Civil engineers: inspiring, innovating, informing

Download Civil engineers: inspiring, innovating, informing

Post on 10-Mar-2017




0 download


  • 3

    Civil Engineering volume 166 Issue CE1 February 2013

    Presidential address: Civil engineers: inspiring, innovating, informing Clarke

    ICE Publishing: All rights reserved

    Civil engineers: inspiring, innovating, informing

    This is the inaugural address of Barry Clarke, who became the 148th president of the Institution of Civil Engineers on 6 November 2012.

    I am honoured and humbled to be elected as the 148th president of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the members of which have created so much of the infrastructure people use today. In this address I set out how I plan to lead ICE and help to prepare the civil engineers of tomorrow by ensuring that education has a role to play throughout a civil engineers life to

    n inspire the next generation to become civil engineers

    n innovate by creating and sharing knowledge

    n inform societal decision making.

    The past presidential addresses in the ICE library reveal not only the development of engineering but also the development of society as the professions forebears dealt with the issues of their day. This makes the addresses more than just a great tradition: they are living history.

    Consequently, ICE is recognised and respected across the globe as the authoritative voice of infrastructure, a foundation of learning and professionalism, and the home of civil engineering since 1818. It is therefore appropriate that the ICE president is tasked with building upon and celebrating this legacy, while ensuring that the profession always looks to the future. The profession does that by ensuring education and lifelong learning have a role to play throughout civil engineers careers, helping them meet the challenges ahead so that they

    n contine to fulfil ICEs core purpose under its royal charter, inspiring the next generation of civil engineers

    n support ICEs members to develop the skills and knowledge to produce innovative solutions

    n inform societal decisions as the authoritative voice of infrastructure

    That is my vision for ICE.

    Meeting societys changing needs

    Through the leadership of Tom Foulkes and Nick Baveystock our past and current director generals ICE has been transformed. They have helped to modernise and align ICEs resources in these difficult economic times, helped ensure it remains relevant, and that it meets the changing needs of its members and the society it serves.

    The vice presidents collectively represent the entire breadth of civil engineering. As leaders of the profession, they provide a unique combination of skills and experience.

    But it is the graduates of today who will be responsible over the next 40 years for delivering the infrastructure that society needs. I am very pleased to have the support of my six apprentices Catherine Inglesfield, Mark Sanders, Sanaya Kerawala, Conall Doherty, hayley Sharp and Richard Smith and the NCE graduate of 2011, Claire Gott. They are now developing their knowledge of ICEs role so that the baton can be passed on.

    To generate the engineers of the future, ICE must engage with young people like its apprentices and improve their understanding of engineering; but it is also the responsibility of members each individual member. Many members are doing their bit with the support of ICE, but more is always needed.

    The profession faces a challenging time ahead. At the time of this address, the USA is electing its next president. That result will have implications for everybodys future, showing that the profession must

    always be prepared for change. It is clear that civil engineers must cope with delivering the infrastructure that underpins society during times of great uncertainty. As society enters the low carbon economy, it must face up to climate change. Populations continue to grow, here in the UK and around the world, placing greater demands on the Earths depleting resources.

    Infrastructure has a role to play in transforming lives, and the profession must meet that challenge. Civil engineers must also tackle new ways of working as a result of greater connectivity through the digital revolution. The road ahead may be


    To generate the engineers of the future, ICE must engage with young people like its apprentices and improve their understanding of engineering; but it is also the responsibility of members each individual member

  • 4

    Civil Engineering volume 166 Issue CE1 February 2013


    Presidential address: Civil engineers: inspiring, innovating, informing Clarke

    long and difficult, but it is also filled with opportunity at every turn.

    Before looking to the future, consider the context in which civil engineers are operating right now. Construction is always needed, but that need is becoming more and more urgent for example, as outlined in the UK governments National Infrastructure Plan (hM Treasury, 2011). The plan envisages well over an additional 200 billion of investment in infrastructure in the lifelines that support society over the next decade and beyond. This will help rebalance the national economy and create growth in the future.

    however, the UK construction industrys skills base is at risk because of the current downturn. Minor works and maintenance, major projects like high Speed 2 and whole-scale restructuring of the energy system need engineers. Labour and skills are needed for all projects, large and small. Some important skill sets are already known to be in short supply, especially in specialist areas such as new nuclear or geotechnical.

    There are about 50 000 civil engineers in Britain, delivering a highly sophisticated infrastructure network. But is that enough? The Royal Academy of Engineering estimates that 820 000 science, engineering and technology professionals will be needed by 2020, with 80% of these required in engineering.

