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A reputation for innovation and delivering first-class structural engineering solutions. Over the past 40+ years I’ve worked on projects in New Zealand, Australia, Nepal and around the pacific, including Fiji, PNG and Samoa.

My focus is on working with others in the design team to get a really good solution to each project on which I’m engaged. Where appropriate, that means pushing the boundaries by thinking about things in a new way. It also means designing buildable solutions - important because it can be incredibly costly if extensive redesign is required once construction is underway. Keeping abreast of new technology and ideas allows me, and my team, to stay ahead.


My in-depth experience, as a result of my 40+ years as a structural engineer, means I’ve come across many of the problems facing my clients today and, more importantly, many great solutions. This means you get the benefit of my ability to take what’s been done before and to either build on it or to come up with something even better.


My key skills include problem solving, conceptual engineering and construction engineering. My approach to working with my clients and partners is collaborative. I listen well, respond and contribute to project teams - I’m not a silent partner. My approach to working with my team at Structure Design is to give them goals and to let them find their own way there, while at the same time supporting and pushing them.

Key projects on which I’ve been involved include:
  • Te Papa. I worked with a great team and, at the time, the engineering on this building was sharp. It remains a good building today.

  • A number of buildings for the University of Auckland as part of its rebuild.

  • Two projects in Papua New Guinea - the Taurama Aquatics Centre and the Rita Flyn Netball Centre, which will be completed in time for the 2015 Pacific Games. Our strong team won these projects over international stadium experts.

I set up Structure Design in 1998 after spending over 20 years at Holmes Consulting Group.


If you’re looking for an experienced structural engineer for your project, please get in touch.


  • A Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) (1st Class Honours) University of Canterbury


  • Chartered Professional Engineer, New Zealand

  • Member of New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering

  • Member of New Zealand Structural Engineering Society

  • Elected Fellow of Institution of Professional Engineers

Ashley Smith.jpg



With 40 years’ experience in New Zealand, the UK, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and PNG. I have led the structural team on multiple high-rise and long-span structures including buildings, sculptures and stadia.

I provide strategic advice to architects, developers, building owners and managers and contractors around how to set up their building design to ensure it meets their needs. If you’re looking for strategic structural engineering input you’ll benefit from my experience and knowledge of the most efficient way to organise a structure to achieve a specific set of objectives. I also manage our structural engineering team, design the structures for new buildings and assess and strengthen existing ones.

My approach is to begin projects without a preconceived view of how things should be done, instead ensuring I understand the owner and architects’ specific objectives for that project. I then provide advice around how best to organise the structure to suit.  

You can expect open-mindedness and teamwork - everyone has different knowledge and experience and I believe in leveraging this to get the right outcome.

I will help to steer you in the right direction and will deliver technically. You can be confident that my team’s structural solutions are both feasible and efficient and that we can solve original challenges with no precedent. For example, we are currently designing the structure for a 100m long sculpture that can only be supported in the middle. When placed at Gibbs Farm it needs to look like it’s fallen into position. I also regularly work as an expert witness to help resolve disputes for government agencies, local bodies, insurance companies, building owners and construction companies. 

Project highlights include:
  • The Downtown Ferry Basin Redevelopment for Auckland Transport, which is being constructed ahead of the 2021 America’s Cup. Our structural engineering innovation and expertise has enabled a striking yet functional design for new ferry berths, gangways and gangway shelters along the western edge of Queens Wharf; together with alterations to the existing Ferry Terminal Building.


  • Ravenscar House in central Christchurch; a grand residence/museum that will house one of New Zealand’s most important private collections of fine arts, sculpture and furniture.  We worked with Patterson Associates Architects to design this important building and have protected it against future earthquakes on a base-isolated platform above the basement car park.  Earthquake demolition rubble from 2011 was used in the aggregate to make the precast concrete roof and wall panels.


  • The Rita Flyn Netball Centre, a $30m international level facility with seating capacity for 3,000 people, developed for the 2015 Pacific Games held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. We were involved right from the outset and agreed with the architect how to best set up the structure before he had developed his designs, important given that his vision was to make the structure part of the architecture. We delivered comprehensive documentation and the project ran smoothly.

  • Century Tower in Tokyo. Norman Foster was the architect and his outstanding design meant we had to design a huge floor area without any columns. The structural skeleton was to be exposed and needed to look great as well as perform in the event of an earthquake.

  • The Vero Centre. This iconic Auckland landmark continues to perform well and has no trouble attracting high caliber commercial and office tenants.


