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ICE North West Awards: Achieving Excellence

Individual civil engineers and civil engineering project achievements were celebrated at the ICE North West Awards 2015.

At a recent debate in Manchester, chaired by ICE President David Balmforth, there was lively discussion about how the industry, can foster more pride in civil engineering.

It was a timely debate, focusing on how civil engineers will be fit for the future, set in the context of future predictions of vast skills shortages, along with a visible gender imbalance in civil engineering and other construction sectors.

It may well be true that civil engineers do not always take the time to reflect on the successes they deliver. Yet for ICE North West is important that they do. Doing so helps engineers show what a truly dynamic and essential business they are in and helps them ignite the spark of passion to encourage the engineers of tomorrow.

A few hours after the debate an audience of around 400 gathered to celebrate some of the vital - and indeed inspiring - work carried out by civil engineers across the North West. The call for entries for this year’s ICE North West Annual Awards 2o15 had been “Tell us who or what makes you proud”.

Swinden and Lee Green

Swinden and Lee Green impounding reservoirs: Medium project of the year winner

This year’s Awards showcased some of the best of civil engineering projects across a range of categories, recognising the achievements of individuals as well as team efforts. A fascinating range of schemes and some dedicated individuals were nominated.

A remarkable partnership between the Saddleworth Community Hydro group, United Utilities and, wind/hydropower specialists Renewables First was a clear winner for the Community Award 2015.

The £516,000 project, was funded jointly by 160 shareholders and a £220,500 grant from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs’ Rural Carbon Challenge Fund. It now generates enough electricity for 75 houses, using water which would otherwise have gone to waste.

“In respect of community engagement, the bar has certainly been raised so that which was deemed noteworthy several years ago, is now the norm,” said one of the judges Pauleen Lane, group manager for national infrastructure at the Planning Inspectorate.

Aoife Nugent and Balmforth

Best results in ICE North West’s Law and Contract Course: Winner Aoife Nugent collects her award from ICE President David Balmforth

“Dove Stone Hydro stood out for several reasons: it was a well-integrated, community-based, sustainable engineering scheme, it was brought to fruition over six years by a determined and resilient team and its lasting legacy is the generation of electricity from water that would otherwise have been wasted. It is a clear example of civil engineering bringing about community benefit.”

Civil engineering encompasses creating the new, repairing the old and often a combination of the two.

This was the case in Burnley, Lancashire, where two large raised reservoirs - considered pioneering examples of civil engineering from the time of the industrial revolution - needed new work to maintain safety in modern flood conditions. This meant carrying out improvements to 19.8m high and 285m long embankments at the Swinden reservoir and to embankments 6.6m high by 125m long at Lee Green. There was also a variety of supporting work involving bridge strengthening, protecting pipes and building haul roads plus a temporary steel access bridge. All of this had to be carried out in challenging logistical circumstances, and much of it during freezing winter conditions. The judges unanimously voted Swinden and Lee Green Impounding Reservoirs Project ICE North West’s Medium Project of the Year 2015.

“Most members of the public never see this kind of civil engineering work, but it’s a really vital part of how the country manages its water supplies and minimises flood risks at a time when we’re adapting to climate change,” said ICE North West regional chair and chair of the awards judging panels Kathleen Harrison.

Dove Stone

Dove Stone Hydro: Winner of the Community Award 2015

“You have to admire a project like this. It was completed on schedule over 16 months, with a brilliant safety record in the hazardous conditions of a very severe winter,” she added.

The Large Project Award went to the United Utilities Sludge Balanced Asset Programme based around the Davyhulme Wastewater Treatment Works in Trafford, Greater Manchester.

With its new thermal hydrolysis plant, Davyhulme boasts the biggest facility of its kind in the world - a plant that turns sewage into fertiliser that can be sprayed safely onto grassland, while generating enough electricity to run the whole wastewater treatment works. It even offsets carbon emissions. Although the project took 12 years to plan, a staggering 80%of the work was completed on site in just 16 days. This was mainly because key process components were manufactured off-site, reducing site operations and health and safety risks.

“This scheme really is a fine example of civil engineering. The project has produced a state-of-the-art plant, worthy of being replicated all over the world,” said ICE North West regional director Alan Butler.

Dave Hill and David Balmforth

Mentor of the year: Dave Hill (centre) collects his award from David Balmforth and ICE North West chair Kathleen Harrison

As impressive and important as these projects are, none of them could be completed without a team of dedicated professionals. It is this professionalism that stands at the very core of the what the ICE represents. With the vital support of volunteers, ICE members attend key careers fairs and events to explain how unrecognisable the world would be without civil engineers who build and maintain our infrastructure.

