collaborators. HTS Manchester will be a dedicated hands-on, local team providing the North West with the very best service and intelligent engineering solutions. We will always bring our A-Team.
HTS is all about sharing knowledge and experience, with a strong culture of collective continual improvement. HTS Manchester is not a satellite office in the traditional way. The last 12-months has shown that collaboration and the flow of information can happen over long distances, and we will embrace that.
Intelligent solutions and making things happen are fundamental, but we’re also leading the way with regard to sustainability and embodied carbon assessment. Sustainability is a growing issue in Manchester with some ambitious targets set. The pressures on our buildings to perform are only going to get stronger, whether that be from funders or through the planning process. We are perfectly positioned to help our clients navigate through this. It is uniquely embedded in our process so we as engineers can focus on wider issues of a project.
Ultimately it is about maximising potential for a client, to meet their commercial, aesthetic and sustainable aspirations.
What is exciting about HTS Manchester is that we are a blank canvas; we want to respond to the unique requirements, desires and ambitions of the city in a truly collaborative way, but with the combined experience of an established and progressive business.