Engineering consultancy Buro Happold is set for a new era with the election of Rod MacDonald as chairman

MacDonald, 60, a partner at the firm, was voted in by his fellow partners as head of one of the UK’s biggest engineering companies for an initial three-year period.

MacDonald said this week he wanted the business to adapt to meet the needs of the market: “Our industry is in a rapid state of change and engineering consultancies must change with it.”

He added that he wanted a focus on design and said that he would be aiming to “resolve risk issues and improve fees”.

MacDonald will take over on 1 May from Michael Dickson, one of Buro Happold’s founding partners and chairman of nine years.

MacDonald was also a founding member of the company, and is based in the company’s London office. The major projects on his CV include Birmingham’s Millennium Point and Hippodrome projects, the BBC’s White City Media Village, and Leeds’ Royal Armouries Museum.

Dickson was first elected chairman in 1996, after the death of Sir Ted Happold. The company this week said that he was standing down to take on a “more design-focused role in the practice.”

Under Dickson’s chairmanship, Buro Happold has doubled its number of staff, and the number of partners has grown from eight to 27. According to the company, fee income has risen 165% from £17m in 1997/98 to £45m in 2003/04.

Recent commissions include Battersea Power Station, where MacDonald has a leading role.

Buro Happold also has a five-year framework agreement for BAA airports, and has worked on additional BAA projects including office developments and warehousing, airport service buildings and tunnel refurbishments.

The company was primarily known for its structural engineering work, but has more recently described itself as a multidisciplinary practice providing infrastructure, fire safety engineering and Urban Design.

“We have also taken steps to develop our sectoral expertise across areas such as education, retail and health,” said Dickson.

Dickson will stay on as a senior partner at the firm and will head its design and technology board. He will also continue as a chairman of Happold Trust, a charity promoting industry research and training.