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NCE100 | Technical Excellence Awards


Technical excellence is what underpins civil engineering and it runs through our 100 firms. They employ 57,779 qualified engineers; 39% of the overall workforce.

Across the 100 there are 396 civil engineers sitting on executive boards, with civil engineers making up 61% of such positions. Seventy one of our firms have a civil engineer as a chief executive and 67% have a technical director on the executive board.

Proving that technical best-practice sharing runs through many of the 100, on average 41% of senior managers sit on industry panels and boards, with 13% of all staff – on average – getting involved in industry committees and professional knowledge-sharing groups.

technical excellence

On average the NCE100 firms have five ICE reviewers on their books.

R&D as a percentage of turnover – a classic measure of innovative spirit – is 3% overall. So the impression is that there is great technical excellence out there – and so it showed in our Award for Technical Excellence.

The judges were extremely impressed with the calibre of the shortlisted companies and stressed that all entrants scored very highly. In fact only two percentage points separate the winner from the two special commendations and 10 percentage points separated the nine entrants invited to make a presentation. All shortlisted contestants demonstrated a healthy standard of excellence within our industry, said the judges. 

Costain’s Materials for Life research into self-healing concrete revealed an outstanding commitment to a core materials issue at the heart of civil engineering, said the judges.

Costain showed genuine innovation and a commitment to invest in improving things for the good of everyone. It also demonstrated a sincere partnering ethos in that, even if the results eventually give rise to marketable products for specific uses, the contractor is willing to share and publish its research findings. There is still a lot of further research required but the team is clearly focused on seeing this through. 

Across the 100 there are 396 civil engineers sitting on executive boards

Special commendations also go to Atkins for its role in the re-engineering of Birmingham New Street station. This outstanding work required meticulous recalculation of all structural members using CP114 per its original design and then testing for any overstress and designing appropriate strengthening for a modified layout. The station has been re-engineered with complex demolition stages all carefully planned and the scale of the whole works to create a public friendly area is massive. All this has been achieved while keeping the station operational and yet it has been transformed into an iconic and beautiful hub that no longer divides the city into areas that cannot be accessed from each other.  

And also worthy of special mention is Arcadis for its Satellite global innovation programme – a leading-edge innovation process designed to identify and disseminate ideas and promote a culture that unlocks creativity within the organisation.

Bam Nuttall impressed for its adoption of a new specialised piece of rail laying equipment on the Borders Railway project. 

R&D as a percentage of turnover – a classic measure of innovative spirit – is 3% overall.

Instead of using standard kit to lay standard 18.3m lengths of rail, it decided that 108m long rails were the optimum length when considering ease of handling by the equipment.

And Ramboll stood out for its innovations on the Phase 2 strengthening of Hammersmith Flyover in London. Its use of ultra-high performance reinforced concrete has minimised the size of prestress anchorages and amount of complex reinforcement.

But technical excellence is not the exclusive domain of the big players. Engenuiti and Floodline Consulting prove that. Engenuiti impressed with the way it delivered a hugely complex three level basement with a column-free, 2,000-person capacity auditorium in the deeply congested ground beneath central London. 

And Floodline offered up a brilliant waterfront development of 225 homes with 24 “can-float” properties and a flood alleviation scheme for the wider community at no cost to the public purse. The scheme will protect a local village, downstream catchments and associated infrastructure which would otherwise be unable to secure funding due to low cost-benefit ratio.

Sustainable construction efforts do need a boost however; of our 100,  only 57 have a sustainability director at board level and just 36% employ a full-time, dedicated carbon manager.


Technical excellence award winner; Costain


Costain is sponsor and constructor of the UK’s only self-healing concrete research project, working with Cardiff, Bath and Cambridge universities. 

The three-year, £2M EPSRC-funded research is developing techniques to improve the resilience of concrete structures. Benefits include decreased repair and maintenance requirements, lower whole-life costs and a smaller carbon footprint. Improved resilience will necessitate fewer inspections and repairs, improving safety.

This Materials for Life ( M4L) project aims to create a new generation of materials and structures that will continually monitor, adapt and repair themselves without the need for external intervention. 

The UK’s first self-healing concrete site trial was constructed in 2015 on the A465 Heads of the Valleys Road project in South Wales, where Costain is main contractor. A structure consisting of several self-healing concrete panels was constructed, and is currently being tested and monitored to assess its performance.

The research draws on ground-breaking developments in biology, materials chemistry and materials science in the pharmaceutical, medical and polymer composite industries. 

It seeks to incorporate microcapsules, bacteria, shape memory polymers and flow networks, to give concrete structures the ability to repair themselves. 

Costain’s customer relationship was critical, as the trial involved placing advanced materials in a completely new environment within a live construction project. 

Costain pledged £600,000 contribution to help achieve the aims of the M4L research, sponsoring a full time PhD student at Cardiff University for the project.


 Low carbon award leader award winner: Skanska


Skanska’s Bentley Works in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, has undergone a significant redevelopment. 

Its facilities demonstrate how sustainable construction methods help to protect the environment and deliver savings for clients and their tenants.

At Bentley Works, green features such as natural lighting and cooling, solar panels that generate energy and a dual-fuel heating system that uses biomass and waste oil from machinery have reduced the workshop’s energy usage by 40% and office accommodation usage by 25%.

Skanska used in-house expertise from its foundations, mechanical and electrical, building and technical divisions to deliver the project. During the construction phase no hazardous materials were used and zero waste was sent to landfill.

The NCE100 judges said Bentley Works clearly demonstrated how its corporate low carbon ethos on low was translated into its delivery process and, more importantly, how it impacted the results. 

The winning organisation impressed the judges with its development of a colour palette to calibrate the carbon reduction on all projects globally. 

The project met five out of six criteria for a deep green project against the organisation’s green construction criteria. This was accompanied by a reduction in construction and future operating costs and, importantly, resulted in a high level of occupant satisfaction. 

More information and videos on the project are available here   

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