Over the past five years professional services consultancy WSP has grown significantly, and its recent rebrand from WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff to WSP reflects that. WSP’s global workforce has grown to more than 36,000 with 85 companies coming together.
WSP has been involved in many of the world’s high-speed rail projects. For the past 16 years, it has been programme manager for the £17bn Taiwan High Speed Rail project. It has also provided systems integration services on China’s 161km Shijiazhuang to Taiyuan Line. And it is the rail delivery partner for the California High Speed Rail, which was a first for the United States. In the UK, WSP has been railway systems consultant on Phase 1 of the High Speed 2 (HS2) project.
WSP helped project promoter HS2 Ltd deliver a hybrid Bill (featuring characteristics of both public and private Bills) in just 18 months. It has since been appointed to deliver railway systems designs and engineering for HS2 Phase 2. Last year the UK team collaborated with American colleagues – particularly international high-speed rail expert Frank Banko – to provide an independent review of HS2’s rolling stock strategy documentation. Banko was awarded the 2010 William Barclay Parsons Fellowship to study the application of high-speed rail express trains in the US, giving him access to some of the world’s foremost experts.
The UK’s Great Western Electrification Programme (GWEP) was another high profile project for WSP. This was one of the first projects in the rail industry to use the Rail Safety & Standards Board (RSSB)’s new rail carbon tool. The project was used as a case study in PAS2080, the world’s first standard for carbon management in infrastructure. Together with client Network Rail, WSP worked to identify and understand the carbon hotspots associated with the design of the overhead line electrification.
A flagship project for WSP was South Africa’s Medupi Power Station – one of the world’s largest power stations – bringing 4,800MW of power to a growing population. No large power station has been built in the region for 20 years and the project has stimulated economic growth and development in the remote northern province of Limpopo.
WSP developed and implemented solutions throughout the life of the power station project. Medupi has also provided construction work for thousands of South Africans, and WSP has developed a formal skill and knowledge transfer strategy, incorporating education, interaction with local schools, and the employment of seven disabled trainees.
Also in the Limpopo region, WSP sponsored and built the Shaongoane Community Care Group, providing community home-based care, and a drop-in centre for orphaned and vulnerable children.
The centre will have 37 staff looking after around 100 children aged between three and 19 years old. It will also promote health in schools and the community, via door-to-door campaigns relating to diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV and Aids. It will provide basic sanitation with a borehole and running water system.
WSP argues that sustainability is at the core of its engineering efforts, whether it is improving the performance of the ground source heat pump serving seven million plant specimens at the Royal Botanic Gardens, or reducing Gateshead’s carbon footprint with a state-of-the-art natural gas powered energy centre serving 400 homes.
WSP has also set itself a number of diversity targets. By 2020 its goal is to have at least 20% of senior leadership roles taken up by women. This currently stands at 11%, but is an increase from 9% in 2015. Last year 23% of its apprenticeships and 28% of graduates were female. WSP has established its own Women in Leadership mentoring network, and sponsors women in industry awards.
It is also looking to inspire young women to go into engineering, and recently held an insight day where throughout the day, 10 female students coded robots and participated in building, design and problem solving activities.
This year WSP took part in the London Pride parade for the first time and carried out a poster campaign across all UK offices and social media to showcase its lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) employees, battle HIV stigma, and demonstrate why inclusion is so important to business.
WSP also set up Vibe, its LGBTQIA, employee network. And five employees will be joining Stonewall’s LGBT Role Models Programme in the next 12 months.
Special mention goes to WSP employee Athena Livesey and her contribution to the profession. At the end of last year Livesey was inaugurated as Association for Consultancy & Engineering (ACE) Progress Network UK chair.
This 2,000-strong group of young professionals works within consulting and engineering firms across the UK to develop and enhance business skills.
As lead for the ACE Progress Network, Livesey heads up the development of strategic plans for future development and retention of the best industry talent. She is also a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) ambassador and visits secondary schools every quarter.
Looking to the future, WSP collaborated with architects Farrells, and published a white paper on the future of autonomous vehicles called “Making better places: autonomous vehicles and future opportunities”.
WSP continues to explore the future of engineering, delving into energy performance in commercial buildings, airfield pavement techniques, acoustics and tall buildings as well as the idea of “overbuild” a concept, proposed by WSP director Bill Price, for building on top of London’s public assets.
NCE100 ranking: 3
Shortlisted: Contribution to the profession, low carbon leader, diversity champion, international impact