Sudlows’ Computational Engineer, Sam Woodhead has recently moved to Paris. We caught up with Sam to see how he is getting on with being Sudlows’ first European based remote employee…

Why did you decide to move to Paris?

I met my partner during her Erasmus year, who happened to be French. After 4 years of monthly planes, 3 years of French classes and hours of Skyping, we decided to move in together.

What area of Paris have you moved to?

I’m north of the centre in a region called Beaumont. It’s a quick train into the centre, but I get the benefits of the Île-de-France countryside too.

How is your French?

J’ai un niveau B2 en Français. J’ai appris assez pour la vie quotidienne, parler avec mes amis et la famille de ma copine… I never learnt French in school, I studied German, but I try to learn things quickly!

What do you think of being a ‘Digital Native’ so far?

It’s great! Because of the nature of my work, I am often remotely connected to computers, running virtual ones or pushing code commits to a database in a Data Centre, far away from my location.

What does your role at Sudlows involve?

I’m a Computational Engineer, which is a fairly new engineering discipline combining various engineering fields of expertise with software engineering. Instead of doing mechanical engineering calculations by hand or spreadsheet, I use computers as very powerful and efficient calculators to automate and optimise designs. I produce design tools for the company that can simulate pipe network control systems quickly.

It can take years to gather weather station data and assess the yearly changes in temperature and humidity for a building where a chilled water system will be installed. Using systems, like NetSolve allows us to assess how effective some locations are for free- cooling systems; such as dry-cooling and evaporative cooling. Any pipe network we develop in our 3D-BIM system (Revit) is automatically exported and ready for calculation very quickly. It’s a lot quicker than typing pipe lengths and valve co-efficients into a spreadsheet! I’ve built a 3D graphics engine into it so you can suddenly fail equipment such as pumps to see how the control systems will respond.

I am currently developing our in-house CFD (computational fluid dynamics) systems. We combine our own developed software with open-source libraries which are highly parallel, which enable us to simulate large models on computer clusters very quickly.

How does what you do benefit our clients?

Our engineering designs are enhanced by simulation during the early design process, using intelligent algorithms, whereas typically, simulation is done after the design is made to validate that the equipment behaves correctly. Using my knowledge of engineering optimization and software, I develop and use existing algorithms that can self-design aspects of buildings. Not only does this improve the Data Centres we build, but it reduces the design time, which means we can turn around designs rapidly.

A good example of design enhancement can be seen within our Data Centres projects. By using genetic algorithms, we can evolve our designs by automatically modifying equipment positions of cooling units, floor tiles or high-powered servers. Each of the designs generated are assessed by simulation for their fitness; we want energy efficient systems with low fan pressures, but without causing higher temperatures due to flow recirculation. Successful designs can be further evolved genetically over several iterations (known as generations), until we achieve a final design we are happy with.

How are you able to do your job remotely?

Thanks to the development of distributed computing, I can work from any computer, anywhere, simply by pulling my software from a remote database so I can work on it. When I am happy with my modifications, I can then push these changes back to our company software repository.

Communicating with colleagues has also become much easier over the last decade, I now just skype colleagues in our head office in Manchester when we need to discuss design modifications and current projects.

Managing Director of Critical Infrastructures at Sudlows, Andy Hirst commented;

“Sam’s recent move to Paris is the perfect example of how dynamic and efficient cloud services have now become in the process of engineering major projects. Demonstrating effectively how Sudlows award winning work on building the platforms for cloud services can assist every organisation, including our own.

“As well as being able to create the software to perform the highly complex computational process within the mechanical design, Sam is also strategically placed to be available to liaise with European suppliers and clients based across region.”