Introduction to conceptual design for structural engineers – online


27th April to 18th May 2023, online.
Price varies depending on IStructE Membership. Early-bird price available.
Visit IStructE for price and booking details


This conceptual design training course for structural engineers provides a theoretical framework for understanding conceptual design. We deliver this course on behalf of the Institution of Structural Engineers as a webinar: a weekly, two-hour session for four weeks.

Good conceptual design takes the engineer from a situation of client needs and a blank sheet of paper to an idea that has the potential to bring delight. It is the time when the imagination has the greatest leverage. It sets the groundwork upon which the detailed engineering analysis is built.

Course content

In this conceptual design training course we cover

  • How conceptual design fits into the overall process of design
  • Techniques for really understanding a brief
  • Being more systematic in idea generation
  • How to know if you are ideas are any good
  • Iterative development of ideas

We apply the conceptual design techniques we talk about to an on-going case-study.

To get a sense for the training content and delivery style, see this post on trainer Oliver Broadbent’s blog on engineering creativity.

Reflective workwork

Workwork is our name for the reflective work that I ask people to do between sessions. It is like homework, except done at work. In this conceptual design training we ask ask participants to carry out some Workwork to help them embed what they are learning in their work.

About the trainer

Oliver Broadbent is an expert facilitator and award-winning trainer in design thinking for the built environment. With a background in civil engineering and teaching, he specialises in designing high-impact training that has a lasting effect on the learner.

In 2020 Oliver was awarded the Sir Misha Black Award for Innovation in Design Education.

He is Founder and Director of engineering training consultancy Constructivist. There he leads the development of Constructivist’s programme of design training for design consultancies. He also works with universities including Cambridge, Bath and Imperial to develop innovative approaches to curriculum design and delivery.

Oliver is a contributing author to the IStructE’s very popular book ‘Conceptual Design of Buildings’. He has also co-authored a series of good practice teaching guides for the Royal Academy of Engineering on experience-led learning, e-learning for engineers, effective industrial engagement in engineering education and how to teach sustainability.

From 2017 to 2020 he was a Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor at Imperial College, London.

Course requirements and FAQs

This course is an online interactive webinar. We deliver it using Zoom. To participate you will need to use a headset with microphone. Once you have registered for the course, you will be given a link to the online training space.

This conceptual design training course is an introductory course. It is aimed at structural engineers in practice who are starting to think about how they could improve their conceptual design skills.

  • Graduate engineers will find the course useful as they start to develop the skills and the habits of a conceptual designer.
  • Structural engineers preparing to sit their professional membership exam will have the chance to discuss techniques to use in the run up to and during their exam.
  • More experienced practitioners will find the course a good way to start reflective practice to improve their design work.
  • Managers of graduate engineers can use the techniques in this course to help develop the conceptual design skills of their teams.
  • Sessions will be recorded so if you miss a session you can catch up. The recordings will be available for two weeks after the end of the course.