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10 Christmas Crackers: civil engineering projects that championed net zero in 2021

22 December 2021

As the year draws to a close, we look back at some of the regional and international projects that make us proud to call ourselves civil engineers.

10 Christmas Crackers: civil engineering projects that championed net zero in 2021
The Royal Botanic Garden of Wales Regency Restoration project won this year's People's Choice Award

In celebration of former ICE President Rachel Skinner’s 2021 theme ‘carbon net-zero,’ here are 10 Christmas crackers that epitomise the diversity and achievements of our civil engineers throughout the world.

1) Pooley Bridge, North West, England, UK

Pooley Bridge, Cumbria.
Pooley Bridge, Cumbria.

The new Pooley Bridge is both beautiful and efficient. The stainless-steel structure is robust, meaning that less concrete was needed during construction - significantly reducing the bridge’s carbon footprint.

The vertical parapets reveal stunning views of the Lakeland setting while allowing any future floodwater to pass through more easily. It's an extraordinary example of the community, landscape and contractors working in harmony to provide an outstanding new bridge.

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2) Boston Barrier, East Midlands, England, UK

Boston Barrier Scheme
Pooley Bridge, Cumbria.

In the market town of Boston, Lincolnshire, lies the Boston Barrier – one of the most critical flood-defence schemes in Britain.

The multi-award-winning barrier, made possible thanks to a £100 million Flood Defence Grant, will help protect an estimated 14,000 homes and 800 businesses from the threat of flooding by its completion in 2022.

The scheme is closely aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development goals (SDGs). SDGs’ goals are used as the criteria for monitoring and evaluating its success, making it a project that’s vital to improving the lives and livelihoods of Lincoln’s residents.

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3) Cross Bay Link (CBL), Hong Kong

Cross Bay Link under construction, Hong Kong. Image credit: Shutterstock
Cross Bay Link under construction, Hong Kong. Image credit: Shutterstock

The Brunel Award, which recognises excellence in the decarbonisation of infrastructure, was awarded to HKSAR and the Cross Bay Link (CBL) in Hong Kong.

The 1.8km strategic road has a dual two-lane carriageway, a cycle track and a footway that will connect to the major new town of Tseung Kwan O.

The project reduced the carbon footprint in the delivery by 20,000 tonnes of CO2, about 40% compared to conventional steel construction, by using S690QL high-strength steel, extensive prefabrication, and innovative technologies.

4) Expo 2020, Dubai, UAE

>Visitors attend Expo 2020, Dubai. Image Credit: Shutterstock
Visitors attend Expo 2020, Dubai. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Expo 2020 is billed as the most sustainable exhibition in history. Its goal is ‘Connecting Minds and Creating the Future’ through utilising sustainability, mobility, and connection.

As well as being the most sustainable, Expo 2020 is also the most inclusive in history, with 192 countries participating globally.

At the time of its completion, it was also one of the most significant civil engineering projects in the world.

Former ICE President Rachel Skinner will chair a panel on behalf of the UK government at the exhibition's British Pavilion next month on carbon net-zero, which will explore the theme of ‘How Will We Live?’

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5) Helston Flood Alleviation Scheme, South West, UK

The Helston Flood Alleviation Scheme, Cornwall
The Helston Flood Alleviation Scheme, Cornwall. Image credit: Twitter/ICE South West

This ICE Carbon Champions and ICE South West Civil Engineering Awards 2021 winner has sustainably reduced flood risk to 121 properties in Helston, Cornwall.

The project sought to reduce the risk from the River Cober and Loe Pool, Cornwall's largest natural lake.

Sustainability was at the heart of decision-making, resulting in savings of around 2,000 tonnes of carbon by avoiding the need for pumping. The use of low carbon concrete and sourcing 99 percent of materials by weight from Cornwall further helped the carbon footprint.

Plus, 31 hectares of habitat improvement was possible thanks to better water level management.

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6) The Catalyst, North East, England, UK

The Catalyst, Newcastle upon Tyne.
The Catalyst, Newcastle upon Tyne.

The Catalyst is a ground-breaking, architecturally striking facility in Newcastle upon Tyne with a distinctive diagrid, home to the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing and National Innovation Centre for Data.

The project incorporates SuDS [Sustainable Drainage Systems], in the form of cascading rain gardens, a green roof and other pipe storage attenuation.

The overall drainage system is designed to restrict offsite flow to a minimal 5l/s and has a capacity for 1-in-100-year storm events, with a 40% allowance for climate change.

It uses siphonic drainage, which is where water is sucked from the roof down into the drain at high speed.

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7) The National Botanic Garden of Wales Regency Restoration Project, Wales, UK

The National Botanic Garden of Wales, Horn Bridge. Image credit: Tim Jones
The National Botanic Garden of Wales, Horn Bridge. Image credit: Tim Jones

The National Botanic Garden Regency Restoration in Wales, which took place over five years, is a perfect example of how engineers can combine the old with the new to create a project that's truly innovative while embracing the role green space plays in creating healthier populations and better mental health.

The project won this year’s People’s Choice Award, in addition to the ICE Wales Cymru 2021 Alun Griffiths Community Engagement Award.

Both awards will be presented at a ceremony held at The National Botanic Garden of Wales on 3 March 2022, by ICE’s new President Ed McCann and Dawn Bowden, deputy minister for arts and sport and chief whip of the Welsh government.

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8) The NI Multi-Modal Transport Hub, Northern Ireland

The NI Multimodal Transport Hub, Derry.
The NI Multimodal Transport Hub, Derry.

The NI Multi-Modal Transport Hub is an engineering project that considers sustainability in almost every aspect of its construction.

Located at the former Waterside Train Station in Derry-Londonderry, the site encourages both active and sustainable travel.

Everything from its use of solar panels to rainwater harvesting encourages the reduction of carbon emissions while making it a biodiversity haven for the whole community to enjoy.

Its sustainability efforts saw it secure ICE Northern Ireland’s 2020 Sustainability Award.

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9) Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project, South East, England, UK

Rochester bridge has spanned the River Medway since medieval times and is a pivotal part of the fabric of Kent’s town of Rochester.

The restoration project, which included repairs to the river’s walls and laying out a continuous surface, is hoped to make the structure more sustainable by reducing future maintenance interventions.

As part of the National Cycle route, it’s also playing a significant role in improving access to multi-modal travel.

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10) The Svart Hotel, Norway

Want to stay in the world’s first energy-positive hotel? The Svart Hotel in Norway is a pioneering project that promises to reduce energy consumption by up to 85% compared to other hotels by using solar power and scalable technologies.

Situated on the edge of a fjord close to the Svartisen glacier, its mission highlights the importance of preserving and protecting nature while providing the luxury and relaxation associated with modern hotels.

If you need something to look forward to in 2022, The Svart Hotel’s opening will surely be one of the highlights of the civil engineering calendar.

  • Jessica Beasley, communications executive at ICE