Chartered Engineer Patrick Kennelly sources his interest in all things engineering from his grandparents – he loved nothing better than building sand castles, tunnels and a moat. He takes his hat off to structural engineer hero Peter Rice, and can't stop admiring Brooklyn Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hoover Dam. The film Step Brothers always gives him a laugh, but sport features prominently in downtime too as he travels from Páirc Uí Chaoimh to Thomond Park to Old Trafford to watch games. 

Kennelly has been the project manager and structural engineer at Concept Design Project Management and Consulting Engineers since 2013. Previous to that he was a structural engineer for Corcoran Engineers and Architects. "At Concept Design I undertake a broad spectrum of consultancy work," he says. "While I specialise in the food processing industry, I also work in projects in the commercial and residential sectors."

He qualified as a structural engineer from Munster Technological University in 2008, and holds a master's degree in information technology in architecture, construction and engineering from University College Cork. 

Patrick Kennelly, chair, Young Engineers Society, Engineers Ireland

He is the chair of Engineers Ireland's Young Engineers Society, Cork Region. Its AGM takes place on Tuesday, June 15, at 7pm via Zoom. Booking details: 

"I am highly involved in the promotion of engineering and of Engineers Ireland," says Kennelly. "I have directly organised a large number of events to promote the organisation to college students, including the annual careers day, and have organised a number of site visits, lectures and social events for members. Additionally, I volunteer annually for the Young Engineers Award programme and Engineer’s Week."

When did you first become interested in engineering? 

I have two standout memories of engineering as a child, and they come from time spent with my grandparents. Every summer I spent a couple of weeks at both homes in west Cork and Kerry. My maternal grandparents live beside Howes Strand and as a child I loved nothing better than to build sand castles there – each sand castle needed a moat filled with water and a tunnel under the moat.  

I also listened with vigour to my grandfather’s tales of helping to build London’s skyscrapers in the 1950s. My paternal grandfather had a love of carpentry and, a shed with every tool imaginable. Here I was given timber and my own tools to build what I wanted – many a failed aeroplane and bridge were constructed!

Who were the mentors who helped you on your way?

From day one, my parents have always encouraged and supported me in my studies. I have also the privilege of having many inspiring teachers and lecturers – from Newcestown National School to St Brogans College, CIT and UCC.

One maths teacher in particular, Ms McCabe, really promoted mathematics in St Brogan's and developed my interest in the subject. My colleagues at CDPM (Concept Design Project Management) have given great support and help as I have progressed from a junior engineer to a chartered project engineer.

Your engineer hero, or the nearest you have to one?  

Peter Rice

Can any Irish structural engineer look past Peter Rice? The mastermind behind the Sydney Opera HousePompidou Centre and the Lloyd's Building, Rice pushed the boundaries of design with impressive results. The Sydney Opera House is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. He was also involved in the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, which is one of the most striking buildings I have seen. 

An engineer you wish was better known? 

I will say Irish man Louis Brennan just to highlight his invention of the Brennan Torpedo. It was the first practical guided torpedo in the world and was trialled in Camden Fort, Crosshaven, Co Cork. Traces of the installation (1891) are still visible today if you visit Camden Fort, which has been largely restored by a group of volunteers.

Your idea of project heaven? 

A project with clear deliverables and deadlines but also a challenge where I get to lead a dedicated and innovative team.

And project hell? 

Having no projects. I finished college in 2008 when engineering projects were non-existent.

What are your favourite engineering feats?

Jack Lynch Tunnel

Rebelside, my favourites are the Jack Lynch Tunnel, Charles Fort, the Chetwynd Viaduct, Mizen Foot Bridge and the aforementioned Brennon Torpedo. Further afield, the Leviathan Telescope in Birr, Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge took my breath away when I saw them.

What is/are the most important trend/s in engineering right now?

Without doubt, sustainability is the overriding trend in engineering right now. Climate change will have a serious impact on engineers – both now and in the future.

Engineers are key to the efforts to mitigate the issues including developing low-carbon energy sources and increasing energy efficiency. They are also crucial in helping us to adapting to the issues by providing coastline protection and designing with more extreme climates in mind.

If you could, is there any one measure you would introduce to help improve the gender balance within the profession?

Amplify the promotion of engineering in schools. The STEPS Young Engineers Award is something I have taken part in over the past few years and I have seen some amazing projects and ideas from students.

In order to inspire the future generation of female engineers further, it is imperative that we showcase the work/achievements of local and national female engineers such as the previous president of Engineers Ireland, Marguerite Sayers, or Ann Marie Holmes of Intel.

What book is on your bedside table?

Ironically, the book I am currently reading is called Chief Engineer: The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge by Erica Wanger, which tells the story of Washington Roebling. Interestingly, the bridge was designed by his father, John A Roebling, who died just before construction started. Incredibly, Washington himself was injured in the construction process of the caissons and his wife Emily completed the project.

I always have a few books on the go: The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates; A Painted House by John Grisham; Too Beautiful for Thieves and Pickpockets: A History of the Victorian Convict Prison on Spike Island; and The Bull: My Story (John Hayes autobiography) are all in the current stack.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to somebody starting out in the profession?

As Albert Einstein once said “once you stop learning, you start dying”. I am a firm believer in continuous professional development and the need to continually upskill. An engineer should never sit back on their heels and feel happy in their bank of knowledge as the profession is constantly moving.

A great way to stay on top of CPD is by joining your local engineering region or YES committees. Since I joined the Cork Young Engineers Society and the Cork Region of Engineers Ireland, I have been able to stay on top of local CPD events and trending topics with the network that I have formed.

What is your favourite film? 

I watch movies for escapism and comedy is where I find it. Step Brothers will always be on top for me due to its ability to make me laugh every time no matter how often I watch it. It is the peak of the many collaborations between comedian Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay, which also includes Anchorman.

If you weren’t an engineer, what might you have become? 

An archaeologist or historian. I have a keen interest in the past, especially in local history and military history. In every city I visit my first item on the agenda is a walking tour. I am fascinated with the history of places and the changes that have occurred. I live in Kinsale, which is brimming with history from the Battle of Kinsale to the Lusitania.

What is a typical day for you?

My days start a little earlier since my son arrived in February. Dawn brings his cheeky smile and his best attempts at conversation. Prior to February early starts were later; I endeavoured, not always successfully, for a jog or a swim at the Dock beach a few minutes from my home. Like most engineers, each day is a different one for me.

I may be setting off for a site, the company office, my home office or the airport (pre-Covid). Currently, I work primarily on capital projects in the food industry for companies throughout Ireland and the UK. However, I do undertake a large number of local consulting engineer roles in domestic, commercial and school settings. When I get home, I follow dinner with a walk and unwind with my wife Claire and son Paddy.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Trust me, I’m an engineer.

What do you do to relax?

Thomond Park

Travelling with my family and exploring Ireland and abroad. Maybe to call it relaxing is a stretch but I love to play and watch sport. I follow too many teams in too many sports. I love to travel to live sport, anywhere from Páirc Uí Chaoimh to Thomond Park to Old Trafford.

Atop Carrauntoohil, Co Kerry, which he climbed along with fellow Young Engineers Society members

I still try and play GAA with my childhood club Newcestown. I also attend as many juvenile and adult games as I can throughout the year. I play soccer with Spartak Mossgrove in the West Cork League.