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Pothole professionals

ANALYSIS: Letters to the Editor

I was disappointed to learn that Pam Whittington believes 'the shift from road building to maintenance is poor for engineers' morale' (NCE 9 September).

It is a sad indictment of civil engineering that many engineers believe working in maintenance is undesirable. Maintenance and repair can provide an engineer with a career just as rewarding and challenging as newbuild. Unfortunately there are too many in the profession who regard maintenance as 'just filling potholes'. It is this attitude which contributes to the high maintenance liability of our infrastructure, as engineers do not appear to have the knowledge or willingness to incorporate durability into the design and construction process.

I have recently been involved in investigations into the condition of several structures, some less than five years old, which are failing to achieve their expected service life. The defects could have been avoided with a sound understanding of the durability of the materials, their use in design and the care needed during construction.

Many lessons can be learnt from structural maintenance work. With an understanding of materials performance, engineers can design and specify to meet the challenges of any environment. Even in places like car parks, we need enhanced protection if durable, low maintenance concrete structures are to be built.

I believe we should not accept as a profession that engineers are incapable of producing designs that minimise future maintenance.

We need to educate our engineers that maintenance and repair of structures is a specialised and highly complex engineering discipline and that materials performance is as important as project management.

Professor Peter Robery (M), pcr@maunsell.co.uk

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