"I think most of those who join our section quickly understand that they need to learn more," says DNV's Øystein Lande. Together with colleagues Pål Jensen, Andreas Lervik and Trine Jelstad Olsen and 120 other highly educated engineers, he works in the Marine Structures Section at DNV. These four are experts in different professional areas - steel, concrete and hydrodynamics - but they all focus on structural reliability. Another thing they have in common is that they daily work on some of the most complicated and extreme construction projects in Norway.
"You have to be a bit of a geek to apply for a job in our section ," says Lervik. And the four colleagues quickly agree it must be all right to say that. Because apart from a good professional background, you need an inner drive in order to be called a super-engineer. "I sometimes find myself in an ice-hockey hall looking at the roof construction," says Jensen, who has specialist expertise in steel structures. This makes the other three laugh, but they know what he means. "After all, we are nerds," explains Trine Jelstad Olsen proudly.
So what does a super-engineer do in DNV? The four admit there is quite a lot of calculations and figures. But there are also many opportunities to get out and about. Andreas Lervik, who specializes in concrete structures, spends some of his time with customers out at sites, where project verifications and inspections are often an important part of his job. Pål Jensen tells us about productive meetings with customers where he has a lot of both responsibility and influence when acting as an independent third-party representative, which is DNV's role.
The DNV environment they represent has over the past few years worked on many exciting and well-known projects in Norway. These include the verification of 11 of the 12 structures on the enormous Johan Sverdrup development in the North Sea and the verification of the fjord-crossing alternatives for the E39 road developments on the west coast of Norway. The job itself involves such things as understanding the material that the structure is made of, how it acts and how the surroundings will affect the structure.
Extreme calculations"Among other things, we must be able to state the loads that may arise and whether the structure can cope with these loads or really large monster waves that statistically occur once every 100 years," explains Jelstad Olsen. They find this out by calculating extreme variations of "possible incidents" – whether relating to wind, 100-year waves, crane loads that fall down, ships that collide or explosions. The questions to be answered may be as follows: Can the structure cope with what it is supposed to cope with? What should it cope with? And if something has already gone wrong – what happened and how can we prevent it from happening again? "You must have an enormous understanding of the problems and of physics, because you can't just press a button to find the answer," says Lande. "And once you find an answer, you must also be able to assess whether it appears sensible," says Lervik.
The hard core
These engineers are brought in when customers come to DNV with really special, critical problems. That often means major assets are at stake, such as oil platforms, ships, offshore wind turbines, offshore fish farms or bridges over deep fjord crossings. The consequences of a breakdown are dramatic from a safety, environmental and financial viewpoint, and even short breakdowns are very expensive for the operators. In order to best meet its customers' needs for specialist expertise, DNV puts together multidisciplinary teams with members from all relevant professional fields, explain the four. Such an environment also attracts new clever people, and a considerable percentage of the "hardcore" engineering knowledge in Norway is gathered in once place here.
For younger and new employees, the teamwork acts as a sound arena for development: they are from day one connected to very challenging projects where they work with so-called professional beacons in multidisciplinary teams. "I think most of us are driven by the fact that we are allowed to specialize and help resolve our customers' most complicated challenges," says Pål Jensen. "I admit I joined DNV quite by chance. However, the fact that I have chosen to stay is not by chance," he says – and the others agree.
This is what a super-engineer has to master
"In addition to the more obvious criteria, such as good grades, a theoretically strong platform and the ability to apply theory in practice, you also have to have a very good understanding of problems in order to be a super-engineer," explains Signe Kirkebø, the head of the Marine Structures Section. The teams that deal with DNV's customers in this area must deliver in several areas:
- They must ensure and document that the structure is sufficiently safe and functional during operations and for its intended lifetime.
- And they must find a robust, cost-optimal solution that contributes to safe and continuous operations, with the minimal downtime during the operations phase and limited maintenance throughout the structure's lifetime.