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“Innovative, “unique” and “sustainable” engineering projects recognised at 30th annual Robert Stephenson Awards

23 April 2021

The annual Robert Stephenson awards celebrated the top civil engineering projects from across the North East this week.

“Innovative, “unique” and “sustainable” engineering projects recognised at 30th annual Robert Stephenson Awards

An innovation centre, natural flood protection scheme and landmark bridge have all scooped esteemed civil engineering awards with ICE North East.

The Robert Stephenson Awards, now in their 30th year recognise civil engineering excellence in the North East.

This year’s awards ceremony took place virtually on Friday 23 April, and was sponsored by CDM Recruitment.

The 10 shortlisted projects competed for the Large Project, Medium Project and Small Project Robert Stephenson Award. An additional 10 previous award winners, chosen from the last three years, were also considered for this year’s special 30th anniversary award.

Chair of the Robert Stephenson Awards judging panel, Derek Smith, said:

“This is the 30th year of the Robert Stephenson Awards, and I have to say that the entries this year have been as good as any received over that time. Entries have covered all aspects of civil engineering, both small and large, and are a testament to the great work being carried out across the North East, raising the profile of the profession.

“Despite the pandemic, we have completed some great projects and I would like to thank the thousands of civil engineers who have worked so hard to design, build and maintain the infrastructure we all rely on.”

The winners of this year’s awards are:

Small Project Category Robert Stephenson Award Winner (projects under £1m)

Coatham Woods Natural Flood Management Scheme

Coatham Woods Natural Flood Management Scheme was awarded best Small Project.

The scheme comprises three storage basins and embankments to hold flood water and provide a reduction in flood risk to residents of Stockton. The storage ponds fill naturally from Coatham Beck through open channels and the basins hold 12,000m3 of flood water.

The project team included Environment Agency, Arup, Tees Rivers Trust and Ebsford Environmental.

The judges said: “The Coatham Woods Natural Flood Management Scheme is a unique and innovative project utilising the principles of natural flood management, creating 30ha of new wetland habitat, and helping protect homes in Stockton-On-Tees that have suffered repeated flooding.”

Medium Project Category Robert Stephenson Award Winner (projects between £1 and £5m)

Chester le Street Flood Alleviation Scheme

Chester le Street Flood Alleviation Scheme won the medium category award.

Chester-le-Street has a long history of flooding and in June 2012, more than 100 homes and businesses at the northern end of the town were affected by floodwaters. Durham County Council started working together with the Environment Agency to come up with a solution. The solution was to deliver the Chester-le-Street Flood Alleviation Scheme, which involved three phases of work in the heart of the town centre.

The project team included Durham County Council, Pell Frischmann and Esh Civils.

The judges said: “This hidden part of the infrastructure of Chester-le-Street has been opened up to provide a ‘park-like’ feel to the town centre, whilst providing well needed flood protection to homes and businesses.

The judges said they were impressed with the project team’s collaborative working to develop and construct the proposals (including significant areas of habitat creation) in constrained working area. In addition, they noted the “close working relationship with local residents and businesses was key to ensuring that the longer-term benefits to the community will last for future generations.”

Medium Project Category Robert Stephenson Award - Highly Commended

Marton West Beck Flood Alleviation Scheme

Marton West Beck Flood Alleviation Scheme, was presented with a Highly Commended Award in the medium project category.

The Marton West Beck Flood Alleviation Scheme is a vital investment in reducing flood risk in Middlesbrough and will provide protection to 485 properties. This is achieved using new and raised flood defence walls, flood storage bunds and other interventions.

The project team included Environment Agency, Mott Macdonald/Bam Nuttall joint venture and Turner and Townsend.

The judges said they liked how BIM had been used in the decision-making process by visually demonstrating the options to key stakeholders. The sustainability, environmental and community benefits built into the proposals were recognised by the judges, as was the significant reduction of properties at risk of flooding as a result of the scheme.

Large Project Category Robert Stephenson Award Winner (projects over £5m)

The Catalyst

The Catalyst was crowned winner of the large project category.

The Catalyst is a “ground-breaking, architecturally striking facility” with a distinctive dia-grid, home to the UK’s National Innovation Centres for both Ageing and Data. The Catalyst is also a hub for sustainable development learning and community engagement and support.

The project team included: Newcastle University, GSS Architecture, Design North, Gillespies LLP, Studio Horn, Desco, Bowmer & Kirkland, NG Bailey, JD Pierce, Charles Henshaw & Sons Ltd (inc. Levolux), Beal Architectural and Turner and Townsend).

The judges said: ”This fantastic addition to the Newcastle landscape continues to improve the built environment in this bustling part of the North East.

It’s a credit to clients who wish to be bold with their innovation and foresight, ably supported by excellent civil engineering and other specialist partners who enabled this vision to be brought to life whilst introducing sustainable assets into the design and minimising it’s whole-life carbon footprint. Well done to all involved!”

Large Project Category Robert Stephenson Award - Highly Commended

Newcastle University Sports Centre

A Highly Commended award was presented to Newcastle University Sports Centre.

The Sports Centre is a 4500m2 sports, research and teaching facility and includes Biometrics and Physiology Laboratories; Environmental Chamber; Gymnasium; International Standard 8-Court Sports Hall; Energy Centre; Strength & Conditioning Suite and Studio/Seminar Facilities.

The project team included Newcastle University, Cundall, Ryder Architecture and Clugston Construction.

In the judges’ words - “An interesting solution on a constrained site, cleverly tying in to an existing building. The modelling of pluvial risk from existing sewers was key to proving the solution.”

Special 30th Anniversary Robert Stephenson Award Winner

Northern Spire

To mark the 30th Anniversary of the Robert Stephenson Awards a special award was presented. Members of the public had the chance to vote for their favourite civil engineering projects from the winners of the last 3 years of the Robert Stephenson Awards.

The winner was the Northern Spire, a landmark bridge dominating Sunderland’s skyline and central to a strategic road linking the A19 to Sunderland city centre and Port of Sunderland.

The project team included Sunderland City Council, Farrans – Victor Buyck, AECOM, Yee Associates, Jacobs, Buro Happold – Roughan & O’Donovan Design Joint Venture, Atkins, Faithful & Gould and Safe Track Associates).

In 2018, when the Northern Spire won a Robert Stephenson Award, the judges commented: “This project has captured the public interest both in the immediate area and nationally. The scale, complexity and design of this scheme has brought the industry of civil engineering, in many of its guises, to the public’s attention, opening up a new area to investment and enhancing the lives of many now and in the future.”

STEM Ambassador of the Year Award sponsored by ESH Civils

Paula McMahon

The ICE NE STEM Ambassador of the Year Award went to Paula McMahon from Sir Robert McAlpine.

The judges were impressed with Paula’s unwavering enthusiasm and commitment to STEM and the vast array of activities she has carried out.

Read Paula’s recent blog: Safety over style: getting personal about my protective equipment.

  • Joanne Stephenson, communications lead at ICE