Member spotlight: Anni Zhou


Anni Zhou was the Northern Region winner and National winner of the Next Gen Award in 2023. Since winning Anni has gotten more involved with the Institute and has joined the Young Professional Advisors committee. 

Anni is passionate about the use of digital construction methods. Her Master’s research project is entitled “Digital approach to track embodied carbon in building through life cycle assessment.” Anni works as a Professional Quantity Surveyor for Rider Levett Bucknall while she completes her studies at Massey University in Tāmaki Makaurau | Auckland part-time.

We asked Anni a few questions to get to know her better. 


What did your NZ Building People Awards Win mean to you?

Encouragement. This Award provided me an invaluable opportunity to connect with construction professionals with the same vision and passion about digital construction, I’m not alone. It also provided me an opportunity to capture people’s attention to adopt digital transformation in construction: it’s not as hard as you think, my background is QS and Accounting. I’m encouraged to continue learning in digital construction, especially in searching solutions for technology bottlenecks and limitations.

Appreciation. My professors at Massey University are not only supporting students academically, also caring about students’ wellbeing from their hearts. Construction is a stressful and male dominated industry, spending time with scientific mindset people in the campus do help me to withdraw from stress for a little while and renew my body and spirit. This award also represents my lecturer’s achievement, I wish to bring honors to my school, and give back more in the future when I’m more capable.

Belonging. NZIOB is a big family, with top experts in New Zealand. From how NZIOB took care of the finalists in Christchurch, how NZIOB assigned finalist to VIP tables to have opportunity talking to senior professionals, to the new faces come up to say “Hi” and “Congrats”, I feel welcomed and very relaxed, the atmosphere is like catching up with family members.


What is one thing you love about your job?

Now I’m working as a client-side PQS who has a privilege to oversee the project from concept to handover, and interface with wider range of stakeholders. My job enables me to get involved in all stages of the project, which is also multi-dimensional BIM environment, I can study and test my new ideas, ask loads of questions to Digital Engineering Managers, Designers, Planer and Sustainability advisors, they all fit a dimension of the BIM environment, quite often, we can come up with alternative solutions through these constructive conversations.

RLB office has very diverse culture, people are from Middle east, Asia, Europe, Africa. I’m very interested in knowing different cultures and history, what other people believe, what their philosophy is, and what common value I can find. I enjoyed talking to my Sri Lanka colleagues about Sir Arthur Clark, one of my favorite sci-fi writers who lived in Sri Lanka for decades, their number 1 attraction - Sigiriya Rock is as mysterious as pyramid in Egypt. I think Sir Arthur Clark ‘s most influential novel “Rendezvous with Rama” is inspired by Sigiriya Rock, the cylindrical spaceship described in this novel also appeared at the end of movie “Interstellar”.


What is one change you would love to see made in the building industry in NZ?

I would love to see people changing their mindset.

It’s the imaginary boundaries that block our thinking. Get to know new people and experience new things, be self-confident and make a breakthrough. Do not act as traditional polite English gentlemen, sitting on the same boat with strangers but remain silent all the time, only because they haven’t been introduced.

Who inspires you in the Building Industry and why?

Not any particular person, as I learn from everyone, everyone has their own expertise and gives me inspiration.

A problem I encountered at work made me to talk to Engineers, Architects, Planners, and Project Managers, to view the problem from a different perspective, these discussions always generate new ideas and alternative solutions.

A BIM Lead colleague once said: “Anni, you are the only QS from commercial team come to talk to us.”


What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?

I read Yuval Noah Harari’s book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” a few years ago, since then I regularly watch his speeches and read his new books.

I did an assignment about AI a few months ago, hence read some academic journals about how AI is inspired by the structure of human brain. Normally I feel forced to read academic journals for completing literature review, but this time, the articles about AI’s theory, history and applications are so fascinating to me. It’s not cold mechanical science, but a science unlocked the mystery of human brain, neuron, and probably intelligence. The unsupervised learning algorithms operate with input only model, like raising children: keep adding inputs and big data, but you don’t know what the output could be, it’s different from coding and programming which gives output as well.

I’m particularly interested in Machine Learning and Computer Vision. Currently watching Standford University Professor Fei Fei Li and Andrew Ng’s AI lectures on Youtube, to learn how algorithm is formed. Dr. Fei Fei Li has contributed to the latest developments in deep learning, and regarded as one of the 100 Most Influential People in AI 2023.

I highly recommend watching “Fei-Fei Li & Yuval Noah Harari in Conversation - The Coming AI Upheaval”, it’s funny, insightful, and inspiring.



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