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How West Midlands civil engineers can be part of the net zero solution

05 February 2021

ICE West Midlands was able to showcase its decarbonisation initiatives during a visit by the 156th ICE President, Rachel Skinner, through a series of online events organised around the Shaping Zero theme. ICE West Midlands Regional Chair Gbenga Oludotun tells us more.

How West Midlands civil engineers can be part of the net zero solution
Coventry is running a project to develop a smarter energy system. Image credit: Shutterstock

The West Midlands recently hosted a visit by the 156th ICE President, Rachel Skinner. Through a series of online events organised around the Shaping Zero theme to engage with regional members and infrastructure leaders, we were able to showcase decarbonisation initiatives.

While there was a recognition that through our activities, as civil engineers, we've inadvertently contributed to the problem of carbon emissions, there was also a real desire for us to become part of the solution.

Through focused discussions there were recurring topics highlighted - collaboration, systems approach and digital/data analytics. All three are required to get the industry on the path towards net zero.


The West Midlands has a lot to share with the wider industry as it progresses towards achieving its zero-carbon target by 2041.

At the international, national, regional and local levels, policies would need to demonstrate alignment rather than a siloed approach. While the West Midlands can effectively control the regional and local policies, there should be a concerted effort to ensure there are no mismatches with national and international policy measures.

The fundamental challenge of availability of funds to implement these policies would also be better served through this collaborative approach. Furthermore, collaboration with the various professional institutions will need to be encouraged to enable the sharing of best practice and examples.

Systems approach

There was an agreement for the need to have a paradigm shift in the siloed promotion of infrastructure projects.

The systems approach, which covers systems thinking, engineering and integration, provides a means of breaking away from the business-as-usual pattern of promoting and delivering infrastructure projects. The ICE report on A Systems Approach to Infrastructure Delivery is the ideal place to begin.

Digital/data analytics

The implementation of digital and data analytics into infrastructure delivery and asset management has a strong role to play in enabling net zero.

The Regional Energy System Operator (RESO) project in Coventry, demonstrated the need for the availability of clean data to provide the necessary insight in order to understand patterns of energy use.

Current initiatives around Digital Twins will serve to support the collection of data from the infrastructure assets which can be used in the decision-making process and checking the effect of policies being implemented.

Next steps

As Rachel Skinner pointed out, it's important for the industry to improve its carbon literacy if we are to avoid double counting net zero outputs. Also, the public perception of civil engineers to create the net-zero future will need to be changed by demonstrating the steps that are being taken through relevant stories.

As a region, we will continue exploring areas where we can support the required regional and local policy changes. The West Midlands has an opportunity to lead the way in low-carbon infrastructure delivery, just as it was instrumental during the previous industrial revolution.

We will be promoting the ICE Carbon Champions initiative to capture the great work being carried out within the region.

Find out more about ICE Carbon Champions here.

  • Gbenga Oludotun, regional chair at ICE West Midlands