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Interview with
Lonnie Pack
Principal Civil/Structural Engineer

Lonnie is a Principal Structural Engineer at Coffey. Commencing with Tetra Tech Proteus in Perth in 2014, Lonnie moved to Sydney when Tetra Tech acquired Coffey in 2016. Since then hes been responsible for expanding the structural engineering capabilities throughout the east coast of Australia.

Lonnie has a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from the University of Queensland, is a chartered engineer and declares it's his sheer passion for engineering that motivated him to write a textbook, 'Australian Guidebook for Structural Engineers'. 

What inspired you to get into that field of study?

I’ve always been inspired by buildings and structures. My interests in both arts and physics led me to commence my tertiary studies in architecture before realising that my skills were better suited to structural engineering.

After starting work as a structural engineer, I developed a passion for finding elegant solutions to complex problems. I’m inspired to constantly learn more so I can refine my design skills to make less expensive, more efficient and sustainable engineering designs.

This passion for engineering motivated me to write a textbook, 'Australian Guidebook for Structural Engineers'.  I’ve since worked closely with many of the top geotechnical engineers in the country and have developed a specialty in geotechnical structures. I strongly believe that we can now deliver the best project outcomes for our clients.

How long have you been working at Coffey?

I started working at Tetra Tech Proteus in Perth in 2014. I then moved to the Coffey office in Sydney in 2016 when it was acquired by Tetra Tech. Since then I’ve been expanding the structural engineering capabilities within Coffey throughout the east coast of Australia.

What originally attracted you to Coffey?

I was attracted to Coffey because of the opportunities provided through Tetra Tech. Many of the top engineering experts in Australia work at Coffey, and this is complemented by Tetra Tech on a global scale.

 I love being able to work in an environment where I can learn from the best people in the industry.  

Tell us about some of the projects you've worked on at Coffey that have been most inspiration to you.

I was inspired by our work on the Circular Quay Renewal project for Transport for New South Wales. The Coffey team worked with our sister company NDY, A Tetra Tech Company, to deliver a full asset condition assessment of the Circular Quay area. The project included geophysical scanning of the harbour, geotechnical drilling from jack-up barges, and structural inspections of the promenade and wharves by boat. Information was collated seamlessly into a BIM model which enables the end user to navigate through a virtual model of the area with access to all relevant data.

I also enjoyed working on the demolition of the IMAX in Darling Harbour. This was the largest IMAX screen in the world and had a unique purpose-built structure. The building was half supported on ground and half suspended above the harbour, with a historic culvert running through the centre. It was also tightly nestled between two busy freeway overpasses.  The removal of the roof structure was a complex task which involved accurate modelling and complex rigging arrangements to ensure safety to the workers and to the public. The lift which we engineered won the Crane Industry Council of Australia award for ‘Lift of the Year’ in the under 20 tonnes category.

Another great project was the Tamborine Mountain Slope Remediation. This project allowed me to work closely with our geotechnical engineers and geologists to deliver stabilising designs to a heritage road in Queensland. We’ve been involved with the project from concept design through to construction. Our solutions involved designs such as soil nails, wire mesh, erosion control, stabilising of boulders and installation of wire mattresses. Ecological Australia, A Tetra Tech company, was also involved in providing the flora and fauna assessment.

Tell us about the challenges and rewards you face in your role?

The role of a design engineer is to create an efficient design. I’ve found that many consultants are reducing engineering budgets to be competitive and win more projects. This mentality is driving substandard quality and over-engineered solutions, which results in increased overall cost to a project. The challenge we are facing is to push back against this attitude and strive to become the best and not the cheapest.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself starting out in your career?

If you want to be the best make sure you are learning from the best.