Michelle McDowell MBE

Michelle McDowell MBE

Practice: BDP
Established: 1961
City: London
Country: United Kingdom
[email protected]

Michelle McDowell is the first ever female chair of the ACE and a company director at BDP, leading the civil- and structural-engineering group across the practice. An advocate for the huge opportunities that the 'green' economy will bring to the construction industry, Michelle is also a member of the government's Low Carbon Group.
Michelle has more than 20 years' experience in the engineering profession and recent projects include the redevelopment of the Royal Albert Hall and award-winning offices for BBC Birmingham and Roche.
She is an industry pioneer in the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and her passion is for integrated design, where the engineer and architect think together from the outset of a project before ideas begin to form.
In June 2010 Michelle was awarded an MBE for her services to the construction industry and was named First Woman of Property at the First Women Awards.


The Royal Albert Hall refurbishment in construction
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Royal Albert Hall Refurbishment

BDP was commissioned to develop a masterplan for the first comprehensive refurbishment of the Grade I listed Royal Albert Hall since its construction after the Great Exhibition of 1851. The refurbishment has improved facilities for the audience, artists and staff. Throughout this vast £77 million project the Royal Albert Hall remained open. In spite of the complex building and structural works the number of shows increased over the course of the project from 255 in 1994 to 330 in 2003.

The Royal Albert Hall refurbishment in construction
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How does diversity of people reveal itself at work? The best solutions are found when problems are considered by a team of people bringing diverse viewpoints to the party. Creativity is the result of collaboration between those with different experiences of the world whether that is gained through profession, nationality, gender, age, disability or any other background. I have been fortunate in my career to have worked with a wide range of people and learned that there is never only one way of looking at things.
Who are your role models who inspire you? In my career I have been fortunate enough to have two role models - Mark Whitby, the founder of Whitby Bird Engineers, a creative engineer who taught me never to be afraid to challenge; and Peter Drummond, my current chief executive at BDP, who has given me fantastic responsibility and unrivalled guidance.
If you could change one thing in our profession, what would it be? Our image. What I experience every day - creativity, diversity, the exciting challenges, cutting-edge IT, collaborative teamwork - is so different from the common preconceptions of what an engineer is and does. There is no doubt that engineering is still dominated by white men - but that situation is changing. The number of women and ethnic minorities entering the profession is higher than ever before; the challenge is in carrying that increased diversity into more senior roles.