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Consultants File Awards 2010: Outstanding Achievement Award

The winner of this year’s NCE/ACE Outstanding Achievement Award exemplifies the positive role that engineering can play in rebuilding broken lives.

Winner: WSP post-tsunami Banda Aceh reconstruction team

At its best, engineering has the capacity to improve peoples’ lives beyond measure, and what better evidence could there be of this capacity than the successful rebuilding of communities devastated by a natural disaster?

The winner of this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award is a team from WSP who helped to design and deliver 4,000 new, permanent homes in the Indonesian district of Aceh, for people displaced by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Many TV reports from that time focused on Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra, which was one of the areas most seriously affected by the tsunami. It was close to the epicentre of the earthquake that caused the tidal surge, and within 15 minutes Aceh City was almost entirely destroyed.

“It was a really inspirational project and a worthy winner.”

Judges’ comment

An estimated 230,000 people in the region died and nearly 500,000 were displaced. Fifteen months after the disaster most of the survivors were still living in temporary accommodation.

This was the situation in Aceh when WSP was first contacted by the Canadian Red Cross (CRC). The CRC was one of the main agencies tasked with providing permanent new homes for displaced families in the aftermath of the disaster.

Although the organisation was experienced in disaster relief, it did not have either the necessary technical expertise or experience of dealing with construction companies to be confident it could deliver the 4,000 new homes it had promised.

CRC called in WSP to provide this expertise, and the consultant found itself managing both the design and construction process, and also taking part in a major social development programme.

“They responded quickly to a difficult situation and were sensitive to the local community needs.”

Judges’ comment

In awarding WSP the Outstanding Achievement Award, the judges were aware of the many challenges faced by the team, including the remote location of sites and difficult living and working environment.

The team also had to deal sensitively with the delicate issue of who should benefit from the new homes: the tsunami had resulted in many government records being lost, so there was no evidence of title to property.

Meanwhile some communities had seen their land disappear under water, and new sites had to be identified and agreed and their environmental impacts assessed before work could start.

WSP also had to overcome traditionally poor standards and quality of construction, as well as a lack of skilled workers at a time when resources were already overstretched.

One of the early priorities was to involve the communities in the design of the new houses, resulting in a “core” house that could be modified by its owners without compromising structural integrity.

“The real challenge for the team was engaging and collaborating with the community in Banda Aceh.”

Judges’ comment

The result was an earthquake-proof reinforced concrete frame and brick infill structure with a zinc roof, housing 44 sq m of living space that includes two bedrooms, bathroom and a kitchen on the external rear veranda, in accordance with local custom.

Not only was the design well received by the new occupants, but it was also within the building capability of local contractors. WSP engaged five Indonesian consulting firms and four local contractors to construct the new houses, while providing planning, management, engineering, surveying and social analysis skills from within its own team.

Again, the judges were impressed that WSP had gone to such lengths to share the work with − and use the expertise of − local consultants to deliver this important project.

“They responded quickly to a difficult situation and were sensitive to the local community needs,” said the judges. “The real challenge was engaging and collaborating with the community. It was a really inspirational project and a worthy winner.”

But perhaps the last word should go to 11-year-old Arief Munandihar, who lost four of his seven brothers in the Tsunami. “I love this house,” he says. “If an earthquake happened, the house will not be broken, it just moves a bit.”

Finalist: Yogita Maini, Halcrow

Yogita Maini

Yogita Maini

As the first female civil engineer to graduate from the University of Botswana, Yogita Maini is determined to use her experience to inspire more women to enter the profession.

Zambia-born Maini now works in the UK, but is recognised as a role model within Botswana, and is working to develop better gender equality there.

“Yogita demonstrates engineering at its best”

Judges’ comment

Maini now has an MBA to add to her civil engineering degree, and was the first woman executive council member of the Botswana Institution of Engineers.

Her commitment to alleviating poverty led her to set up the global Transport Knowledge Partnership (gTKP) to support initiatives for sustainable transport in developing countries.

Now based in Halcrow’s Birmingham office, Maini juggles professional and family commitments with encouraging women to join the profession.

Finalist: Paul Starr, Halcrow

Paul Starr

Paul Starr

At 65ha the Dames Point container terminal in Jacksonville, Florida, is one of the largest container facilities on the east coast of the USA.

Completion of the massive port project in January 2009 was a major success story for all involved, including Halcrow’s project manager Paul Starr, who managed both the design and supervision of the construction.

“This was an extremely difficult project, and Paul was instrumental in delivering it successfully.”

Judges’ comment

The project involved creating two 366m berths designed for a water depth of 14m, together with six container cranes and the capacity for two more. Starr’s “hands-on” style is credited as being a major contributor to the success of the project.

Al Rodriguez, regional director for the project’s architect of record Powell Design Group, says: “The project’s positive outcome was in large due to the personal qualities of dedication, loyalty, integrity and determination that Paul displayed.”

Finalist: 7 More Riverside, London, BDP

PwC's new offices

PwC’s new offices

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) new building at the More London development near Tower Bridge is the first major office in the UK to be awarded the BREEAM “Outstanding” rating.

Although the planning requirement for the building was set at “Very Good”, BDP’s environmental engineers and interior designers identified that an “Excellent” rating could be achieved.

“Being awarded the BREEAM Outstanding rating was impressive.”

Judges’ comment

BDP did this by by incorporating 80% recycled aggregate in all the concrete, bio-fuelled combined heat and power (CHP) units and active chilled beams.

As the highest rating possible had already been achieved on the shell and core, making the leap to “Outstanding” required extensive effort by all the fit-out parties.

Enhancements included hot water perimeter heating, changing the bio-fuel from rapeseed to recycled cooking oil, water sub-metering and CO2 detection for zonal control of fresh air.

Finalist: Nepal rural access, WSP

Remote areas will benefit from WSP designs

Remote areas will benefit from WSP designs

Poor road access condemns many communities in Nepal to poverty. The Department for International Development funded Rural Access Programme (RAP) has kick-started economic development in the country by enabling isolated villages to have access to the national economy, as well as health and education schemes.

WSP designed RAP in 2000, ten went on to implement the first stage of the programme, which was completed in 2008. The second phase is currently under construction.

“A good example of infrastructure being used to drive economic development in poor communities”

Judges’ comment

During RAP1 357km of district roads and 276km of feeder roads were built to connect Nepal’s remote hill areas, with a further 365km set to be built in RAP2. A savings scheme was also set up for the 47,000 workers who helped build the roads.

A proportion of their wages has been allocated to develop new income generation projects for members of their communities.


The Outstanding Achievement Award is sponsored by ACO Water Management

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