The Holistic Design Approach with Kitty Leung
Kitty Leung is a structural engineer and a relatively new Associate based out of our Vancouver office. We recently sat down with Kitty to get to know her and better understand her “holistic design” approach to her projects.
Thanks for sitting down with us today, Kitty. Tell us a bit about your career and how it’s helped you evolve toward your holistic design approach.
Early in my career I was working for a single discipline structural engineering firm specialized in one specific market sector. Things were very focused on just structural, systems were quite standardized, and there wasn’t as broad an understanding of how different disciplines within the project could work together.
Then, I moved on to a firm based out of BC and Alberta. This firm was a design/build firm and had full in-house service. It provided a good taste of what collaboration could look like and provided a great perspective on how projects were running overall. Plus, you could really get the concept for the structure ingrained in your mind and see it taking shape.
Now I’m at Entuitive, and with its One Company approach and collaborative relationships across all project teams, I feel as though my holistic design approach has found a great home.
Interesting – are there any other career experiences that have shaped your approach?
Yes, actually. I took the Certified Professional course to gain more understanding on the Canadian Building Code. The experience certainly gives you a higher perspective on projects as well – you see it from an architectural perspective for instance. Maybe you consider things like egress and accessibility; so, this line of thinking means you’re able to bring a broader perspective to the project and a wider understanding of the team’s needs.
My involvement with the Consulting Practice Committee for EGBC gave me exposure to new engineering practice guidelines and new performance requirements, for example those on sustainability. You can start to appreciate how different practices take on new initiatives and challenges.
I’ve also sat on many design/build projects’ Compliance Team to oversee the work which helped me to think from an owner’s perspective.
When you go through processes like that, it’s hard to come to a project and just focus on your own discipline. You also feel like you have the confidence to give an opinion and question things beyond your own discipline. The more you know, the more you tend to look out for others.
That’s great. So tell us about holistic design. What does the concept mean to you?
For me, a holistic design mindset means keeping an open mind when thinking about structural solutions and understanding that there is no single right solution.
Operating with a holistic design approach also means you’re focused on more of the project requirements, maybe you’re a little more sensitive to cost, schedule, performance, or aesthetics as you design your structural solutions.
And this all stems from a desire to develop a deep understanding of what the owner and client want or really need because sometimes there is a difference. You must listen first and not give your opinion too early, so that you can ensure true understanding in terms of the overall project.
So, how do you know when it’s time to give your opinion? Do you have a tactic for ensuring you determine the needs and wants of clients and owners?
I think it’s very important to ask questions.
Of course, it’s also my job to help guide clients and owners toward the right solution during our early discussions. This is a dynamic process, where, by asking questions I can certainly suggest without stating my opinion.
It’s my job to help them get to the right solution and provide as many options as possible through our dialogue.
It sounds like relationships and collaboration are key to the mindset?
Yes, relationships are very important. I value our clients and I want them to know that I’m there to help.
I would never want to finish a project and not see the client again, so for me it’s important to develop long-term relationships that are both technical and personal in nature.
That’s really important – collaboration is something we champion at Entuitive. So, do you have any tips for working collaboratively?
I think this goes back to how I feel about holistic design – it’s very important to approach relationships with an open mind while also being confident enough to let people know where you’re coming from.
It’s important to understand that not everyone is skilled in the same way you are, so it’s important to develop a mutual understanding of where everyone is coming from to guide the project, or the relationship, forward.
Fantastic, thank you, Kitty! Any final thoughts?
It’s exciting to be part of the Entuitive team! There is nothing more satisfactory than bringing value to your clients and teammates.
Thanks again, Kitty. Learning about your holistic design approach was instructive and we hope to follow up with you soon to learn more about how you put that approach into action.