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Professional Profile: John Swift

Lab Manager speaks to John Swift, Partner and Global Healthcare, Science and Technology Sector Lead with Buro Happold

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John Swift, P.E., CEM, LEED AP, is Partner and Global Healthcare, Science and Technology Sector Lead with Buro Happold in Boston, MA. Lab Manager recently spoke with John about his career, experience, and personal interests.

Q: What lab projects are you working on at the moment?

A: Every project we work on in this sector excites me, and many of them are confidential so I can’t provide details on most of them. But what I can say is that Buro Happold is a value-driven organization. We value human well-being, and we care about the legacy of our work. We strive to be an influencer in the shaping of the world. There is no better way to do this than to contribute innovative solutions to the development of programs, building environments, and communities that support the scientists, healthcare specialists, and technology engineers who will solve the greatest problems of our times.

Q: What is the biggest work-related challenge you’ve faced? How did you overcome it?

A: The biggest challenges are those instances at the end of a project when something goes wrong, and it costs everyone money and frustration. Luckily it doesn’t happen often, but the few times that it does you feel like you let the client and your team down—even when the reasons for the issue are complex and multifaceted. That said, the engineer winds up in the hot seat on occasion, and then it is important to do what engineers do best: solve the problem in an optimal way. Regardless of how the question of responsibility shakes out in these situations, I try to focus on solutions, which has always resulted in a positive outcome.

Q: What is one important skill you think that all lab design experts should have? 

A: It is important to clearly understand the reason a building is being built. Oftentimes, we as engineers get too focused on the types of systems before we understand what the broader mission and vision for the building is. By having a broader perspective, we can design solutions that make a facility great from every relevant performance metric. Every solution has a multidisciplinary baseline, so we don’t just implement a system without looking at all elements of how it can be optimized. We design a flexible infrastructure, and clearly communicate the level of flexibility provided to optimize the value of the building for the landlord and the tenant or end-user. It is very important to be organized and to be able to communicate clearly and consistently. 

Q: Tell us about a great book, movie, song, or TV show you’ve enjoyed recently.

A: The books Abundance and Bold by author Peter Diamandis address the challenges that the world faces with a positive and constructive approach. We need more of that, especially in the world we live in today. And on a lighter note, I love the irreverence of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in the next few years in this new position?

A: Buro Happold will continue to focus on people-driven solutions for our building projects and the communities they support. I hope that our influence expands geographically and also through our industry in areas where we are already working. The legacy I personally would like to leave is for the people who I work with and who come after me to be as excited and proud of the work we do in the future as I am right now every day.