After 11 years at HERA, we’d like to let our membership and industry know that our General Manager Structural Systems Stephen Hicks will be heading back to the UK to pursue a career as Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Warwick.
Stephen came to us from the Steel Construction Institute (SCI).
He’d been working there on a variety of design tools for steel and composite buildings to provide support to designers when the structural Eurocodes replaced the UK national standards back in 2010.
As fate would have it, he’d be an invited speaker at a New Zealand seminar series sponsored by Corus as part of this work – crossing paths with Steve Stickland, who let him know about the opportunity at HERA.
And, looking for a new challenge, Stephen never looked back – that is, until now!
A tenure of collaboration and advocacy
Having worked in an environment where industry was actively seeking to harmonize national standards with 27 other countries, coming to New Zealand was a shock to the system for Stephen. This was because New Zealand still had many of its own domestic standards rather than joint ones with its closest neighbour Australia! So, it’s no surprise that this would set the tone for a strong standards focus during Stephen’s time with us.
To do this, he leveraged his experience as a member of both the UK and Eurocode Committees for composite construction (BS 5950 and Eurocode 4) and tirelessly collaborated with key stakeholders. A move that has ensured a wider range of experts could be tapped in to – reducing risk in succession planning or individuals dominating the process, as well as removing technical barriers on trade.
This not only has facilitated greater export of products and services to Australia, but opened up the door to international software providers to create sophisticated electronic design tools for us due to the increased market size they’re now be able to service. An outcome that in turn, has increased productivity and cost-efficient designs, as well as the potential to open up opportunities for other electronic tools such as BIM too.
Stephen has also worked hard to improve New Zealand’s sustainability credentials. In 2009 collaborating with the New Zealand steel industry to establish the Sustainable Steel Council to ensure that steel construction was treated fairly in the revision of the New Zealand Green Building Council steel credit. Work that paved the way for the uptake of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) by manufacturers of steel products.
Work to be proud of!
With over a decade under his belt at HERA, there is a lot that Stephen has to be proud of achieving.
From being both the drafting leader and Chair of the first joint Australian/New Zealand design standard for steel and composite bridges AS/NZS 5100.6 that catalysed further harmonization activities for AS/NZS 2327 and AS/NZS 5131, to strongly advocating for the need to mandate third-party product certification and traceability schemes such as SFC and his Directorship of ACRS.
Stephen saying, “It’s been immensely satisfying to see third party certification being embraced by specifiers and asset owners. Not only has it changed the way they do business, but it’s also effected change to local manufacturers and suppliers as well.”
He’s also actively supported our members directly through product development activities such as ComFlor SR. And, providing specialist consultancy for projects like the vibration response of the dance-floor to the Duo building in Singapore which led to structural steel being the material of choice in its construction. Most notably, working on seven product development projects that utilised high strength steel for both New Zealand and Singaporean manufacturers to provide cost efficient solutions for multi-storey steel construction.
Where to from here for Stephen?
Stephen will be leaving towards the end of July. Before he goes, he’ll be focused on completing the new AS/NZS 2327 design software for composite slabs and beams and updating HERA’s DCBs.
He’ll be heading to the UK to become a full Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Warwick, which has a strong heritage in steel-concrete composite structures. The focus of his research will be in the area of resilience, and he’ll also be participating in the development of the next generation of the European steel-concrete composite design standard for buildings and bridges (Eurocode 4), which is expected to be published in the next four years.
On his move saying, “Having achieved most of the goals that I set myself when I first started at HERA, I feel like this was an opportune time to move on to a new challenge.”
“I’m incredibly grateful for my time at HERA. It’s allowed me to gain expertise within a wider range of disciplines from evaluation of safety factors for design standards, to light steel framing design, development of product standards, conformity assessment of products, quality management systems and sustainability in steel construction. It’s also enabled me to participate in a number of board and governance roles including being an Executive Councillor for SCNZ.”
No doubt, it’s this combined with the rigour demanded in the development of joint Australian and New Zealand standards that has resulted in Stephen publishing a number of internationally peer-reviewed journal papers, which summarise the research that underpins many of the design rules. It’s also probably gone a long way in helping him to transition into his Professiorship!
“I’ll miss working with the team at HERA, SCNZ and, more importantly, the industry in New Zealand. One of the great strengths (and potentially a weakness) is the ‘can do’ attitude in New Zealand where new technologies are either adopted or developed in a relatively short amount of time.
“I’ve been honoured to have worked on a number of projects that I’m very passionate about. The only thing I wish I could have achieved before departing is to have brought together the steel structures standard NZS 3404 with the Australian AS 4100. Whilst this is now very close to being realised – I’m hopeful that my successor will be able to get this over the finishing line!”
“And, after leading and winning the bid to host the 2020 IABSE Symposium in Christchurch, I hope I may get an invitation to return to New Zealand next year!”
Our thoughts from the HERA home base
We’re extremely sad to see Stephen go, his work has led to a number of key milestones in our efforts to innovate and future proof our NZ metals industry. But, we’re equally very happy for him and excited to follow his new journey!
Our CEO Troy Coyle saying, “There are two fairly significant acknowledgements we have to give to Stephen.”
“The first one is that it is a massive achievement for someone from industry to go into a tier one university at professor level, and it’s a real indictment of how they’re viewing the contributions he’s made to industry.”
“And, the second one is that while it’s a UK gain, it’s a significant loss for not only HERA but New Zealand. The legacy that Stephen leaves in terms of the standards development and composite work at HERA is considerable, and will remain ongoing.”
“Moving forward, to ensure continuity we’ll be making sure that his panel projects are handed over to our existing team during his remaining time with us. We hope this will mean there will be little to no delays in moving these along once a successor is appointed.”
In the coming weeks we’ll be advertising for someone to replace this role. If you’re interested to know more about this position, please feel free to get in touch for a confidential chat with our CEO Troy Coyle.