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Event Organiser: ICE

Rutaka Footbridge in Rwanda: A Low-Technology Deck Launch, online

  • Webinar
  • Online
  • 26 April 2021
  • 17:30 - 18:45
Rutaka Footbridge in Rwanda: A Low-Technology Deck Launch, online

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Password: ice2021

US charity Bridges to Prosperity has delivered over 350 simply designed and built footbridges around the world to provide rural communities with year-round safe access to markets, farms, schools, health clinics and other critical services.

The footbridge builds contribute towards several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This presentation will describe the innovative construction of a 40 m suspended footbridge in Rutaka, Rwanda, which was completed in 2017.

To reduce time working at height, the volunteer engineering team developed and trialled a low-technology method for launching the deck from a temporary platform, significantly improving safety and quality control. A photography-based community initiative helped the team to positively engage and involve the local community with the footbridge build, in addition to the workers from the community directly employed on the build.


17.15 Registration
17.30 Chair’s introduction
17.35 Paper presentation
18.15 Q&A session
18.35 Summation and vote of thanks
18.45 Event close


Dr. Philippe Bouillard CEng FICE

Philippe Bouillard

Philippe holds an MSc in Civil Engineering (Université Libre de Bruxelles ULB, Belgium, 1990), a PhD in Engineering (ULB, 1997) and a Habilitation diploma (Paris VI, France, 2004). He began his career as a work manager for French major construction contractors, before starting an academic career by a teaching and research assistant position at the Ecole Polytechnique de Bruxelles (ULB) where he was promoted full professor in 2005.

Philippe has occupied many senior management positions at ULB from Head of Department of Civil, Architectural and Urban Engineering (ongoing) to Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs. During a sabbatical, he was Vice-Dean for the School of Engineering at Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan (2014-2015). He is a recognised expert in Higher Education with an emphasis on Quality Assurance and Bologna process. He regularly acts as external reviewer for many national agencies and for EACEA (Erasmus Mundus Joint Degrees and other instruments). He is Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK) since 2017.

His main research activity was computational structural mechanics but in 2012 he redirected his research interest towards sustainable urbanism with a focus on infrastructure and mobility. He co-edited 3 books, is co-author of more than 70 refereed journal papers and 100 conference proceedings. He supervised several PhD theses (21) and research projects. He is chairing the editorial board of the ICE Journal Civil Engineering. He received the Belgian National Science Foundation (FNRS) De Waele Award in 2000 and the Wernaers Award in 2012 for his effort for scientific dissemination towards a large public. He is Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers since 2016.

Regarding teaching, Philippe is coordinating the modules related to solid and structural mechanics, research methods in civil engineering, design project competition, and infrastructure and mobility. He has been deeply involved in the active learning student-centred reforms and he received the ULB Socrates Best Teacher Award (2008).

Ian Towler CEng MICE

Ian Towler

Ian is an Associate in the Bridges and Civil Structures Practice of Mott MacDonald based in Manchester, with over sixteen years’ experience working on highway and railway schemes as both engineer and project manager.

Ian has worked on several railway projects including the North West Electrification Programme, Northern Hub and Northern Powerhouse Rail. He supported Halton Borough Council with the refurbishment of the Silver Jubilee Bridge (SJB) and other viaducts and bridges in the SJB Complex. He was also part of one of four winning teams in the RIBA Aesthetic Overhead Line Structures competition and the second placed team in the RIBA Salford Meadows Footbridge competition.

Ian enjoys working collaboratively with colleagues, clients and stakeholders. He is passionate about contributing towards positive social outcomes, through project work and community involvement.

Benjamin Mills IEng MICE MAPM

Benjamin Mills

Ben is a construction focused, professionally accredited civil engineer with experience in rail, reinforced concrete, and structural steel infrastructure including architectural and MEP fit out, on major government projects. He has experience in promulgating innovation through the delivery teams, improving performance and reducing time and cost in complex built-up sites with challenging surroundings and complex logistics.

With over ten years’ experience working for principal contractors across major civil engineering schemes, Ben has fulfilled roles in planning, site leadership and construction management, business improvement, planning, cost reduction and efficiency improvements, scheduling, forecasting and logistics planning.

Ben is currently assessing and advising design teams on constructability for a major designer and professional services organisation, providing construction advice, planning and validation roles in the built environment sector, as well as leading the Virtual Design and Construction Team. His work on projects within Jacobs has been recognised and acknowledged by clients, and has led to several awards on the projects he has worked on.

Matthew Lofts CEng MICE

Matthew Lofts

Matthew graduated in 2009 from The University of Manchester and joined Balfour Beatty on a new highway project in Nottinghamshire. On completion, he moved to Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering where he managed projects all over the UK. In 2012, he joined Vinci to construct a section of the Nottingham tram, and then moved back to Balfour Beatty to deliver two Smart Motorways before joining HS2 Area North with Balfour Beatty Vinci Joint Venture in January 2018 where he is currently mobilising to site.

In 2017 he was made aware of the charity, Bridges to Prosperity through Balfour Beatty’s internal communication and jumped at the opportunity to apply. He was successful and joined volunteers from Balfour Beatty and Mott MacDonald to undertake the delivery of a footbridge in Rwanda. They had approximately three months to plan the construction and prepare themselves for the trip to Africa and once they arrived, they started on the heavily labour-intensive build, cutting timber planks, pulling cables and moving rocks.

After 2 weeks, they presented the bridge to the local community, who they had helped build it, in an event of song, dancing and celebration. It was a wonderful trip and experience that will live with him forever. A great opportunity to use his skills to give back to individuals who really need it, save lives and support the growth of the local community.

Divesh Mistry MSc BSc (Hons)

Divesh Mistry

Divesh is a water resources specialist, with experience in policy and social science. For the Rutaka Footbridge build he led the community engagement aspect of the build through a participatory photography project where he provided cameras to individuals in the community who documented their journeys. The work was later presented through an exhibition at the ICE Global Engineering Congress conference in October 2018.

Peter Crosthwaite CEng MICE

Peter Crosthwaite
Peter started his civil engineering career with Mott MacDonald in 2008 working on hydropower, dams and reservoir engineering. In 2017 his participation as part of the Rutaka Footbridge team in Rwanda sparked a desire to use his engineering experience in a development context. He completed a Fellowship with Bridges to Prosperity in 2019, living and working in Rwanda to provide footbridges that connect rural communities. In 2020, Peter moved to become the Chief Engineering Officer of East African Power. A long-term, social-impact oriented business developing, building, and operating small and medium hydro and solar power plants in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Event venue

United Kingdom

For more information please contact:

Barbara Etzi

e: [email protected]