  • As an expert witness, I was joint investigator for DBH (now MBIE) into the collapses of the CTV Building in Christchurch, appearing at the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission. I also investigated and reported on the Stadium Southland roof collapse in Invercargill, and problems with the initial construction of the Vector Arena roof structure in Auckland.


  • Master of Engineering (Civil) University of Auckland

  • Member of New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering

  • Past President and Life Member of New Zealand Structural Engineering Society

  • International Professional Engineer (NZ)

  • Chartered Professional Engineer

  • Fellow of the Institution of Professional Engineers (NZ)

Ashley Smith
Jon Haagh.jpg



Director and senior structural engineer, with 20 years’ experience in New Zealand and the UK. I have led design for a range of structures - from educational and sculptural projects to multi-storey commercial, residential, retirement and carpark buildings.

I provide innovative structural engineering input that stands the test of time to projects for developers, architects, building owners and contractors who:

  • are designing or developing a new building

  • are planning alterations to an existing building


  • have received advice from their local Council about the seismic grading of their building.

My diverse experience on a range of different building types from educational centres and large-scale commercial through to multi-storey residential means I can work up solutions to complicated problems. This sometimes involves finding new and better ways of doing things.'


If you choose to work with me you can expect me to communicate clearly and regularly with everyone in the design team to make sure that:


  • I understand your desired outcomes

  • I meet these as well as agreed timeframes, and

  • my work is coordinated with that of the architect

Examples of my work, that demonstrate this innovation include:
  • Waiparuru Hall - Jon led the structural design of the largest catered school leaver hall in New Zealand, which was opened in 2020. It will be home to 786 residents across two towers. To improve structural performance and increase future flexibility, SDL advocated for the post-tensioned floors to be used in lieu of tradition beam and slab construction, which was further researched and accepted by the contractor.


  • The Diocesan School for Girls Aquatic and Fitness Centre, Auckland. The development of post- tensioned timber box beams helped Structure Design win a design excellence award at the 2009 Timber Design awards.


  • Tall Tree and the Eye, Anish Kapoor. The challenges on this sculpture, our first of several similar sculptures, were numerous, requiring intensive collaboration between teams and tackling unique problems, such as designing a shipping container to carry the sculpture from Auckland, New Zealand to London, England and finally on to Bilbao, Spain.

  • Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) (Hons), 2000

  • Member NZ Structural Engineering Society

  • Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng)

  • International Professional Engineer (IntPE)

  • Member, Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand (MIPENZ)

  • Member, Structural Engineering Society New Zealand (SESOC)

  • Member, New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering (NZSEE)

Jon Haagh



Senior structural engineer, with more than 12 years’ experience in New Zealand, Asia and the Pacific. I have experience of designing a range of structures - from commercial, industrial and multi-storey residential buildings to medical facilities, liquid retaining structures, power plants, educational and community facilities and sports stadia.

I am passionate about delivering successful projects that help clients to thrive and, ultimately, benefit the wider community.


This involves working with clients to overcome both conceptual and detailed problems; finding ways to strengthen old buildings cheaply and cunningly, providing architects with great designs with the minimum of hassle, helping contractors build as quickly and easily as possible, peer-reviewing large engineering firms’ work and meeting deadlines.


I enjoy using the architect’s or client’s design objectives to drive innovation in the structure. Technical challenges excite me because they force me to do things in a new or smarter way. Both these things allow us to achieve a legacy. For example, on the University of Auckland’s Engineering School project, I collaborated closely with the design team to achieve an aesthetic result in the structural steelwork detailing, as well as structural performance.


If you work with me you can expect a good quality design, delivered to the agreed programme, and clear communication throughout the process. I start by listening and really understanding what you want to achieve and then am methodical in the way I plan and execute my work both in terms of design and communication back to the client and to the wider project team. I talk to the architect to understand which aspects of their design are sorted and which are in flux so I can maintain flexibility for areas still being worked through. This results in a smoother, quicker process by minimising re-work.

The University of Auckland’s Engineering School is a key recent project of mine; other career highlights include:
  • Mercy Ascot Hospital redevelopment.

  • Jervois Rd apartments; 5 storeys of luxury apartments built over a 3-storey basement. What a view!

  • Mangere Arts Centre, a hub for arts & culture in South Auckland.

  • Designing foundations for the iconic Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

  • Working in the Solomon Islands on a number of aid infrastructure projects. The country had suffered from ethnic conflict which had decimated the construction industry, so working with locals to help the industry recover and upskill was really rewarding.


  • Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng)

  • International Professional Engineer (IntPE)

  • Bachelor of Engineering (Hons), University of Auckland 

  • Executive Member, Engineers for Social Responsibility

  • Associate Professional Certificate in Safety in Design, University of Sydney

  • Chartered Member, Engineering New Zealand (CMEngNZ)

  • Member, Structural Engineering Society of New Zealand

  • Member, New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering

Brenan Donnell



Structural engineer and qualified architect with 13 years of experience in Spain and almost 7 in New Zealand.  I studied architecture at University but realised my passion lays in the structural design of projects, so I decided to move to Barcelona to do my master’s degree in Structural engineering.

This background has given me an understanding of both perspectives and means I find ways of delivering structures that complement and enhance the architect’s vision.


You can expect me to adopt a problem-solving approach to your project.


Every development brings new challenges and I enjoy working with the wider project team to identify the best solution.

Project highlights include:


In Spain I worked on the structural design of many different types of projects, ranging from office and residential buildings, sporting facilities, hotels and schools.


Probably the most challenging and interesting one was the Water Park project for the Zaragoza International Exhibition.


Some of the most significant projects I have been involved since I arrived in NZ are:

  • Design of 33m long gangways for the Downtown Ferry redevelopment project.

  • Elm Street, a Kainga Ora development of 6-8 storey blocks in timber.

  • Hanging Jet Plane Sculpture, Sylvia Park Shopping Centre Auckland.

  • Several complex residential buildings.

  • Atrium building of the University of Auckland Engineering School.


  • Anglesea Medical Centre in Hamilton, a 2 storey building with steel frame and CLT floors.

  • Master’s Degree in Structural Engineering. Polytechnic University of Barcelona, Spain

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture and Urbanism. National University of La Plata, Argentina. Degree homologated by the Ministry of Education in Spain.

  • Member of Structural Engineering Society New Zealand


  • Member of the Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand (MEngNZ)

Gabriela Tufare
Melanie Wood.jpg


Structural engineer with over 11 years’ experience designing structures including residential, commercial and educational buildings, medical facilities, telecommunications and retaining structures. I also have a wealth of experience undertaking seismic assessments and seismic strengthening projects.

I am particularly interested in sustainable and efficient design including strengthening and repurposing existing buildings to extend their life, and I am keen to design more mass timber structures. I also enjoy working on projects that are architecturally unique as these are challenging, often requiring me to develop clever solutions to novel problems. It’s satisfying to both see structures come to life and be used by local communities.


You can expect me to understand your project’s requirements and work collaboratively with you to achieve your desired outcome, communicating clearly every step of the way. I will design solutions that are both efficient and buildable.

Project highlights include:

A Greenstar-rated, concrete frame office building in Auckland. As lead structural engineer, I worked closely with the architect to ensure the structure worked with the architectural design. The building functions primarily as an office and has been designed to Importance Level 3 based on the tenant’s requirements.


A performing arts centre in Auckland. This technically challenging, architecturally-designed project functions primarily as an auditorium with seating for over 900 people. The building also comprises a back of house area with changing and store rooms and a full height entrance foyer and function space. I was lead structural engineer and had to make sure the building tied in with neighbouring structures and met the client’s budget. I also worked closely with the other consultants on the project to ensure the building met their requirements.

A multi-purpose three-storey medical centre as part of a new development in Auckland. This houses multiple tenants with differing services and loading requirements. The building can be easily reconfigured for alternative uses in futures.

A house featured on ‘Grand Designs New Zealand’. The client wanted the house to look like a sculpture he’d seen. It had no vertical walls and the roof profile changed across its length. It also featured a mezzanine floor which hung from the roof. The project required a bespoke structural solution.


A number of seismic assessments and seismic strengthening projects for various construction types including concrete frame, shear wall, steel frame, cold formed steel and unreinforced masonry buildings. I have also completed several seismic strengthening projects for URM buildings around Auckland. Following the Canterbury earthquakes, I undertook damage assessment surveys of commercial, residential and industrial buildings mainly in and around Christchurch CBD.

  • Bachelor of Engineering (with Honours)


  • Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng)


  • Chartered Member of Engineering New Zealand (CMEngNZ)


  • International Professional Engineer IntPE(NZ)


  • APEC Engineer

  • Member of Structural Engineering Society New Zealand (SESOC)

Melanie Wood
Matthew Johnson.jpg



Senior structural engineer, with over 15 years’ experience in New Zealand and the UK. I help clients to achieve their architect’s inspiration by understanding the brief and developing a structural solution that supports this.

