Dr Helen Fairclough

Department of Civil and Structural Engineering

Lecturer in Structural Engineering

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+44 114 222 5753

Full contact details

Dr Helen Fairclough
Department of Civil and Structural Engineering
Sir Frederick Mappin Building (Broad Lane Building)
Mappin Street
S1 3JD

My research aims to develop next-generation digital design tools and discover new, resource-efficient structural forms.

Dr Helen Fairclough

Helen graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2015 with an MEng in Structural Engineering. She then joined the department as a PhD student, working in partnership with Expedition Engineering in London. Her work evaluated existing structural optimization methods against real-world projects and developed new techniques to overcome issues with clarity and buildability.

After her PhD, Helen spent time working at the spin-out software company LimitState. Here, she focused on integrating structural optimization techniques into design tools aimed at practicing engineers. She was lead developer of LayOpt, a simple and freely accessible web-app that allows users to quickly find structural forms with minimal material usage. She also contributed to the Peregrine plugin, which integrates structural optimization into workflows using the popular Rhino/Grasshopper CAD system.

Helen then re-joined the department as a post-doctoral researcher working on projects including the 'Digital Design Tools for Long Span Structures' project. Through the methods she developed, new structural forms were identified. When compared with current long span bridge forms (e.g. suspension or cable-stayed designs) with the potential to allow significant material savings and to increase the length of span that is possible.

She was appointed as Lecturer in Structural Engineering in 2022. Her research uses computational and mathematical methods to enable resource-efficient structural design. The tools she develops have a wide range of applications, from long span bridges to additively manufactured components, and across a spectrum of traditional and low-carbon materials. 

Research interests

Minimum material structures

Form finding

Design of long span structures

Integration of digital tools into design workflows

Structural design using low carbon materials


Journal articles

Conference proceedings papers

Research group

Structural Engineering & Materials 

Computational Mechanics and Design / Intelligent Infrastructure groups


View all research projects

PhD opportunities

If you're interested in a PhD project please contact Helen at the above email. Current PhD opportunities in the department can be viewed here.