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Engineers Transforming the World looks at the future of infrastructure in Australia and New Zealand

09 January 2019

Matthew Colton, master of ceremonies, tells us about the first-ever ICE Australasia conference

Engineers Transforming the World looks at the future of infrastructure in Australia and New Zealand
Matthew Colton, master of ceremonies at the conference.

To mark the 200th year of ICE last year, we held the Australasia ICE200 Conference - Engineers Transforming the World at the International College of Management in Manly, Sydney.

As the inaugural Australasian conference, it was a celebration of civil engineering, our impact on society, turning to the future of engineering and emerging technologies.

The two-day event attracted an industry-wide speaker panel of 18 engineering global industry leaders, and was attended by over 400 built environment professionals from the UK, the USA, across Asia Pacific, Australia and New Zealand.

The conference’s resounding success was due to a series of engaging presentations and panel debates.

Digital future of the construction industry

ICE Past President Professor Tim Broyd opened the first day by discussing the importance of civil engineering to society and the theme of ICE’s 200th year - why civil engineers are Invisible Superheroes.

He stressed the importance of harnessing the digital future of the construction industry worldwide and welcomed our keynote speaker, Rodd Staples.

Rodd Staples, the Secretary for TfNSW (Transport for NSW) set the scene for the conference with his address on ‘Planning Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s Generation’.

He reflected on his early passion for engineering, while growing up near the beach and being fascinated by the dredging of Botany Bay. He was hopeful that the projects TfNSW are delivering will equally inspire the younger generation to consider a career in STEM.

Adrian Dwyer, CEO of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, then discussed strategic planning for the future, giving valuable insight into the case for economic reform and into whether Australia is prepared for future turbulence.

Project 13 – a new business model

Richard Threlfall, Global Head of Infrastructure, KPMG International, provided an introduction to Project 13, a new business model based on an enterprise not on traditional transactional arrangements, that will boost certainty and productivity in delivery.

Fraser McMillan, Partner at Pinsent Masons, provided valuable insight into ways to achieve better alignment between engineers and lawyers, effectively stating that the government and not their lawyers should determine the future of procurement in Australia with reference to standard forms of tried and tested contracts, such as NEC.

The future of transport

Next, Sarah Sinclair, Auckland City Council’s Chief Engineer, shared her experience of managing the development of a city for major population growth, while ICE’s 2018 Australasia touring speaker, Dr Andrew Harris, provided insight into exciting “disruptive” innovations on the horizon.

Other speakers discussed what future transport networks would look like.

Stacey Ryan from Intelligent Transport Solutions (ITS) gave an insight into what customers expect of future transport networks, based on the findings of ITS’ mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) report.

Meanwhile, Jason Hutchings, SNC-Lavalin Atkins, talked about how a technology-driven approach enables engineers to focus on customer experience, and the impact on station planning of ‘invisible’ fare collection.

At the gala evening dinner, our surprise Master for Ceremonies for the evening, Howard Collin OBE, Chief Executive of Sydney Trains, continued the Invisible Superheroes theme by giving some examples from his own experience at Sydney Trains and London Underground.

Digital engineering

The second day had a lot to live up to and it didn’t disappoint.

David Silvester, Principal for Beca (previously the Deputy Secretary), Transport for Victoria, provided valuable insight into the benefits and importance of co-designing with the community.

His view of the future transport solution is that there'll be a mix of conventional transport networks, including mass transit, integration with land use, disruptive technology, and intelligent transport systems.

Simon Vaux, Director Digital Engineer at TfNSW and Chair for Australia’s National Digital Engineering Working Group, talked about how TfNSW has developed a long-term strategy to integrate digital engineering into its portfolio and across the asset lifecycle.

He explained the steps that TfNSW is taking to drive innovation, transform business processes and achieve successful collaborative outcomes across industry and the complete lifecycle of infrastructure.

Digital and the effect on our profession

Keeping the theme of digital engineering, Ben Harland, Digital Delivery Leader, Mott Macdonald, described how graphics can mask a tightly coordinated data-rich digital asset or a hastily cobbled together bunch of shapes. Being able to discern the difference is becoming increasingly crucial in almost every area of industry, he said.

The effect of new technologies in the built environment on our profession was also discussed by Andrew Messenger, Arrivo Corporation Australia.

Representatives from two universities also gave their academic insight.

Dr Douglas Wilson, Senior Lecturer, University of Auckland, talked about transport technologies under development, and the specialised skills that are increasingly required in transportation engineering, while Professor Brian Uy, The University of Sydney’s Head of Civil Engineering, shared his team’s research into new, high-performance steels.

Professor Uy gave examples of where they've been used in iconic global projects, well before design procedures have been developed into standards.

Digital engineering case study

Niall Brady, Arup’s Digital Engineering Lead, presented on a case study of digital engineering: ‘Digital innovation in design for Parramatta light rail’.

His presentation described a detailed 3D model for all disciplines including road alignment, pavement, signage, line marking, landscaping and utilities.

Using customised tools, the design team applied unique naming to all design elements and location-based codes to enable 4D BIM (time) and 5D BIM (cost) to be applied during the construction phase of the project. The design also considered asset management (6D BIM) and the handover of the models at each stage.

Grant Bowery, Director at Turner & Townsend, gave the closing presentation on infrastructure investment.

He explained how engagement with industry is essential to create opportunities to maximise returns, which can be achieved through holistic design driven by active value, high-quality procurement and delivery management.

Recognising our members

Professor Tim Broyd presented certificates at the event to recognise our members’ achievements.

Newly qualified members receiving their Civil Engineering Chartership Certificates included Michael Kitching, Charles Wark, Ana Perez Torrero, Carlos Solis-Navarro and Darren Stewart.

The following ICE members were awarded their Fellowship Certificates in recognition of their engineering achievements and contribution to infrastructure and society:

  • Adam Gaffney
  • Andrew Geoffrey
  • Mark Jordan
  • Ali Sarandily
  • Matthew Thomson
  • Ken O’Neal

Speakers Dr Andrew Harris and Linda Miller, who also delivered a keynote, were also presented with their ICE Fellowships at the conference.

Who helped to make the event a success

The Australasian Conference was the result of 18 months’ planning and investment. It was envisaged, curated and delivered by a small group of volunteers including Carol Hopper, Craig Burrell, Renee Reilly, Stephen Pascall and myself.

However, it also couldn’t have happened without the support of our sponsors:

  • Gold sponsors – Pinsent Masons, SNC-Lavalin;
  • Silver sponsors – Turner & Townsend, ARUP and MTR;
  • Supporting sponsors – Management • Commercial • Engineering, Beca, Bechtel, KBR and Department for International Trade
  • Matthew Colton, director at MCE