Meet Alexander Wildish
The CIPHE’s President, Alexander Wildish MEng CEng MIMechE FCIPHE, has been a member of the CIPHE for five years and is also chair of the disciplinary committee. He currently works within the field of engineering forensics.
Alex’s interest in engineering was piqued at a young age by his father’s career as a British Gas engineer. As a child he spent hours building model trains and planes, fascinated by their intricate inner workings.
He studied A Level maths, physics and computing, which enabled him to read Mechanical Engineering with Building Services at Brunel University in 2000, where he gained his Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering.
During his time studying for his Master’s Degree, Alex received a scholarship at the Ministry of Defence, where he worked on mechanical failures on aeroplanes and submarines during the holidays for eight years.
Living the dream
As a keen fan of the TV show The Sweeney, Alex decided to join the police force in 2008 and worked his way up to become a detective. He worked on many cases including one of attempted murder. “Working for the police was nothing like The Sweeney, which was disappointing,” jokes Alex. “After a couple of years working on the force, I left to work for Burgoynes, a private company that carried out forensic engineering investigations, which would combine the skills I had learned in my previous positions at the MOD and Police. Working here was a steep learning curve and hard at the time but on reflection the experience was immensely beneficial.”
Going it alone
Following a personal tragedy, Alex re-evaluated his life and decided to start his own company in 2015 called Engineering Forensics. His company specialises in investigating instances of escapes of water, mechanical failure, fire and explosions, and personal injuries. His company provides expert advice to solicitors, loss adjusters, insurers and private clients.
“Like all successful businesses, I started out of my garage,” laughs Alex. “A few clients followed me and it just grew from there. Now we take on around 300 cases a year.”
One of the most memorable investigations that Alex’s company has worked on was a newly built house that had been connected to the pumping sewer main instead of the water mains.
“The people working on the house had been unwittingly drinking raw sewage and using it to build the house,” recalls Alex. “They were repeatedly unwell during the build, which alerted them to the mistake.”
The house builders were concerned about the structural integrity of the building because they had used sewage instead of fresh water for the concrete and cement. Consequently, they decided to sue the water company for compensation as they believed the house would have to be rebuilt.
“The water company instructed us to carry out an investigation to ascertain whether the use of sewage would have a detrimental effect on the building,” explains Alex. “My father and I carried out experiments using raw sewage to create concrete, which was then sent to a laboratory to be tested. The conclusion was that, in fact, the ammonia in the sewage actually made the concrete stronger and any pathogens would not survive inside the concrete, making it perfectly safe. However, the water company had to compensate the people for exposing them to sewage.”
Supporting the industry
Alex joined the CIPHE because he wanted to give back to the plumbing and heating community. As President of the CIPHE, Alex hopes to boost the profile of low-carbon heating solutions, such as heat pumps, champion careers within the industry to young people, and lobby for installer registration.
“I hope to help change the public’s perception of green energy sources like air source heat pumps because they are so much better for the environment than gas,” explains Alex. “We are hooked on gas, but as we transition to electrification the cost of these heat sources will come down.
“I’ll visit schools to talk about careers within the industry and speak to the Government about licenses for plumbing and heating engineers. Installers working on gas boilers need to be Gas Safe registered, but installers can work on kitchens and should be complying with water regulations, but this is not policed. This can prove problematic when working with heat pumps and traditional hot water cylinders, for example, as there is more potential for bacteria growth such as Legionella,” he adds. “There needs to be more training to raise awareness of potential problems, as well as government intervention to find a solution that recognises qualifications.”