Civil engineering front and centre
Civil engineering front and centre Nov 2010
Shani Wallis, Editor, TunnelTalk
Delivering 'value' in every sense of the word and managing the paradigm shift towards a low carbon economy were themes of the new ICE President's address on Tuesday night (2 Nov) at the Institution of Civil Engineers in Great George Street, London. In an address that was broadcast live on-line to more than 80,000 ICE members in 150 countries, the 146th President of the Institution, Peter Hansford focused on "getting the best out of what we can afford", stating that "civil engineers are in the spotlight", that they are "front and centre stage" and "closer to the heart of society". "The future depends on us... to not watch, but to lead".
146th ICE President, Peter Hansford,
Hansford is an Executive Director of the project management consultancy Nichols Group, London. With more than 30 years experience in the creation, development and execution of major projects, he has worked for government, public and private clients, consultants and contractors in a variety of industry sectors in the UK and overseas.
Hansford's early career was with Amey Roadstone Construction, followed by Maunsell Consultants Asia in Hong Kong. He joined Nichols in 1986 as a consultant and was assigned as engineering manager for the Docklands Light Railway City Extension. He was Executive Director Infrastructure at the Strategic Rail Authority from 2000 to 2002 and was a founding non-executive Board Member of Cross London Rail Links Limited, the Crossrail company.
He is currently a member of the ICE Infrastructure UK Steering Group overseeing a Government-led investigation into ways of reducing delivery costs of major infrastructure projects in UK.
He is a graduate in civil engineering from the University of Nottingham and in business administration from the Cranfield School of Management.
During his address, Hansford concentrated on five principle themes:
'Value for money'
Massive cuts in public spending have increased scrutiny of infrastructure investment plans to levels never seen before. Delivering value is not to be mistaken for producing cheap or low quality work but about achieving maximum benefit from resources. Society has the right to demand that civil engineers maximise the benefit from scarce resources.
Changes in the UK Government's approach has seen appointment of a Chief Construction Adviser (Paul Morrell); a long-term National Infrastructure Plan that integrates all sectors of infrastructure, which are two firsts in the UK; creation of Infrastructure UK within the Treasury; and announcement of a Green Investment Bank, to support funding of low-carbon solutions. "Maybe, before long", Hansford suggested, "we will have a Minister for Infrastructure in the UK."
Hansford stated that according to the World Economic Forum, the UK is ranked 33rd for the quality of its infrastructure placing it below all major competitors in Europe and North America. "Investment is needed to ensure the UK's economy remains competitive, to deliver energy security and to underpin the transition to a low carbon economy."
He said that 'Infrastructure UK' has estimated that an investment spend of £40 to £50 billion is needed each year until at least 2030 to address the issue. This will have to come from the public and private sector with the Government creating the necessary conditions to encourage investment.
Accountable clients
In delivering value for money, Hansford said he had learned that there are two vital steps in delivering successful projects - getting the governance structure right and having an effective project client.
A client who is accountable for the project investment and ensures the project delivers value for money. There's been plenty of excellent guidance on being a good project manager, but very little on being a good client, he said, and referred to the Client Best Practice Guide published by the ICE last autumn.
There is evidence he said that the cost of infrastructure is higher in the UK in other countries. This summer, Infrastructure UK launched an investigation into ways of reducing the cost of major UK infrastructure projects with the Institution playing a key role in the study.
Value for carbon
As well as the urgent need to reduce costs, Hansford highlighted the need to reduce the carbon that is embodied in or used on creation of the nation's infrastructure. The UK is committed to reducing carbon and greenhouse gas by 26% from 1990 levels by 2020 and by no less than 80% by 2050.
Transport networks use the most energy and reducing emissions from road transport is recognised as being a major step in achieving carbon reduction commitments.
Moving people and freight from road to rail as a target needs much more rail capacity. While the cost of decarbonising the UK energy sector has been estimated at more than £230 billion. "Less carbon usage does not mean less construction. It means considering whole-life costs and net present value in carbon factor terms. Reducing carbon on the scale demanded, is the biggest change management programme that the industry has faced since Victorian Times.
Value of engineers
"As civil engineers, we must show the value of our professional qualification. We must show we're competent to practice. And we must inspire trust in what we do and how we maintain and develop our competence." To demonstrate this, Hansford suggested that members declare their continuing professional development (CPD) record each year and recommended establishment of a panel to oversee the auditing of CPD records.
The vital need for new engineers was acknowledged. The need for experienced engineers to mentor less experienced engineers for introduction of advanced technical apprenticeships and development of schemes for delivering positive messages to young people in schools about civil engineering careers were targets emphasised. "The current economic climate makes recruitment decisions difficult and more than 13% of last year's graduates are still without a job. But a hiatus in recruitment has caused a shortage of trained engineers in later years. We must not lose a generation of young engineers."
Value of the Institution
In closing, Hansford considered the value of the Institution itself and its strategy to deliver:
• professional civil engineering qualifications;
• a high quality knowledge network and latest engineering thinking; and
• an independent voice to influence governments.
He said: "As President, my role is to lead this great Institution and promote its policies and the interests of the profession. There will be no great change of direction during my year as President. I see my role as taking the baton in the relay race to deliver value."
TunnelTalk Editor attended the event as the guest of Sydney Xavier, London Region Committee Member and past Hon. Secretary, and met with among others:
  • pic 1

    Former ICE President Bill Francis

  • pic 2

    Former ICE President Doug Oakervee

  • pic 2

    Past BTS Chairman Bill Grose (left) and Sydney Xavier (right)

  • pic 2

    A tunnelling set: (from left) Mike McConnell, Maurice Gooderham, and Peter Jewell

Institution of Civil Engineers

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