    Figure 1 shows the pipeline of new civil engineers for the last 20 years. Up to the 1960s, the majority of them started with

    an apprenticeship. Now they start their engineering career with a degree. At the moment there are around 5000 graduates of civil engineering degree programmes in the UK every year, of which 60% enter the industry. This year saw a 12% drop in the number of civil engineering course applications. This shows the impact the downturn in the industry is having on our future capacity to deliver, as fewer bright young people look to civil engineering as their career.

    The majority of graduates will have started to make choices which affect their career path at the age of 11 more than 10 years before they graduate. There are around 850 000 11-year-olds in Britain. Out of that number, perhaps as few as 3000 will eventually become civil engineers. Clearly, professionals need to do more to inspire them to consider a career as civil engineers, to create the workforce needed for the future.

    Inspiring the next generation

    I wanted to be a hairdresser; but now I want to be a civil engineer. Those were the words of an 11-year-old girl as she watched the Gateshead Millennium Bridge being brought down the Tyne so inspired was she by the sight of this unique project. having inspired the public at the time, it is now an iconic structure; a destination, as well as a bridge. So why is this important?

    It shows that civil engineering affects

    every aspect of peoples lives. It is not just about creating the infrastructure people depend on. It is about transforming the way people work, the way they live and the way they think. Civil engineers should never underestimate the impact of what they do, because they must inspire the next generation of civil engineers. It is the only way the profession can continue to deliver the infrastructure that society so badly needs.

    The message is now entering the public domain, as the recent BBC television programme Built in Britain showed. Presenter Evan Davis said, Britain has become a nation which is once again rediscovering its skill for epic engineering. In showing some of the UKs most breathtaking infrastructure projects on a primetime television show, the public saw infrastructures ability to transform the landscape, and the role of civil engineers in delivering this transformation.

    I can still remember the incredible lecture Ove Arup gave in his home city and my spiritual home, Newcastle upon Tyne, when he explained how they actually built the Sydney Opera house. he turned a daring concept into a physical reality, creating huge precast concrete shells through the pioneering use of computers to model the roof and analyse its structure. International engineering wonders like Sydney Opera house, the Shard and Burj Khalifa will naturally inspire anyone who sees them.

    Yet in my experience, it is the iconic































    t n




    Figure 1. After a decade of growth, the number of applications and acceptances to UK civil engineering degree courses is now in decline

    As the built environment is adapted to cope with climate change, the low carbon economy, new technology and societys expectations, civil engineers will have to innovate. Innovation is about creating new products and processes: it is what distinguishes engineers from scientists

  • 5

    Civil Engineering volume 166 Issue CE1 February 2013


    Presidential address: Civil engineers: inspiring, innovating, informing Clarke

    structures in our own regions that really capture peoples imagination for example, the Forth Bridge, the Falkirk Wheel, the Tyne Bridge, the Antrim Coast Road and Cardiff Millennium Stadium.

    In London, the building of the Olympic Park has inspired countless young people. Civil engineers, working with the Olympic Delivery Authority alongside other built environment professionals, have played a vital role in bringing the Olympic Park to life. It started with the demolition of over 200 buildings, the cleaning of more than 2 Mt of soil and the protection of wildlife and plant species. This led to the construction of the supporting communication, water, waste, energy and pathways networks. And finally, the feats of civil engineering include the iconic Olympic Stadium, the velodrome and the Aquatics Centre (Figure 2).

    It has been an exemplary project, delivered on time and on budget. It has been a ground-breaking project, delivering a sustainable solution and inspiring people around the world. For engineers, it has truly been a world-class success. But what does the public think of the Olympic Park? Of course, they are all aware of the outstanding success of those who excelled on the track. One billion of them worldwide watched the opening ceremony on television. Danny Boyles sequence itself acknowledged the crucial infrastructure that underpins our society and has done since the Industrial Revolution.

    At a fundamental level, Britain built the Olympic Stadium so that athletes could realise their dreams and win gold medals. And for everyone watching live, the Olympic Stadium was a bubbling cauldron of excitement. But the Olympic Park was also built to create a legacy by regenerating the area for future generations, transforming an area of run-down dereliction into a vibrant community and business location, as well as leaving a legacy of world-class sporting facilities.

    Innovating to survive

    Engineers work with the environment to create a sustainable future. This was the conclusion of his Royal highness the Prince of Wales when he delivered the ICE halcrow lecture earlier in 2012. This differs from ICEs definition of civil engineering civil engineers use as opposed to work

    with the environment. It reflects a shift from the rational age of engineering to an age where the systems approach will dominate.

