As 2022 draws to a close, we look back at projects that demonstrate the importance of focusing on productivity.
Last year we brought you 10 civil engineering projects that championed net zero.
This year, in celebration of former ICE President Ed McCann’s theme of improving productivity, here are nine civil engineering projects that show us that focusing on productivity is vital to the future of civil engineering.
What is productivity?
During his inauguration, ICE Past President Ed McCann emphasised that the civil engineering industry can be highly wasteful in everything from money and materials to social and human capital.
Increasing productivity, in Ed’s words, offers a solution to this:
"Productivity means civil engineers maximising the effectiveness and efficiency of what they do at every stage of the infrastructure lifecycle so that we can make the most of our finite resources and deliver more services, with a lower environmental impact."
These projects demonstrate that productivity isn't just a measure of output but has wide-ranging societal benefits for all of us.
1. Otley Flood Alleviation Scheme, Yorkshire and Humber, England, UK
Constructed in response to the devastating flooding from Storm Eva on Boxing Day (26 December) in 2015, the Otley Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) has reduced the risk of flooding in the local area from 20% to 4% in any given year.
Otley FAS also protects a road that would've been closed due to the floods, previously resulting in economic loss, and affecting people’s livelihoods.
By implementing productivity from the design stage to execution, Otley FAS has saved resources, materials and labour that would've had to be mobilised in the event of a flood.
The scheme was recognised for its achievements at the ICE Yorkshire and Humber Civil Engineering Awards earlier this year, winning the prestigious Smeaton Award.
2. Elephant Rock - Hartlepool Premier Outdoor Events Area, north-east England, UK
Hartlepool’s Elephant Rock amphitheatre is a vibrant hub for events and culture in the northeast. But its history shows how vital increasing productivity in engineering is to cultivating whole-life infrastructure.
It’s named after the ancient limestone rock visible from the original bandstand before much of it was washed away by a storm in the nineteenth century.
In 2019, it received funding to be redeveloped and restored to its former glory.
Thanks to the dedication of Seymour Civil Engineering and Hartlepool’s Borough Council efforts, the public can enjoy it for generations to come, with its programme of events contributing to boosting Hartlepool’s local economy.
3. Wessex Water, south-west England, UK
The ICE’s State of the Nation 2022: Improving Infrastructure Productivity report highlighted the excellent work of Wessex Water’s 2021 Drainage and Wastewater Management Resilience Programme.
Wessex Water only had six months to uncover resilience options for sites that civil engineers had identified as having a 10% risk of flooding.
Using agile data modelling, they were able to produce site-specific resilience options.
Wessex Water’s innovative approach to flood prevention demonstrates what civil engineering can achieve when productivity is prioritised.
Plus, the learnings from the assessment will help other areas vulnerable to flooding come up with robust, data-backed solutions.
4. Low carbon graphene-enhanced concrete, north-west England, UK
Low carbon graphene-enhanced concrete was conceived and developed in the north-western city of Manchester.
It was first used commercially in the mezzanine structure at Escape to Freight Island, a new urban oasis that is a regeneration of Depot Mayfield.
Low carbon graphene-enhanced concrete is a unique material as it’s useable within 48 hours of casting, which delivers carbon savings of over 4.3 tons.
This significant reduction demonstrates the importance of using efficient materials in the pursuit of net zero.
5. Glasgow’s Smart Canal, Glasgow, Scotland
You’ve heard of smartphones, smart homes, and even smart cities, and now Glasgow is bringing Europe’s first smart canal.
The North Glasgow Integrated Water Management System will provide early warnings of wet weather using sensors and predictive weather technology.
Any excess rainfall is then migrated from residential and business areas to areas of the canal where water has been lowered, resulting in a whopping 55,000 cubic metres of extra capacity for floodwater – that’s the same as 22 swimming pools!
6. Cross Bay Link, Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s Tseung Kwan O-Lam (TWO) Tin Tunnel and the Cross Bay Link (CBL) officially opened to the public on Sunday, 11 December 2022.
It comprises a 1.8 km dual carriageway with a cycle track and a footpath.
Its opening is a hugely exciting prospect for the local community, as it will significantly increase connectivity between TKO and south-eastern TKO and Kowloon.
A big win for productivity, it’s expected to enable commuters to save as much as 20 minutes per day when travelling between Lohas Park and Kwun Tong.
7. Belfast Grand Station, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Set to be completed by 2025, Belfast Grand Station is a transport-led regeneration project.
With a multi-million-pound investment by the Department for Infrastructure, the project promises to increase station capacity to 26 bus stands and eight railway platforms, and improve walking and cycling connectivity.
Its emphasis on increased connectivity and output makes it a perfect example of what civil engineers can achieve when working efficiently and effectively.
The project’s prioritisation of active travel is also encouraging, showing commitment to mitigating the environmental impact of transport and engineering.
Belfast Grand Station has also created over 400 jobs, boosting Belfast’s local economy and the productivity of the city.
8. Mile End Junction Improvement, Oswestry, Shropshire, West Midlands, UK
The winner of the ICE West Midlands Award for Communication, this project, delivered by Balfour Beatty and WSP, has had a far-reaching positive impact on the local community.
Development in Oswestry had been impeded due to the limited capacity of the existing road networks.
Improving the Mile End Junction has changed all this.
Building an additional roundabout and a new junction has substantially reduced congestion.
It has also enabled plans for the Oswestry Innovation Park and housing proposals to be brought forward and increased employment opportunities in the area.
9. High-Speed 2 (HS2) Productivity Improvement Plan, London, England, UK
This programme provided HS2 with an improved productivity strategy to support their efforts to reduce costs and carbon and maximise efficiency of the project.
Using its innovative Tiger Team methodology, Expedition identified critical areas of wastefulness in construction and design.
When it came to HS2, 19 different elements, ranging from assets to construction commodities, were examined to determine where cost and carbon were the highest.
This process could be vital if engineers are to eliminate waste and maximise productivity.
Expedition's extraordinary efforts have saved millions of tonnes of carbon, targeted nine major asset classes for productivity improvement, and achieved substantial financial savings.
Just as significantly, it's hoped that the learnings from HS2’s productivity improvement plan will create a model that can be used for industry-wide productivity improvement, helping future engineers maximise efficiency and potential.