You can expect me to be flexible in my design approach - I am willing to look at all options. My solid background in all materials means I can consider not only what will work best but what’s available, at what price and in what timeframe. For example, as lead engineer designing temporary works for the City Rail Link (CRL) project, I managed around 30 varied jobs needing to be delivered in very tight timeframes with lots of interconnecting parts. This included the Noise Enclosure, a 16m tall, 40m wide, 45m deep portal frame building housing a 50-tonne crane needed to excavate materials around Karangahape station.

I am involved in designing a number of sustainable multi-storey timber structures and have enjoyed embracing developments in timber construction, which make it more viable than traditional materials.


Experience has taught me three things that are critical to delivering a successful design: understanding the brief, working closely with other professionals to achieve the client’s goals and considering the buildability of the various structural options open to me.

Experience highlights include:


  • Designing Grafton Halls of Residence with the University of Auckland. My first major project back in New Zealand consisting of three individual 3-5 story buildings with a communal dining hall.


  • Tall Tree Sculpture, an Anish Kapoor design. The concept involves 1m stainless steel spheres sitting on top of one another. The sculptures range from 8 metres to 15 metres tall. We make the artist’s design work structurally.


  • Royal Auckland and Grange Golf Club, a new 27-hole Nicklaus design golf course, a state of the art, classical contemporary clubhouse and a fully-fledged driving range and short game practice area.


  • Designing Pohutakawa Landing, a new retirement village for Metlifecare in Beachlands. The first phase which is complete involved designing amenities block with units on the first floor. The second phase comprises three 3-4 storey apartment blocks containing independent living units under construction. The third phase (currently in design) comprises a two-storey timber care building. By using a repetitive, simplistic structural solution, the client has benefitted from efficiencies and faster construction.


If you choose to work with me you can expect me to present information clearly, work closely with your wider team and deliver buildable structural designs that result in a building or other structure of which you can be proud.


  • A Bursary


  • Bachelor of Civil Engineering, the University of Auckland


  • Chartered Member of the Institute of Structural Engineers (IStructE)


  • Chartered member of Engineering NZ


  • Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng)

Matthe Johnson
Tim Swager.jpg


Structural Engineer and Engineering Manager, Tauranga with more than 11 years’ experience. I have designed a wide range of structures from commercial, retail and industrial to high-end residential homes, multi-unit residential buildings, educational and community facilities and infrastructure projects. I have also been heavily involved in seismic assessment and upgrade work and construction monitoring.

I am passionate about delivering great buildings that are architecturally interesting, unique, challenging or that bring the local community together. It’s fulfilling to see finished buildings that I’ve been able to help create, knowing they will leave a positive legacy.

Over the years I’ve designed structures using a range of materials including steel, concrete, and block masonry. However, the material I most enjoy designing with is timber. It’s not only great from a sustainability perspective, but timber buildings have a look, feel and warmth to them that really benefit their occupants. I’ve designed a number of timber structures including early childcare centres and a Pan Pacific Fale in Hamilton.


You will find me approachable, open-minded, reliable and collaborative. I pride myself on my problem-solving skills, close attention to detail and on communicating clearly, which includes explaining technical concepts in layman’s terms, where needed.


I am relishing the opportunity to build the Tauranga office to become the structural engineering partner of choice for innovative, challenging and complex projects as well as an employer of choice for structural engineers and draughtees in the Bay of Plenty region.

Project highlights include:
  • Design and construction observation of the new Selwyn Street, five-storey student accommodation block to house students at the University of Waikato’s Tauranga campus. This features a mix of structural steel and cross laminated timber (CLT) to remove weight from the structure, resulting in a cost-effective solution.


  • Designing a new Pacific Island Fale style community centre building to be constructed as part of the new Pan Pacific Hub in central Hamilton. The Fale is an important Level 3 building with a floor area of approximately 570m2 and is over 14m high at the centre of the roof. The structural system is almost entirely timber.


  • Design and construction observation of the three-storey Quest hotel and serviced apartment building in central Tauranga. The structural system comprises cross laminated timber suspended floors supported by a structural steel two-way moment frame. This reduces both the weight and the cost of the structure.


  • Designing a five-storey office building to be located in Tauranga, with steel-concrete composite tray flooring supported on structural steel beams with steel moment frames running in one direction and precast concrete shear walls in the other.


  • Undertaking the structural analysis for Westgate Footbridge, which crosses the North Western motorway at Hobsonville, Auckland.


  • Designing several large new kiwifruit cool store, office and canopy structures for OPAC in Opotiki.


  • Design and supervision of numerous low rise industrial, retail, trade unit buildings throughout the Tauranga region, typically using precast concrete panel and steel portal frame structures.


  • Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng)

  • Master of Engineering (Civil)


  • Bachelor of Engineering (Civil)


  • Member of New Zealand Timber Design Society


  • Member of New Zealand Structural Engineering Society (SESOC)

Tim Swager
Mahmoud Rafienezhad.jpg


Experienced Structural Engineer with a passion for both sustainable engineering and innovative design. I have over 12 years’ experience designing residential and commercial structures (including multiple high-rise buildings), bridges and undertaking seismic assessments.

I love problem-solving, which is why I relish working on complex projects. They allow me to combine my practical experience and research in order to develop new ideas that achieve a specific goal – be it to speed up construction, create more usable space, or play to individual contractors’ strengths. 

As technical lead at my last company, I trained young engineers from around the country and supported them on their projects. This experience has given me a really good understanding of the construction practice and market throughout New Zealand. 

Project highlights include:
  • The Pacifica, Albert Street. I was the lead designer on this 57-storey structure, the tallest residential building in New Zealand. My role included delivering the column design package and the 6-7 storeys of transition structure. 


  • The 12-16 Wakefield Street DSA. I undertook a detailed seismic assessment and strengthening design of this 18-storey tower. The complexity of the building and construction restraints required complex analysis skills, innovative design and a close collaboration with the contractor. 


  • VOCO and Holiday Inn Express Hotel, 58 Albert Street. I peer reviewed the design of this 39-storey apartment in Auckland CBD and signed off the Producer Statement (PS2) submitted for Building Consent. Given the height of the building and the location in the heart of Auckland, high-risk register was required by Auckland Council to review the design to ensure NZ Building Code compliance. 


  • Registered Producer Statement Author for High-Risk Projects (Auckland Council)


  • Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng, CMEngNZ) 

  • International Professional Engineer (IntPE(NZ), APEC Engineer) 

  • Master of Engineering in Structural Engineering 

  • Bachelor of Engineering in Civil/Structural Engineering 

Mahmoud Rafienezhad


Structural Engineer with over four year experience. I have designed a range of structures – from school and light industrial buildings to residential, including single dwelling and multi-unit new builds, alterations and extensions. I have also worked on numerous seismic assessments and seismic strengthening projects throughout New Zealand.

I’m passionate about bringing ideas to life. It’s a great feeling when I help make creative architectural designs into reality.

I’ve designed timber, concrete and steel structures or a combination of these for numerous satisfied clients. I selected the most economic materials and connections to meet the client’s budget, while ensuring the structure was quick and easy to construct.


You can expect me to partner with the architect to achieve your desired solution. This requires clear and timely communications and the ability to provide buildable designs that minimise the likelihood of complications occurring onsite. My focus is on building relationships with all project parties to ensure a best-for-project approach.

Experience highlights include:
  • 2 – Storey school building comprising of steel for the upper level and concrete for the lower level in a central Auckland school.


  • Designing the structures for multiple fast food restaurants and fit outs. This included close collaboration with both the client and architect to achieve their vision.


  • Carrying out initial (ISA) and detailed (DSA) seismic assessments and strengthening works on industrial warehouses/ buildings in Auckland, Tauranga, Nelson and Timaru for a well-known NZ food processing company.


  • Being part of the design team for three-storey concrete apartment buildings in Northcote and Glen Innes for Kāinga Ora.


  • Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)


  • Master of Business Management (due to complete in early 2023)


  • Member of Structural Engineering Society New Zealand (SESOC


  • Member of the Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand (MEngNZ)

Leon Yang


Structural engineer with a passion for innovative design methods and a background in developing software tools for engineers. I have designed structures for heritage, industrial and commercial buildings as well as for infrastructure projects. 

I am energised when doing new things. CLT is an area I’m looking forward to building expertise in and Structure Design’s capabilities in this area, were a key reason I decided to join the company. I enjoy the process of learning and continually striving to become a better engineer. 


A key strength is my ability to communicate well with both technical and non-technical project partners in a way that is easily understandable. I am also a good listener who builds client suggestions into the design. Clients can expect me to deliver an optimum design: one that is durable, constructable, works with the architecture and is neither too conservative nor risky. 


Within Structure Design, I will be involved in creating some automation tools to streamline both the design and draughting processes, which is an awesome challenge. 

Project highlights include: 

  • Pearson House in Parnell. This was a retrofit of a heritage brick building. My role involves ensuring the heritage features are preserved and the design is constructable. 


  • Ponsonby Pompallier apartments. As the structural engineer for this steel framed building with a concrete slab, which is currently at the early stage of design, I am working through how to ensure the structure supports the architect’s vision. 


  • Metlifecare Parkside. Structural engineering support for changes the client requested due to new ownership. 

Reza Kordani
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