I studied Civil Engineering at the University of Birmingham as a British Rail Scholar, graduating with a 1st class honours degree in 1970, and a PhD in 1973. I then took up a post as a design engineer with JEC Farebrother & Partners, specialising in structural engineering design. In 1976 I became a chartered member of both ICE and IStructE, and in the same year took up an appointment as a lecturer in the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering at the University of Sheffield, with responsibility for structural design. During this time Ian Burgess and I established an internationally renowned structural fire engineering research group, carrying out pioneering work on modelling whole structure behaviour in fire, and playing a key role in the Cardington research programme.
In 1987 I transferred to the School of Architecture, playing a major role in the development of the highly acclaimed dual course in Structural Engineering and Architecture, and leading a number of funded projects developing new teaching material for design in steel, whilst maintaining an active role in the fire research group. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1989 and appointed as British Steel Professor of Architecture/Structural Engineering in 1995, becoming Head of School in 2004.
I also have an active interest in sustainable construction, leading projects on fabric energy storage, assessment systems, and design for dismantling, and have recently written a short guide on embodied carbon for the Institution of Structural Engineers.
Honours include the Institution of Structural Engineer’s Yorkshire Branch Prize (1981) and Henry Adams Award (1997 and 2010), the ASCE’s Raymond C Reese Research Award (2005), and the Institution of Fire Engineers’ Rasbash Medal (2010). The research in structural fire engineering has also led to the development of the design software, Vulcan, which was awarded the British Computer Society’s 2005 Awards for Technology: Applications and the BT Innovation Flagship Award for Technology.
I have served as Visiting Professor in New Zealand, Malaysia and Brazil, have chaired a number of committees for the UK steel construction sector, and the European Convention on Constructional Steelwork, and contributed to a number of government research initiatives. In 2008 I was appointed as lead member of an expert panel advising the government on fire research.
I am regularly invited to speak at seminars and short courses for practitioners on both fire engineering and sustainable construction. I am co-author of two books, have contributed five chapters in edited volumes, and published more than 90 articles in refereed journals, and 100 conference papers (20 invited as keynote speaker)
In November 2009 I retired from the University but remain active in both research and consultancy, principally in the area of structural fire engineering, and am a Director of Vulcan Solutions Ltd. I am chairman of the Steel in Fire Forum, a member of the Steel Advisory Group which provides direction for the EU’s Research Fund for Coal and Steel, and an evaluator for the European Research Council.
I am an active member of the Institution of Structural Engineers, serving as President in 2011.