106 Communications

6th Sense

BIM, beards and flat-pack toilets – the future of engineering?

January 2015 | Diversity, Employer Brand, Engineering, Sectors

Today (21/01/15), I went to the Institute of Civil Engineers for a conference.

There were lots of men (with beards) and very few women.  And most people were ‘of a certain age’.  Sadly representative of the industry.

The conference was entitled – Infrastructure: Engineering the future today.  An irony, perhaps, considering the age of most of the participants.

We sat in a big lecture theatre, with the heating turned right down.  (One of the themes was ‘reducing emissions’ after all.)

Not being an engineer, I didn’t know what to expect.  I was, in many ways, pleasantly surprised.

Technology is transforming every part of construction engineering – from BIM and DfMA to the supply chain.

You can in effect have whole structures made off site and then ‘put together’ onsite like some giant lego construction. (The toilets in Terminal 2 were delivered like an IKEA flat-pack!)

Today’s buildings only last on average 40 years before they are knocked down and rebuilt.

If they lasted longer, we could significantly reduce emissions in the construction industry.

Jaguar Land Rover tenders every job.

Heathrow Airport doesn’t – and seems to enjoy a better relationship with contractors.

Most surprising of all, engineers are quite happy to sit through two hours of presentations, without a break.

(And also very few of them tweet.)

But I was also a tiny bit disappointed.

Despite talking about the future of engineering, there was little focus on skills.

Or bringing in new talent into the industry.

And my feet got really cold.

What was really heart-warming was the talk by Professor Allwood.  A truly inspiring person, who made engineering interesting, accessible and fun.

If we could get more students (and especially girls) to be taught by people like that, the yawning skills gap would soon be closed.

He even had the audacity to ask a lot of construction engineers, ‘why are we building this rubbish?’ – cue picture of the chessegrater in London

All in all, a great conference to be part of.  Considering it was invitation only, I’m not quite sure why I was there.

But I’m glad I went.

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