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James Petch has launched his own business, Petch Consulting Engineers, after a decade of rising up the ranks. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Engineer builds business in Thames Valley


It was a holiday through Europe that opened James Petch’s eyes to the world of structural engineering.
Growing up in Paeroa, James began his career as a farm hand before shifting his focus to a trade qualification as a fitter and welder at the Waihi Gold Mine. After completing his trade, James spent three years working in the mines of Western Australia, but it was a boat trip in Paris that sparked his career aspirations as a structural engineer.
“We were going up the River Seine and under all the bridges when a friend suggested: ‘Why don’t you design bridges, James?’ I didn’t even know what that meant, but for the rest of my holiday around Europe, I was inspired by all the bridges I saw.
“That was the catalyst for it all.”
Now 38, James has spent the past 13 years working towards his passion.
He obtained a Diploma of Civil Engineering from Unitec, and as he was studying, he took a liking to the technical design aspect of the programme with a focus on buildings.
So, in order to design buildings, James went one step further and gained entrance to The University of Auckland, graduating with an honours degree in Civil Engineering.
“Coming out of university, I got a job with one of the top engineering firms in Auckland, and while they were a smaller outfit, they competed with all the big mobs, which gave me great exposure to large and complicated engineering projects,” he said.
“So, I started my career doing mid-rise apartment buildings in and around Auckland’s CBD.”
James has also worked on hotels, buildings for Kainga Ora, projects for Woolworths, and other residential and commercial developments.
He said structural engineering somewhat flew under the radar – but it was a big responsibility.
“Your job is to basically make a building stand up,” he said. “You need to come up with a structural system to support gravity loads, and a lateral load resisting system to support the wind and earthquake loads.
“It is a big responsibility, and I think structural engineers are undervalued within society, because everyone sleeps inside a house or goes inside a building every day, and you rely on a structural engineer to do their job properly to ensure the safety of the public.”
Now a Chartered Engineer, and recently returned from Sydney, James has established his own business.
Petch Consulting Engineers – which services the Auckland, Waikato, and wider Coromandel areas – was launched last month.
From concept through to detailed design and construction monitoring, what James enjoys most is collaboration with clients, architects, and design consultants to deliver economical structural designs.
“My goal is to deliver high-quality structural engineering services,” he said. “Using my practical background and technical knowledge, my design ethos is to simplify structural systems. This creates more reliable and efficient structures, using less materials and saving on overall build cost.”
James’ expertise includes mid-rise apartments and commercial buildings; industrial warehouses and cold-storage facilities; architectural homes; and seismic assessments of existing buildings, among other things.
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