For many civil engineers their working life can feel a little like Spike Milligan's description of war: 'long periods of boredom, punctuated by short bursts of panic.' But, every so often, it's worth putting aside the concerns over poor pay, lack of status etc and making an effort to feel good about what you do.
The annual publication of the British Construction Industry Awards shortlist (see News) provides a good opportunity for a bout of positive thinking. This year's shortlist contains many projects with real resonance for the world at large, as well as recognising technical and management expertise. Civil engineers have met the demands of an array of social, political, commercial and logistical needs.
An alternative approach might have produced the following nominations:
Symbol for a new Europe: The Reichstag Parliament Building.
Symbol for a new Scotland: Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Symbol for a new London: The Jubilee Line Extension.
Rock 'n Roll hall of fame: The National Centre for Popular Music, Sheffield.
Sole English success of the Cricket World Cup: The Lord's Media Centre.
Best PR triumph for civil engineering: The moving of the Belle Tout lighthouse.
The shortlist also demonstrates that almost whatever subject has dominated the news agenda, civil engineers have been right there in the midst of things. Consider the relevance of the following schemes in the debate on the issues of the day: The National Maritime Museum (heritage); the Rosyth Dockyard (defence spending); the Bluewater Shopping Centre (consumer spending); the Newbury bypass (transport and environment); the M1/A1 Link road (transport and private finance).
None of this, of course, provides an answer to the problems facing the profession or the construction industry as a whole. But it does underline their importance and relevance. After all, what other industry can look back on a year in which it created something which will have a profound impact on such diverse groups as Olympic athletes, German MPs and Hong Kong commuters?