BVIA ON BANK: Welcoming more women into the built environment

When typed into google ‘top reasons women don’t enter engineering’ a sea of results are populated, but the most reoccurring headline reads ‘women simply don’t know what engineering is’. Despite decades of scholarships, marketing campaigns and studies, women only make up roughly 15% of the construction industry.

Sub-industries of the built environment have been revealing why women are less inclined to work in construction, engineering and affiliate industry jobs. Engineers Australia has made particular progress in motioning these findings by disclosing the key reasons why women curb engineering when considering career choices.

  • Lack of familiarity is the single top-stated reason for never considering engineering
  • 90% of women in non-engineering fields either briefly or never considered an engineering role
  • Concerns around not enjoying or being good enough at math and physics are also prominent
  • Most common female perceptions of engineering are ‘male dominated’ and ‘challenging.’
  • Women are less likely to associate engineering with positive attributes such as ‘respected’, ‘impactful’, ‘creative’, ‘fulfilling’ and ‘exciting.’
  • There is a strong correlation between familiarity with engineering and consideration of study 65% who were familiar considered studying it compared to only 11% that was not at all familiar

Matter views these gaps as a disparity between the perception of engineering and the legitimacy of the practice itself. We must take active steps in educating the emerging female workforce about the wins women have afforded our industry and the multiple pathways to participate in future ones. Developer Anne Michaels has been voicing this disproportion for 20 years and is pursuing change through her development firm sheBuilt, a fully female-operated construction company based in Melbourne. Her largest development to date is BVIA on BANK “a passion project in which all decisions have been made to add value to the street and to the area”. After taking on the project in 2019, Anne sought a female-led team to fulfill the roles and actualise this sophisticated fusion of heritage character and inspired design. Matter’s Hannah Lee was appointed as lead structural and civil engineer for the project, alongside a group of talented architects, builders and artists. We sat down with Hannah to reflect on the evolutions of this project, both structurally and personally.

What was your role in the BVIA on BANK project? 

I looked after the structural and civil engineering side of the project, justifying force and structural loading to ensure the build would be viable and safe. Approached with the drawings, I was both excited and challenged by the amalgamation of the old and new structure and identified creative solutions to achieve the architectural design intent. This process requires many conversations and elements of compromise which in this instance involved all females, a shift in dynamics of typical project coordination that ultimately reached the best project outcome.

When did sheBuilt engage Matter (or vice versa) to work on the BVIA on BANK project? What prompted you to jump on board? 

We first became aware of the BVIA on BANK project in 2019 when sheBuilt developer, Anne Michaels commissioned a tender for a female-led team. I had never come across a commercial project of this scale being conducted by just women. At this stage in my career, I had started working independently on projects and was equipped to take this next step professionally and to inspire the women entering the construction industry. Fast forward a couple of months, I was interviewed by Developer Anne Michaels against other candidates and selected as the lead structural and civil engineer for BVIA on BANK, it was time to bring this sophisticated sculptural form to life.

The development seems to reflect history, nostalgia, art and restoration. Do any other themes come to mind for this particular project? 

Yes, there is quite a story behind BVIA on BANK which puts the project in a lane of its own. Unlike most commercial projects, the design intent and decision-making outcomes are articulated to the public, inviting potential users to connect with the journey that led to the design. The primary themes and goals are:

  • Respectful Design
  • Street Activation
  • Women in the Built Environment
  • Family History
  • Blending old with new

What were the highlights of working within a female-led operation? Was the experience notably different? 

Naturally, the process remained the same from an execution standpoint. However, the conversations within this process were notably different. As a team, we would open up casually about the challenges we face as females in a male-dominated industry and offer advice on our experiences. This style of conversation was synonymous with project dialogue, always an open forum for discussion and room for improvement.

What does sheBuilt actually mean for women in the Built-environment? Do you see the gap beginning to close? 

BVIA on BANK is the first time a fully female-led team has designed and overseen a commercial initiative of this size and prominence in Melbourne and possibly Australia. This groundbreaking project has been brought to life by talented women working together to produce something truly spectacular, from project leads to support staff, partners, and suppliers. BVIA on BANK is expected to be not just a South Melbourne landmark, but a milestone for women in the building industry.

Final comments

As a firm Matter aims to integrate and find opportunities for female-led operations within the construction industry to energise current staff and inspire the next generation of budding female engineers. We now have three female engineers within the Matter team and are always on the lookout for more talent.

Discover more about BVIA on BANK precinct

Commercial Real Estate – Located in the coveted suburb of South Melbourne, on the corner of Clarendon and Bank Streets, this reimagined building glamorously combines heritage architecture with modern form. BVIA on BANK has been passionately designed & developed. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to lease space within this exclusive office development.

BVIA on BANK offers expansive, well planned floor plates ranging from 263m² to 530m² showcasing uninterrupted views to the south, west and east. High ceiling, floor to ceiling windows and copper highlights throughout create a luxurious welcoming environment bathed in natural light.