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Sutherland Engineers

Experts in the field of Rational Fire Design



Rational fire design meets cutting edge tech with Autodesk’s speciality applications

This family found business grew from humble beginnings to a multi-disciplinary consulting engineering practise. Sutherland Engineers is one of the few firms that offer the full spectrum of engineering services under one roof. The firm’s expertise lies in the field of Rational Fire Design and they were employed to design the fire detection, fire equipment, and sprinkler system for SCP Warehouse (8,800m²) that stores concentrated fruit juices. With BIM at the core of this project, Sutherland Engineers were able to host frequent meetings with the professional teams which helped with efficiency within the project parameters. This resulted in an estimated 5% reduction in time-to-completion.

About the Company

Founded in 1991 by Craig Sutherland and his father, Gordon, the company grew from humble beginnings to a fully- fledged multi-disciplinary consulting engineering practice, offering a comprehensive range of engineering services encompassing Structural, Civil, Mechanical (Wet Services, HVAC, Vertical circulation and Fire), Electrical, Electronic and Specialist Façades, making Sutherland one of the few engineering firms in South Africa that offers its clients the full spectrum of engineering services under one roof.

The company has a national footprint with the Head Office in Cape Town and branches in Tyger Valley, Johannesburg and Durban. Opportunities in Sub-Sahara Africa resulted in the establishment of Sutherland’s first office outside South Africa in Nairobi in 2014.

Sutherland Engineers’ multi-disciplinary services require specialised design and drafting software for the integration of the different engineering services. As such, they utilise several specialised software applications from the Autodesk AEC Collection including Revit 3D, Navisworks, AutoCAD and more. Supporting them is Modena Design Centres Cape Town who train and support the teams at Sutherland Engineering with in the software they use.

“We’ve assisted Sutherland Engineering with their training requirements across the board and we work with them to keep improving their workflows. Utilising BIM tools such as Autodesk Revit, Autodesk Civil 3D, Autodesk Navisworks Manage, Autodesk BIM 360 cloud solution – and more”

Anria Erasmus, BIM Consultant, Modena Design Centres

Partner Contribution

At Modena Design Centres we pride ourselves on building strong and meaningful relationships with our clients. Our highly consultative approach ensures we achieve a far deeper understanding of our clients’ business needs, and the day to day challenges they face.

With the knowledge gained, our solutions consultants are then able to recommend the appropriate Autodesk technology that “Best-fits” our clients’ requirements. Equipped with this heightened level of understanding, our knowledgeable and experienced industry specialists deliver quality training and implementation solutions. This ensures our clients have the best possible outcome in their adoption their Autodesk solution.

Our relationship with Sutherland & Associates is built firmly on the above-mentioned principles. Our understanding of Sutherland’s business conditions and technical requirements allow us to make recommendations which satisfies their workflow and productivity needs.

The business relationship between Modena and Sutherland has developed to a point where we are their first point of call for all design and workflow reviews, staff-upskilling as well as Autodesk software procurement needs.

About the Project

As experts in the field of Rational Fire Design Sutherland Engineers were appointed to design the fire detection, fire equipment and sprinkler system for SCP Warehouse, with the firm’s Murray Sole appointed as the Fire Engineer within their Mechanical Division on this project.

The SCP Warehouse covers an area of approximately 8,800m² and will be used to store concentrate fruit juices. The warehouse will house a 1,400m² chiller operating at +/- 10°C and a 1,450m² freezer operating at -10°C. The extensive experience that Sutherland has in this field is derived from a dedicated design team applying their experience on a multitude of projects ranging from private residences to large complex residential, commercial, industrial, retail, hospitality and mixed-use buildings.

The firm has a very rigorous, internal project management process in which they coordinate all elements of their workflow via weekly or bi-weekly meetings. In doing so, Sutherland Engineers are able to stay on top of their client’s needs and it gives them the ability to stay ahead of any changes in design that may be required throughout the project’s lifespan.

“Using Revit and Navisworks we’ve saved days’ worth of time on certain projects. Even though we spend a lot of time upfront on our designs - building integrated, multi-disciplinary, 3D models using software including Revit - the capability that the software unlocks for us means that any subsequent changes or updates required throughout the project’s life, are easier to implement.”

Murray Sole, Design Engineer, Sutherland Engineers


Ensuring the success of any large-scale project requires a lot of project coordination and stake holder engagement. This is where Tanya Stewart, Senior Engineering Draughtsman at Sutherland Engineers ensures that everything is on track from the Fire Engineering Modelling and Coordination point of view.

The project starts with a BIM kick-off meeting run by BIM Leader, Jessica Baisley from Capex Projects (Project Managers on this project) via TeamViewer to ensure the smooth running of the coordination process and facilitating the timeous uploading of models for coordination and discussion.

The BIM team would meet on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to tackle issues as speedily as possible. Tanya then had to setup the relevant models using Project and Survey co-ordinates from the architect. The next step involved linking the architectural design with the Sutherland model to ensure the most up to date data is available.

“We met regularly during the life of the project to run interference checks which were discussed immediately and updated across all relevant models before our next meeting,” says Tanya. Issues were addressed immediately which ultimately saved a lot of time over the course of the project.

Tanya Stewart, Senior Engineering Draughtsman, Sutherland Engineers


One of the biggest challenges with regards to a project of this nature was the 3-way coordination of AutoCAD, Revit and the workshop drawings created by the contractors.

This was a time-consuming process as the contractors only worked in AutoCAD. All the AutoCAD drawings would then have to be relayed into Sutherland’s Revit models. As more contractors get onboard Revit in their own workflows, firms like Sutherland Engineers will realize even more time and cost savings during the lifetime of a project.


Having the frequent online BIM meetings meant that the team at Sutherland Engineers could establish a rapport with the rest of the professional team.

This in turn adds an interpersonal element to a process in which parties often in the past tended to work in silos, especially from a drafting and coordination point of view. “Due to the efficiency of the BIM process, we’re more likely to see future collaboration with teams we work with, and this is great for future business” says Tanya.

“Very little support or training was required to get Bolt up and running in Fusion 360. I think this speaks mountains for how intuitive and easy to learn Fusion 360 really is”

Clive de Lange, Business Development Manager, Modena Design Centres

Budget savings

Utilising BIM in this manner, Sutherland Engineers have seen an estimated 5% reduction in time-to-completion on this project, and similar ones they’ve worked on. These time savings have resulted in some cost savings for the firm.

There can also be resultant significant savings in material costs on site. With detailed, upfront, 3D modelled building and accurately coordinated drawings between disciplines, we’ve seen at times at least a 10% in savings on materials on the site.

Utilising the improved workflow, coordination and collaborative teamwork aspects within the Autodesk software suite has provided Sutherland Engineers the tools to deliver highly optimised, cost effective, relatively quickly produced designs and drawings. These are used across the ten engineering sub disciplines offered to their clients on a very wide variety of exciting projects across Southern Africa and further afield.

“There’s no doubt that time saved is money saved, if we are able to address issues early on in the design process, we can aim to realise significant time and therefore cost savings later on in a project too”

Murray Sole, Design Engineer, Sutherland Engineers

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