Nurturing tomorrow’s talent also extends to supporting colleagues in their career progression, a role that is often carried out on top of an already demanding day job.

For the past seven years, ICE North West has highlighted and celebrated this work with its Mentor Award. This category is always hard to judge, but the judges found the winner, Dave Hill of Balfour Beatty, to be passionate and enthusiastic in his support of other engineers. His mentees clearly found him to be inspirational too with one going on to become a mentor themself.

Will Smith, based at Mott MacDonald in Manchester, took home the Volunteer of the Year Award in recognition of his efforts leading Engineers for Overseas Development’s project to build a grain store for a women’s cooperative in Uganda. This involved working to raise over £30,000 in the North West, and then carrying out construction work in a developing country, with all the inherent challenges of a different climate, culture and language.

Davyhulme sewage treatment works

Sludge Balanced Asset Programme, Manchester: Large project award winner

The successful completion of the project is having a positive impact on the lives of those who use it.

Aoife Nugent of Costain won the Award for best results in ICE North West’s Law and Contract Course, which prepares engineers to sit the ICE law and contract exam. Nugent achieved a distinction in the law paper - one of only four awarded - and was very close to achieving a distinction on the contracts paper too, missing out by just a few percentage points.

Other commendations were also awarded on the night.

The judges awarded a Highly Commended to Network Rail’s Chorley Tunnel and Flying Arches Scheme, which formed part of the project to electrify the railway between Manchester and Preston.

Grain for Gain

Grain for gain: Won the Volunteer of the Year award for Will Smith

Civil engineers were tasked with lowering the floor of a railway tunnel to make room for an overhead electric line - and in the process had to put the 16 “Chorley Flying Arches” back in their original position on the approaches to Chorley Tunnel. The Grade II Listed propping arches dating from 1841 had been removed in 2008 as part of another project, on the condition that they were to be reinstated at a later date.

The judges awarded a Specially Commended certificate to the Engineers for Overseas Development’s North West group for its Grain for Gain Project.

  • The ICE North West Civil Engineering Awards 2015 principal sponsor was Jacobs, with associate sponsors Livigunn and Manchester Smart Motorways.

Civil Engineering skills, Fit for the Future?

debate panel

Debaters: (left to right) Nigel Jacques, Northern Hub; Cath Schefer, MWH Global; John Carson, Laing O’Rourke; Peter McDermott, Salford University; Andy Belcham, Arup

Over 100 civil engineers from the North West came together to consider whether the industry’s skills and workforce will be fit for future challenges, in a debate chaired by ICE President David Balmforth.

The North West - famous for its industrial heritage but with plenty of infrastructure work still to be done - is not alone in facing challenges in terms of a predicted shortfall in the future civil engineering workforce.

According to a recently published report by Engineering UK, the industry will need 25% more graduates and more than double the current number of technicians by 2020.

Speakers from a broad range of sectors offered their take on the issue, and provided highlights about what their respective organisations are doing to address the challenges, including some interesting and supportive work patterns allowing employees to fulfil other commitments alongside their work.

Two areas of particular concern were the impact of recent changes in further education, with a range of suggestions about how industry can help alleviate the burden of student debt, and how the knowledge of senior civil engineers can be retained by allowing them to “retire slowly” so that their expertise is captured.

“Discussing the issues, learning what others are doing and seeing what could be adopted elsewhere was incredibly useful.

“Civil engineers play a hugely important part in the world we live in today and will have an equally important role in building the world of tomorrow; the future is what we make it,” said ICE North West regional director Alan Butler.


What they said about the awards

“This year’s awards clearly demonstrated the vital role played by civil engineers in everyday life. Between them, these projects have improved water management in Lancaster and Blackpool, improved station access for disabled people in Manchester, helped bring peace of mind to residents through flood defence schemes in Lancashire and Cheshire, and helped modernise the region’s railways.”
Andy Dunn, vice president, Jacobs


“We have entered the ICE North West Awards for the last 10 years; something that we think is very important to our business. There are the obvious benefits from showcasing our projects in front of our target audience and of course the fantastic PR if you are fortunate to win but equally, if not more important, is the buzz around the office from the individuals who have been working day in day out on the projects.”
Stewart Tennant, director, Livigunn


“It’s clear that soon we’re going to have skills shortages in the profession. We need to get much better at promoting ourselves and the industry. It’s not always easy to find the time, and maybe it’s outside of our comfort zone, but engaging with the public and students, and showcasing our work at awards such as this, will help us cast civil engineering in a new light.”
Louise Pavitt, operations manager, Manchester Smart Motorways




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