RSP Consulting Engineers saves energy to power ahead
RSP Consulting Engineers has come a long way since it launched in Edinburgh at the end of the 1980s. With five partners, 60+ expert staff and offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and London, the business is now one of the largest privately-owned consultancies in Scotland.
And the partnership is about to get bigger. The promotion of Barry McAvoy this week will swell the firm’s partner count to six, with the latest addition to the partnership putting growth in his home city of Glasgow firmly on the agenda.
Having joined the business as a director from Ramboll UK last year, Barry said that RSP’s company philosophy on sustainability and driving zero carbon, together with the ambition for growth, were the main reasons that attracted him to the role in the first place.
“Our goal as a company, is to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions on all projects that we are involved with, and this approach to sustainability, is something that resonated quite strongly with my own beliefs. Growth was also a key thing for me, because the future growth of the company, was all about getting Glasgow up to a capacity and size where we can offer a great service to clients,” he added.
In recent months RSP’s Glasgow office has grown substantially, with the aim being to increase numbers going forward. Senior partner Ian Rogers revealed that the plan is to create a team that is focused on low carbon and sustainable solutions incorporating collaborative design techniques and Building Physics Specialists, something he says RSP wish to use Barry’s expertise to develop its current service across the group and take to the next level.
Barry said: “Historically at the early stage of projects, Building Services Engineers have tended to get involved after the architect has started working on the project and where they already have an idea of the mass and form of the building.
“With collaborative design approaches and building physics, you get involved before the architect has essentially put pen to paper, and therefore we can help inform the design to predict potential energy costs, based on the massing. That’s what we need to do for clients that are especially looking to be net-zero carbon, but we didn’t necessarily have the specific skill base to get things moving.”
Barry stressed that as sustainability and global environmental concerns are coming into ever sharper focus, having the ability to offer the early stage analysis skillset, will be a key selling point for RSP.
He explained: “What we are finding is that a lot of clients, who in the past would have expected compliance modelling in order to pass building regulations, are now looking at performance modelling to get the best from their buildings.”
“That means looking at all the operational energy loads in a building. Normally you don’t have to take cognisance of plug-in loads to achieve building regulations, but it makes such a significant difference to the actual building load and EPC when you start considering all these loads.
“That kind of energy modelling is the future for us. If you can produce a model and predict what the actual energy bill is going to be, then that’s very powerful. If we were able to influence and reduce energy bills by say 30% by taking these measures, then that’s a different offering you can provide to clients.”
Ian Rogers agrees, and said that increasingly a key focus of all RSP’s work is coming up with low-carbon energy solutions for clients.
As part of that, RSP is having to broaden out the criteria for the kind of people it is looking to recruit, with Barry noting that the firm’s partners are keen to hire people who can offer “different ways of thinking”.
“The kind of graduates we would historically have taken from University would have mechanical or electrical engineering degrees and they would come into the practice to hone their skills,” he said.
“The industry has changed so much though - people want to put on VR glasses to walk through the building design - and we have to invest in different kinds of people who are almost from a digital, gaming and programming background, who we can then train to be engineers.
“Working in that digital environment is where we can get real efficiencies and simplify our processes. That makes us faster, so we can spend more time with our clients.”
Not that embracing the future means that RSP wants to break with the past.
Ian is living proof that the firm has always had a strong commitment to the development of its people - having joined the business at launch in 1987, he has risen through the ranks from being one of its first apprentices to its senior partner.
It is a tradition he is keen to continue, which is why the organisation has created a new position of technical director, which associates David McIntosh, Iain Coull and Niall Smith have been promoted into this week. At the same time, Alistair Elliot, Bruce Marc and Colin Smith have all been promoted to Associate level.
For Barry, the prospect of being able to quickly progress into a partnership position was one of the key reasons for making the move to RSP. Creating the director roles, he says, is an important way for the business to show its staff they are valued and that their contributions matter.
“We don’t want to give the appearance there are glass ceilings on career progression,” he says. “We are creating room and space for people to grow with their specific skills and be promoted into.”