Civil engineers are being called on to develop strategies to ensure that not only movement of people and goods is efficient but also strategies for resilient power supply, management of water resources

Source: IGS – During the past two decades, there has been an inexorable shift in the approach to and delivery of urban development, whether new urban quarters or regeneration of urban areas with declining social and economic indices. This has been characterised not just by the converging pattern of world demographics but by the increasing focus and level of technical (engineering) detail required of development proposals at the early feasibility and planning stages.

A renewed interest in infrastructure

This ‘renewed’ interest in ensuring adequate thought is given to the infrastructure systems of cities has been driven primarily by concerns about the environmental impact of urban development and a growing awareness of the need to conserve dwindling natural resources as well as the consequences of global warming. More recently, one of the important consequences of the Great Recession has been to focus much greater attention upon cost and benefit of projects and ensuring that adequate business modelling (including analysis of relevant infrastructure) is undertaken. Add to this the emerging consciousness of increasing social inequality and its consequences and the complexities of working in this space begin to emerge.

The result has been a greater emphasis placed on ensuring that the impact of urban development is more sustainable and able to deliver more responsible solutions in providing increased value to the City, its citizens as well as its various economic sectors. To achieve this, civil engineers are being called on to develop integrated (system of systems) strategies to ensure that not only movement of people and goods is efficient but also strategies for resilient power supply, management of water resources and for treating waste as a resource. And to this we can add the need to ensure cost effectiveness, public and political advocacy, and an ability to act as a lynchpin between the planning and design of projects and their execution and delivery. Part of this role, as it has existed since the industrial revolution, is to ensure that the scientific discoveries and advances in technology can be applied to the benefit of clients, municipal governments and citizens alike. Or, as their Charter more eloquently states, “…for the general advancement of Mechanical Science, and more particularly for promoting the acquisition of that species of knowledge which constitutes the profession of a Civil Engineer, being the art of directing the great sources of power in Nature for the use and convenience of man…”

Technology and data as a change driver

One of the responses to these drivers of change has been for greater attention to be given to the potency of data and information communication and technology (ICT). The engineering profession needs to break out of the silos it has gradually managed to develop over the past century. Simple examples from other industries demonstrate the benefits of whole systems thinking and integration. In this respect, ICT has an additional function in…

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