Lucy McDonald is a senior architectural visualiser at Strata, where she specialises in producing photorealistic images of new build homes and interiors. Her skillset expands to animation in both 3D and 2D including motion graphic work and she is also a commercial drone pilot, taking videos and survey images for 3D photogrammetry as well as hobby work. Lucy is passionate about CGI and creative design within architecture and construction, and she volunteers as a STEM ambassador, inspiring the next generation to learn the skills required in modern technology.
“I believe it is important to have diversity in all industries, not just construction. When people with different backgrounds and perspectives come together they are more likely to challenge the status quo and come up with more innovative solutions.”
College was a time when I faced pressure from family and school to pursue traditional academic subjects but, in a way, this helped me to define my career path and become the unapologetically authentic person I am today. I made a complete U-turn and swapped my entire subject set for design, I started tinkering and modding games like Skyrim, where I created custom armour for the game. Modding, short for modification, refers to the practice of altering or adding to the code or content of a video game. Yes, you better believe my career started from liking video games!
It may seem counterintuitive, but I pursued a degree in animation — this enabled me to experience different design technologies through 2D, stop motion and 3D artistry. By having this broad knowledge set I had the opportunity to explore different career paths by being a 3D generalist at a design studio (as well as taking on freelance work separately) where I would create visualisations from designs for companies such as Paddy Power, Dandara, Keepmoat and Days Inn.
From that work I had developed a lot of knowledge of architectural drawings and Strata was the best fit going forward to expand my knowledge and explore new technology, recently becoming a qualified drone pilot on our construction sites to aid our visualisation and survey needs.
Wide-ranging and fun
My role as a senior architectural visualiser is wide-ranging and encompasses a variety of tasks.
Typically, I collaborate with architects, engineers and planners and bring their designs to life, creating high-quality 3D visualisations using 3D Studio Max and Unreal Engine. I work as part of a team, and we create still computer-generated images [CGI] and virtual tours of Strata’s new homes. I provide feedback to junior members of the team to help them develop their skills and ensure that our work is of the highest quality.
I also fly some impressive drones for 3D photogrammetry in our visualisation department and surveying developments. This helps architects and construction workers to track the progress and schedule of construction projects, giving our customers peace of mind too.
Being a STEM ambassador
I am passionate about being a STEM ambassador and part of the school outreach programme. I love visiting schools and talking to young people about my experiences, delivering presentations, and leading fun workshops. I believe it is important to break stereotypes within the tech and construction industries, and to show young people that there is more than one route to finding their perfect job. I want to help them to be authentic, true to themselves and to pursue their dreams.
I visit schools within the Yorkshire region for all ages, talking about my experiences so far and answering any questions that children may have about the world of work. I am always impressed by how engaged and keen to learn the young people in these schools are.
Photo-realistic and immersive
Within the construction and design industry technology is ever changing and developing — 3D visualisation is more accessible and affordable, making it easier and cheaper for people to create 3D models, renders, and animations.
This technology is now being used in a wider range of industries than ever before. The realism of 3D graphics through ray tracing and AI are making it possible to create CGIs that are more photo-realistic and immersive. 3D scanning technology is also making it possible to create 3D models of real-world objects quickly and accurately, infinitely speeding up the design processes.
Coming together to challenge the status quo
I believe it is important to have diversity in all industries, not just construction. When people with different backgrounds and perspectives come together they are more likely to challenge the status quo and come up with more innovative solutions. This can help to make housing more affordable and accessible for everyone. By embracing diversity, the industry can make better decisions and have the trust of the customers, team members, and the public.
Creating a positive impact on the environment and local communities
Well-thought-out schemes that have a positive impact on the environment and local communities are a priority for Strata.
One of our key initiatives is Biodiversity Net Gain, where we incorporate existing biodiversity features, such as trees and hedges, into the design of our developments. This helps to increase the overall biodiversity of the area, providing habitat for wildlife, improving air quality, and reducing flood risk. We also employ local people during the construction and operation of our developments, which boosts the local economy and creates jobs.
At our Customer Experience Centres, we hold workshops to create community for new people moving in. This helps to build social cohesion and a sense of belonging, leading to a more vibrant and inclusive community. We also provide space and playgrounds for children to give them a safe and fun place to socialise.
Inclusion at Strata
At Strata, we believe that everyone has something unique to offer, and we are committed to creating a workplace where everyone feels welcome and valued. We are proud to be a Disability Confident employer, and we ensure that the needs of each person are catered for throughout the interview process and employment.
Beyond this, Strata has numerous other initiatives. We are recognised as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces by Great Place to Work, and we also ranked ninth in their list of Best Workplaces for Women and number 36 in their list of Best Workplaces for Wellbeing. We have a number of Mental Health First Aiders across the business and offer a listening service to all team members. We are proud to pay all our team the National Living Wage irrespective of their age and have a flexible approach to work which encourages a better work-life balance for our team.
Careers in construction
I would say to anyone interested in construction careers that they should talk to as many people as possible and learn about their experiences. LinkedIn can be a great resource, or directly contacting small companies and just having a casual conversation can be especially useful in deciding if that career would be a good fit. It’s important to recognise that there are many different jobs within construction and there are resources available out there to help women succeed in the construction industry such as the Women into Construction.
Coming up next
I’m excited to see how we can push the boundaries with real-time rendering and immersive applications. Customers will start to see a completely digital interactive experience to find and customise their new home in a realistic real-time application. I will be pushing forward for greater realism from drone photogrammetry, and I am keen to continue my work as a STEM ambassador and school outreach programmes to inspire the next generation to give them the motivation, courage and confidence to achieve their goals.