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Software leads the field

Leading engineers this week named progress in software development as a greatest advance in construction. They made the claim as part of the NCE/Corus quest for construction’s most significant development.

Bridge engineer and partner at consultant Flint & Neill Ian Firth credited finite element analysis software for many of the advances he has seen in construction "enabling us to realise things which never could be before".

Buro Happold associate director and project coordinator for the design of the Millennium Dome Tanya Ross chose a software package which analyses tensile structures as construction’s greatest advance. "Until then "Tensyl" fabric designs were either extremely conservative or relied on physical modelling and testing.Clearly, we would not have the Millennium Dome without it," she said.

Millennium Wheel structural engineer Jane Wernick thinks emailing has revolutionised the industry, while Charles Walker, structural engineer and architect with architectural practice Zaha Hadid, has nominated computer integrated manufacturing – where data is communicated from the drawing board straight to the fabrication yard. "We’ve had digitally enhanced design and analysis and now we have digitally enhanced production," he said.

Arup’s Beijing Olympics Aquatic centre project leader Tristram Carfrae said "virtual prototyping" is the greatest revolution in construction. This is where a whole project is created virtually before being built, eliminating unknowns.

Arup’s Beijing Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium project director Michael Kwok believes that increased computer processing speeds have had the biggest impact on the industry, allowing vast quantities of data to be analysed rapidly.

■ Read these nominations in full at Send nominations for the Greatest Advance in Construction to advance@emap. com or Corus Greatest Advance, New Civil Engineer, 1st Floor, Greater London House Hampstead Road, London, NW1 7EJ. For more information visit

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