Mark Whitby, the former chairman of structural engineer Ramboll UK, has set up a consultancy with former colleague Des Mairs

Whitby, a former president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, set up Whitbybird in 1983 with Mairs as a partner. By the time it was bought by the Danish engineer Ramboll in 2007, its turnover had grown to £40m.

The new company, which is called +Whitby, was set up last week and will concentrate on structural engineering. Whitby said it was not looking “to do hyperbole but good steady engineering”. He added he wanted to work for clients that appreciated the contribution engineering made to projects.

The firm has already won three jobs, including an extension to a block of flats, a building survey and an architect-designed gazebo.

Whitby added he was looking forward to concentrating on design. “I want to go back to the drawing board and working with architects delivering projects, not the dirty work tidying up after projects and sorting out problems associated with running a business.” Whitby, who is 60, said this meant he would leave the running of the firm to younger people.

The firm is about to take on a director, and Whitby anticipates that it will have six employees by Christmas and grow to an ideal size of 20 or 30, depending on workload. He said this would enable it to tackle jobs up to £100m. Whitby said he was not concerned about the downturn as he had set up Whitbybird during the recession of the early 1980s and had survived the 1990s slump.

He added that small firms were better placed to cope with a downturn. “You don’t need much work to keep six or seven people going. It’s when you have hundreds you have a problem.”

Whitby was barred from practising for six months when he left Ramboll, but waited a year before setting up his firm.