    As the built environment is adapted to cope with climate change, the low carbon economy, new technology and societys expectations, civil engineers will have to innovate. Innovation is about creating new products and processes: it is what distinguishes engineers from scientists. The aim is to deliver real benefits in terms of time, cost, quality, safety, sustainability and, most importantly, function.

    It is the function of the professions work that is the real benefit to society. This includes Britains major road network, founded 2000 years ago, the drainage systems of the seventeenth century, the canals of the eighteenth century, the railways of the nineteenth century, and the built environment created in the last 200 years.

    Civil engineers have built a trillion infrastructure in the UK, an incredible legacy of the Industrial Age. Building, operating and maintaining this infrastructure has created a wealth of knowledge making ICE one of the worlds leading authorities on civil engineering. Much of that infrastructure is still operational because it has been developed, drawing on this knowledge, to cope with the changes in technology, legislation and expectations.

    It is knowledge which informs the innovation that has allowed civil engineers to adapt infrastructure, making it fit for todays purposes. This is absolutely

    crucial as societys expectations shift. Resource depletion; population growth; water, energy, food and bio security; urbanisation; poverty; and climate change mean society has to have sustainable infrastructure that is fit for purpose. This is an age in which the future of the world is dependent on what society does now. This requires society to be innovative; people have to innovate to survive. But meeting these needs is no easy task. how can civil engineers deal with this perfect storm of increasing expectations, decreasing resources and climate change?

    The future is never certain. The digital revolution is creating new ways of working; environmental changes are threatening societys survival. ICE will have to recognise that its knowledge underpins the continuing education of its members enabling them to be innovative in their thinking in the twenty-first century to cope with this period of transformation.

    The knowledge programme generates four major benefits for ICE.

    n It directly fulfils ICEs core purpose of fostering and promoting the art and science of Civil Engineering.

    n It supports the professional development goals of its members.

    n It demonstrates the professions credibility to those it seeks to inform.

    n It generates financial resources which are used to support future developments of ICEs knowledge programme and other priorities.

    Figure 2. The London 2012 Olympic Park venues and infrastructure inspired countless young people

  • 6

    Civil Engineering volume 166 Issue CE1 February 2013


    Presidential address: Civil engineers: inspiring, innovating, informing Clarke

    An example of the way knowledge is transforming the way civil engineers work is building information modelling (BIM): a collaborative approach underpinned by digital technology (Figure 3). While the focus has been on buildings, it clearly has implications for infrastructure. It affects design, construction and management of infrastructure in ways yet to be determined. I am certain, however, that the profession is in an evolutionary stage as knowledge of the

    process develops. This is why ICE continues actively to engage in BIM through its expert panels and by hosting events to develop collective thinking, such as the recent BIM conference organised by ICE.

    Ensuring the profession develops innovative approaches to knowledge and acknowledges the impact of new techniques like BIM is crucial. All civil engineers have a duty to use and add to their knowledge.

    Informing societal decisions

    Recent graduate, James Thomson, said in an ICE graduate paper competition, An ethical position must be one which strives to inform society ahead of its natural legislative progression. So he believes that civil engineers must behave ethically through their influencing role. It is this theme of behaving ethically that my presidents apprentices will address. All civil engineers must question the brief they are given, and must always consider the consequences of what they are designing and building.

    All civil engineers have a duty to use and add to their knowledge, to help society understand the issues associated with the lifelines it relies on to survive, and to help policy-makers appreciate the consequence of their decisions. In other words, the profession must embed ethics into practice.

    Sadly, many civil engineers often feel that they were more valued in the nineteenth century. In 1847, past president Robert Stephenson also from Newcastle upon Tyne was elected unopposed as member of parliament for Whitby. In 1850, the mayor of Newcastle hosted a dinner in his honour on the platforms of the citys Central station after he completed a continuous line from London to Edinburgh proving the status that civil engineers had in the victorian age (Figure 4).

    Many engineers feel that they are not fully appreciated today and that their ability to inform government and the public is not properly valued. I think they are wrong.

    The importance of civil engineers, the profession and ICEs status as the authoritative voice of infrastructure was evidenced in UK prime minister David Cameron choosing One Great George Street, the worldwide home of civil engineering, to launch the governments vision for infrastructure. The government also sought the views of ICEs president and director general before making that announcement. This was not something that just happened overnight. It came about through a sustained campaign to raise the profile of civil engineering through investment in and delivery of infrastructure.

