Drawing on 35 years of design experience, Founding Partner Paul Fast reminisces about his work on groundbreaking projects such as the long span timber roof structure for the 2010 Richmond Olympic Oval, the 18-storey TallWood House at the University of British Columbia and the daring catenary roof structure for the Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre.

The structural engineering profession, when practiced to its fullest potential, is one filled with much adventure, risk, and reward. Exploring and hunting in the magnificent setting of the Rocky Mountains in the Province of British Columbia is also an activity that has no shortage of thrills for adventure seekers. Paul Fast shares his parallel experiences in the outdoors and in the design office, weaving together common themes such as the joys of mountaintop experiences, disappointments in the valleys, hard climbs, unexpected scary moments, and the many pleasant surprises along the way.

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Meet the Author

As founder of Fast + Epp, Paul is passionate about design excellence. He has emerged a leader in architecturally-exposed structures and is recognized for his unconventional use of materials, including hybrids of timber, concrete and steel.

For over three decades, Paul has been the design lead for many of the firm’s most significant award winning projects, including the Richmond Olympic Oval, the Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre, the Kingsway Pedestrian Bridge, and the 18-storey Tallwood House at UBC.

In the spring of 2010, he was named an honorary member of the Architectural Institute of British Columbia and a Fellow of the Institution of Structural Engineers in the U.K. In 2013, the Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia accorded Paul their highest honour, the R.A. McLachlan Memorial award. In September 2021, Paul Fast was awarded the 2021 Gold Medal from the Institution of Structural Engineers for his exceptional contributions to the advancement of structural engineering.

Paul sits on advisory boards with the Structural Engineers Association of British Columbia, and the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of British Columbia. He is a frequent lecturer in both English and German and enjoys mentoring young engineers in the office. Paul is a Clinical Professor at the College of Fine + Applied Arts, University of Illinois.


Yet another engineer´s biography? No! Read this book and if you are an engineer yourself you will be rewarded with an abundance of structural inspirations. If you are not, chances are high that you will want to become one.
Mike Schlaich
sbp Schlaich Bergermann Partner


An engineer’s heart is revealed through Fast’s central role in creating some stunning projects. Years of life experience poured into the search for optimum performance through the sensitive use of beautiful materials. And for those who wonder, the stories are full of the tricks and secrets of a master craftsman, a Stradivarius of timber structures…for the enjoyment and inspiration of everyone.”
Chris Wise
Senior Director, Expedition Engineering


“Paul Fast is a pioneer and courageous adventurer in the realm of mass timber structures. His engineering solutions are designed with panache and executed with bravura. Design Trails is a compelling read, written with the same enthusiasm and excitement, a wonderful narrative that charts a path to a more sustainable future.”
Don Schmitt, Diamond Schmitt Architects

   Book Review

“Most books devoted to structural engineering focus on the techniques and processes which underpin great structural engineering. But this book is different. Design Trails: Adventures of a Structural Engineer by Paul Fast focuses on the human stories behind great structural engineering. The reader is offered the privilege to enter Paul’s life, and to experience the delightful and intimate sets of adventures which have cumulatively led to Paul’s extraordinary success in our profession.

I have stated before that the dividing line between the Gold Medallists of our Institution and the rest of us is astonishing creativity in all they do. As one of our Gold Medallists, Paul oozes creativity, and his book reveals the stories behind this wonderful talent.

The reader quickly picks up that Paul’s adoration for life’s simplest but most precious attributes—such as nature, family, friends, and having ideas —completely underpins his approach to, and success in, structural engineering. From Gulpy the Whale (don’t ask, just read it) to the restoration of Mannheim, the book provides an insight into the mind of an extraordinary designer and inventor—a great engineer, in other words.”

Read the full review here.