ICE President Andrew Wyllie has visited a new specialist teaching and research facility that will train future generations of civil engineers, as part of his wider visit to the South East region last week.
The National Infrastructure Laboratory at Southampton University, which is backed by £48m of investment, will formally open in autumn of this year, complementing the UK government’s wider strategy to boost STEM skills across the country.
The centre forms part of the new UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities – a network of 13 universities which aims to identify new ways to improve the country’s infrastructure, including making it more resilient to extreme events.
During the tour, Wyllie was given a behind-the-scenes preview to see how new technology in the centre will help engineers to reach infrastructure solutions in the future.
He was also shown the Southampton University Driving Simulator – which features a static Land Rover Discovery Sport and a 135° field of view system utilising three forward projectors. The simulator can not only be used to monitor driver behaviour but also test different rural and urban environments, traffic flow and the interaction of autonomous vehicles with the built environment.
Analysing the 'whole-life' behaviour of infrastructure
The centre will also house a new geotechnical centrifuge to undertake scaled physical model tests allowing ‘whole life’ long-term behaviour of infrastructure. Data from the experiments will be shared within the Collaboratorium with other disciplines, to encourage cross discipline collaboration to develop the non-technical skills required for engineers.
Professor David Richards, Head of the School of Engineering, said: “We are delighted to welcome Andrew to Boldrewood Innovation Campus and share these world-ranking facilities which put Southampton at the forefront of engineering teaching and research.
“The new laboratories will greatly enhance our ability to help the UK to deliver effective and resilient infrastructure for transport, energy and the built environment.”
Award-winning leisure centre
Wyllie also visited Places Leisure Eastleigh, the £28m community leisure centre which boasts a 25-metre swimming pool, a sports hall that accommodates 15 badminton courts (the third largest in the UK), a 150-piece gym and ‘Healthworks’, which provides medical care as well as healthcare programmes with qualified professionals.
The facility won the ICE Region’s Community Benefit Award and South Award for Engineering Excellence in 2018, and one year on is now widely used by residents in the local area. The project was completed by Arup in 2017 and was recognised as a BREEAM Excellent building with an EPC rating of A.
This timely visit follows last month's announcement from Hampshire Council declaring a climate emergency and committing to Hampshire being carbon neutral by 2030