    I have touched on the impact of the Olympics in raising the profile of civil engineers and it was acknowledged by the politicians involved. hugh Robertson,

    Figure 3. Building information model (BIM) of Bond Street station redevelopment in London innovations such as this are transforming the way civil engineers work

    Figure 4. In 1850 a dinner was held for ICE past president Robert Stephenson on the new platforms of Newcastle upon Tyne station the profession is held in similarly high regard today

  • 7

    Civil Engineering volume 166 Issue CE1 February 2013


    Presidential address: Civil engineers: inspiring, innovating, informing Clarke

    minister for sport and the Olympics, praised civil engineers as pivotal in successfully delivering the iconic structures on the Park. And London mayor Boris Johnson said that constructing such a landmark venue was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show the world the skill and ingenuity that Britains civil engineers possess.

    As the profile of civil engineers is currently flying high post-Olympics, ICEs credibility as a source of impartial expert policy advice is increasing. Over the past few years ICE has been continually growing its authority making clear contributions to UK government policy on infrastructure, education, the cost of construction and the low carbon economy. Past president Peter hansford was appointed as the governments new chief construction adviser. Paul Deighton, chief executive of the London 2012 organising committee, becomes the first ever UK minister with responsibility for infrastructure in January 2013. And John Armitt, chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority and ICE incoming vice president, is to undertake a review of the UKs long-term infrastructure needs. Just a week before this address, ICE hosted the chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander at the inaugural meeting of the Strategic Engagement Forum a group bringing industry leaders and government together to unblock the issues which are holding back the implementation of the National Infrastructure Plan (hM Treasury, 2011).

    The profession stands at a unique point in time: a point where economic conditions are in a perilous state; where the construction industry is suffering. Yet the need for investment in infrastructure is understood and the crucial role of civil engineers in delivering that infrastructure is appreciated. The UK government has a plan now how will it be implemented?

    This leads me to ask, what will ICEs role be as the authoritative voice of infrastructure? The challenge is to keep infrastructure planning, investment and delivery at the top of the political agenda as the build-up to the next general election in the UK begins. The profession must ensure all parties agree that strategically important infrastructure investment decisions are long term beyond the election; beyond the life of several parliaments. ICE must continue to assert its voice, yet maintain its credibility as the source of expert advice. That expert

    advice is demonstrated by some of the policy reports ICE delivers.

    As just one example, take the flagship state of the nation reports on UK infrastructure. Over the next year, ICE will continue to build on the success of its 2012 report, The State of the Nation: Water 2012 (ICE, 2012). In 2013, ICE will produce State of the Nation: Transport, which will make recommendations on the future needs for interconnected transport systems. To make sure these reports are successfully implemented, we must continue to source information and assess its quality and relevance. And here lies a challenge to ICE members it is their expertise and knowledge that is the basis for ICE policy-making and the advice the profession provides.

    Without forward thinking and dynamic input from members, ICE runs the risk of losing its relevance. So I call on all members to engage in this essential work, to contribute to expert panels, to build the weight of knowledge and to help ICE to shape the future. To paraphrase my predecessor, by harnessing the expertise of members, ICE is able to showcase excellence in civil engineering and its importance to society, and inform the world outside.

    ICE will continue to be a thought leader in all relevant policy areas. It will continue to inform the British government and those of the devolved nations making it a major player with key political decision makers and influencers. It will continue to shape the world in a time of

    immense change, and that influence can have global impact because of ICEs members and the standing of ICE as the authoritative voice of infrastructure.

    ICE will always seek to bring government and industry together as the venue for debate and decision making here at the worldwide home of civil engineering.

    Focusing on education

    I stand here as the latest of a line of presidents of academic background, having pursued a career of educating future civil engineers. So it goes without saying that I believe that success in all areas cannot continue without the right education for the future. Inspiring the next generation, innovating to survive and informing societal decisions all depend on the same thing: knowledge and understanding. These can only be achieved through education.

    Yet only 10% of education is formal the rest is found in the workplace and in life. I believe that individuals should have a lifelong commitment to education. Only by doing this will the profession be able to continue to shape the environment in which people live and work. I am proud ICE is doing so much to encourage and foster education. Let me give you three successful examples.

    The first is the Big Bang fair which inspires young people it is the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths for young people in the UK (Figure 5). Using a combination

    Figure 5. The Big Bang fair is the UKs largest science, technology, engineering and maths fair for youngsters, attracting over 50 000 visitors each year

  • 8

    Civil Engineering volume 166 Issue CE1 February 2013


    Presidential address: Civil engineers: inspiring, innovating, informing Clarke

    of theatre, interactive workshops and exhibits together with careers information, the fair allows young people to see science and engineering in a new light. It is not just about the excitement and the energy of civil engineering it is about the opportunity to demonstrate the role of engineers in providing water, energy and transport. It is about the chance to meet teachers, career advisors and parents those who can influence young people outside the fair.

