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Letters: Politicians and industry should all do more for less money

The main point:

More for less

More for less − efficiency is a major issue

Almost within the same blink of an eye we read (NCE last week) that the government has “told the construction industry to find ways of delivering more output for less cost” and that “there would be no parliamentary time to get Energy National Policy Statements approved before the General Election” raising the spectre of planning delays for power projects.

Would it have been too much for us to expect that these “servants of the people” should have spent less time on holidays and the expenses scandal to achieve some of the shortest parliamentary sittings on record, and taken a piece of their own advice and concentrated on delivering more for the country rather than for themselves?

  • Ewan Cappitt (M),


Regarding your articles on the issue of delivering more for less, the first important point to make is that there are a lot of high performing civil engineering companies − design and construction − in this country. But as a nation, our productivity is well below most of our major competitors.

What is needed across the industry is a major gain in productivity to catch up with, and then surpass, our European and other competitors in terms of value delivered to the customer.

If the industry is to achieve this it has to take up the challenge on a company by company basis. Neither the government nor the ICE can do it for them.

The government has a big role to play releasing companies to innovate through procurement, planning and standards. The ICE can provide frameworks and strategies, but individual companies have to rise to the challenge.

Civil engineering with its (necessary) standards and methods does not actively encourage challenge. Designers, contractors and service companies all need a shift in culture that gets everyone at all levels challenging the status quo, asking themselves:

  • Why do we do it this way
  • How else could we do it
  • What else could we do/use?

When this challenge is part of everyday life we will see a massive increase in performance.

  • Tim Aikens (M), director, Azarel,

The associated societies should move on or move out

Meeting room

Debate about the proposed increase in the ICE room rates for the Off shore Engineering Society, the international navigation association PIANC, the Society for Earthquake & Civil Engineering Dynamics, and the Central Dredging Association is long overdue and it is time these societies stopped complaining and accept the inevitable.

All members of the ICE have had to accept annual increases in subscription rates for many years and have done so, largely without complaint.

If the associated societies (ASs) are not satisfied, then perhaps it is now time to look elsewhere for cheaper rooms and reduce their call on the ICE secretariat’s services.

  • Richard Graham (M),


Sorting out SUDs

So [shadow environment minister] Anne McIntosh wants SUDS [sustainable drainage systems] to be “pushed” to water companies in England and Wales (NCE 18 February). Just when we were beginning to set up a sensible approach to stormwater management in England and Wales (lagging behind Scotland) a Conservative politician wishes to mess it up.

I travel a lot and the most successful arrangements for managing stormwater are those managed by local authorities around the world.

The place for this is with local authorities, who have a main mission of supporting the health, welfare and security of their communities. They are also the planning authority and can integrate stormwater management better into town planning than anyone.

The water companies’ main masters are their shareholders and regulator Ofwat is moving us away from any possibility of providing integrated water services by insisting on the illusory competition mechanism of inset “cherry-picking” by all sorts of opportunists to run parts of our water services.

I am astonished at how little McIntosh seems to know about how things work. Her arguments about who pays are naïve. All stormwater systems should be run by local authorities and we should work to disconnect combined sewers. Has she spoken to any local authorit engineers?

  • Richard Ashley, professor of urban water and researcher, Pennine Water Group, Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, University of Sheffield, Mappin Street, Sheffield S1 3JD

Clued in to Eurocodes

I am surprised and concerned by the results of your recent Eurocodes survey that illustrate the general lack of awareness and reluctance of much of the UK to accept the new design codes (NCE 11 February).

The threat to UK companies that do not embrace the Eurocodes is real and already in evidence. Our European competitors are already well ahead of us in terms of understanding and using the new codes − many of their more recent national codes were rewritten using Eurocode principles in the 1990s, for example.

Conversely Eurocodes potentially open up new markets to UK consultancies prepared to embrace the new design codes, and not just within Europe.

Countries in the Middle East and the Far East for example are already considering adopting Eurocodes as they update their current national standards; many have already taken this decision and have begun their Eurocode implementation process.

Within Atkins we have been embracing the opportunities that the Eurocodes bring to bridge engineers over several years. We have published extensive design guidance for bridge engineers and developed detailed, tailored training courses. This has been cascaded to all 700 of our bridge engineers.

  • David A Smith (F), regional head of bridge engineering, Atkins, Woodcote Grove, Ashley Road, Epsom, Surrey KT18 5BW

Doubling up

Has anyone considered installing underwater turbines on the off shore wind turbine towers to take advantage of the tides and boost the amount of energy generated by each tower?

  • Peter Clark, stamboul@

Quest for clarity

Quentin Leiper’s Viewpoint (NCE 18 February) presents a false hope to prospective applicants to the Queen’s Jubilee Scholarship Trust (QUEST) Continuing Education Award as it failed to point out particularly that the scheme is not designed to fund courses that will be used as further learning for membership of the ICE.

Another visit to the ICE website on Leiper’s behest revealed that this exclusionist and anti-CEng eligibility criterion for this award still exists. Suffice to say that while some of the institution’s scholarships encourage students to enter our profession, another discourages them from getting chartered.

Leiper wrote: “Courses are typically at MSc level in technical and management subjects”. He should have cautioned further that these courses should not be good enough for use as further learning for CEng.

In fact there is a higher chance of being given a Quest scholarship to progress a career via an MBA, a law course or even one in medicine, than there is to pursue any discipline in civil engineering since it appears that a course in the latter would be considered as further learning.

Professional bodies should support their members to pursue courses within the discipline and practice of that profession because it would lead to higher professional recognition.

While this award may not be derived from our subs, and committee decision is final, would the ICE (or the QuestExecutive) explain or expunge this criterion?

  • Al-Amin I Al-Hassan (M), engineer - highway development control, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, 5th Floor, Jacobs Well, Bradford, BD1 5RW

Ending the silent suffering

The concern you expressed over the industry’s safety performance is valid (NCE 4 February).

The 53 fatalities from site accidents in 2008/2009 were 53 deaths too many. Safety is a critical issue for our industry and must remain a continuing focus. But where is the mention of health?

“Silent victims” die or remain disabled as a result of workplace ill-health issues in construction. For the same period 2008/2009, Health & Safety Executive statistics show 500 construction worker deaths from dust/silica related health problems and 1,000 construction worker deaths from asbestosis.

In total this is 30 times more deaths in one year from health problems than safety related incidents. But a management solution is now available to address this scandalous state of aff airs.

Constructing Better Health (CBH) satisfies Construction Design & Management Regulations health management requirements and off ers clients, contractors, supply chain and employees a practical scheme to manage and improve the health of their workers.

From improved health comes enhanced effi ciency, longer term skills retention and a more attractive working environment. At last real totality of meaning to “health and safety”.

With CBH, the industry’s “silent victims” can have a better and healthier future.

  • Trevor Walker (F), chairman, Constructing Better Health, B&CE Building Manor Royal, Crawley RH10 9QP

Your views & opinion

NCE welcomes letters from readers. We attempt to print as many as possible, which means letters longer than 200 words are likely to be condensed.

The Editor, NCE,
1st Floor, Greater
London House,
Hampstead Road,
London NW1 7EJ

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