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Recognition at last

Tony Gould

New status for temporary works engineers.

There has been a fair bit in the press recently about recognition, or rather lack of it, within society for civil engineers. A scan round the current London skyline is testament to both modern and historic civil engineering achievement; spare a thought however for the temporary works engineer (TWE). By definition, evidence of their work, be it above or below ground, has long since disappeared by the time the general public set eyes on the finished building or structure, so is it any wonder why temporary works engineers feel like a bit of the underdog when compared to our permanent works colleagues?

Temporary works are traditionally contractor designed and the trend over recent years has been to subcontract this responsibility further down the food chain to the specialist designer or designer/supplier. This has spawned a large, very competitive mini-industry of specialist proprietary equipment design. Healthy commercial competition has generated large fleets of rental based re-usable or proprietary equipment. Innovation in scope, methods, materials and technology has certainly kept me interested throughout my long career in temporary works. I will confess to be slightly biased, but I see real heroes in the teams of “commercial” engineers, many being freshly graduated, whose task it is to produce design after design to a very high and competitive standard.

Commercial pressure on these guys is huge, as an uncompetitive design submission is likely to be unsuccessful and since these designs are not fee based, will result in zero revenue. However, despite the aforementioned pressure, safety is paramount. Whether it is a small trench or a large basement, design work has to be carried out to the same exacting standards and of course be able to stand up to the closest scrutiny by checkers. Operating in a competitive environment has also improved the standard of supporting documentation and presentation material. The digital age, let’s not mention building information modelling here, is pushing us forward even faster. What used to be the exception is now the norm. All this is great for our industry and engineers.

So it is good to see evidence of more formal recognition of TWEs by our peers. The relatively recently formed Temporary Works Forum (TWF) for example is an excellent showcase for our work. I strongly recommend visiting their website - www.twforum.org.uk - in particular the publications section, to see what excellent information is now available. The role of the TWE as an integral part of the overall design team has also been recognised recently by the new Infrastructure Client Group with the formation of two temporary works specific High Speed 2 /TWF/ BSI sponsored publicly available specifications committees (NCE 27 November 2014).

One is on client procedures, the other on the old chestnut of temporary works design to Eurocodes. These documents are basically fast track standards that are being drafted as a result of lessons learned on Crossrail.

So in summary, the stock of the TWE seems to be on the increase, long may it continue to do so with TWE’s making a permanent impact on our industry.

  • Tony Gould is technical director, Groundforce Shorco

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