    The second is ICEs own dedicated under-19s programme which includes mentoring, competitions and direct engagement with schools to promote civil engineering as a career choice and importantly, the curriculum choices that need to be made pre-19 to become an engineer. The programme involves ICEs regional teams working with their local universities and industry to form strong partnerships.

    ICE is also a member of the Education for Engineering group, which aims to provide a united engineering voice for education policy to government. In addition, it is one of the institutions licensed to accredit degrees at over 100 universities in the UK and overseas.

    I actually believe that it is ICE graduate members who have the most potential to inspire the next generation they represent an achievable position. That introduces my third example: ambassadors. Some of ICEs graduates act as STEM ambassadors for the governments initiative to promote science, technology, engineering and maths in schools. There are 25 000 ambassadors working on a variety of projects across Britain suggesting one ambassador for 34 eleven-year-olds. however, there are only 400 known civil engineering ambassadors that is roughly one for every 2000 eleven-year-olds.

    More young civil engineering ambassadors are needed because these graduates are passionate about engineering. They speak with authority because of their education and experience, and they can demonstrate how to become a civil engineer. And industry needs to engage and support the graduates who are committed to inspiring the next generation.

    But once ICE graduates become members and once members are qualified how can they be encouraged to continue growing and developing? For most members, professional qualification represents the pinnacle of

    their relationship with ICE. Immediately after, as other life pressures take their toll, ICE relationships with many members decline as they enter the wilderness years usually until a growing awareness of the importance of networking brings many back into more active engagement. But if members just step off the education escalator at age 21, their value will depreciate.

    ICE needs to address the wilderness period to ensure it remains relevant, that both ICE and its members retain their value. To do this, it must be ensure that engineering education delivers

    n a habit of mind that enables problems to be solved when solutions are not obvious

    n an ability to generate and disseminate knowledge

    n a partnership between academia, industry, students and society

    n a mix of practical training, peer learning and formal education

    n a leadership role in society as civil engineers face the many challenges of tomorrow

    n an ability to deal with transformational change and uncertainty.

    Learning will have to become more personalised; knowledge sources will be more diverse; academics will become guides on the side rather than sages on the stage; and the role of civil engineers as mentors will expand.

    The twenty-first century will require a different skill set from civil engineers than previous ages. The profession will need to be able to cope with uncertainty brought about by a changing environment. ICEs role will be to support this learning through its knowledge base. A constant stream of professional engineers will be needed and must be continually supported in their careers. This should ideally start in early education and continue right through to a commitment to lifelong learning for those who will lead, manage and deliver major infrastructure. By committing to lifelong learning, civil engineers can prepare for the new age we find ourselves in, and be more valued by society.

    It is well known that civil engineers transformed society in the nineteenth century. But then infrastructure slipped from the central political and social agenda until now. Since the victorian golden age

    of civil engineering, civil engineers have continued to maintain the infrastructure that underpins national economies, and maintain peoples health and wellbeing.

    Now in the twenty-first century, the profession is once again in a time of change. Civil engineers need to build for the present while shaping the future. Their ability to do this is founded upon generating and disseminating knowledge, and knowledge comes from education. Therefore, a lifelong commitment to engineering education is essential to help the profession cope with the challenges, make the most of the opportunities and deliver the infrastructure that is so badly needed. This commitment will enhance the status of civil engineers from the beginning of their careers right to the end.


    In my year as president, I will ensure that ICE meets the challenges ahead and supports and prepares the engineers of tomorrow by ensuring that education has a role to play throughout a civil engineers life to

    n inspire the next generation to become civil engineers

    n innovate by creating and sharing knowledge

    n inform societal decision making.

    Let all civil engineers strive to embody these principles throughout their careers.

    My call to ICE and its members is: inspire more, innovate more, inform more.


    hM Treasury (2011) National Infrastructure Plan 2011. her Majestys Stationery Office, London, UK.

    ICE (Institution of Civil Engineers) (2012) The State of the Nation: Water 2012. ICE, London, UK.

    What do you think?

    If you would like to comment on this address, please email up to 200 words to the editor at

    If you would like to write a paper of 2000 to 3500 words about your own experience in this or any related area of civil engineering, the editor will be happy to provide any help or advice you need.


View more >