Known unknowns

19 June 2018

I read recently about a visit to the Hinkley Point project, organised by Kier and Bam Nuttall on behalf of the Future Brunel programme. This is a scheme that selects a number of 11-year-old students from partner schools and over the course of five years takes them to activity days designed to sustain interest and enthusiasm in STEM subjects, and introduce the chosen few to the people working in these fields.

For the trip to Hinkley, the students were given the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a civil engineer for the day; using setting out and survey equipment on site and putting engineering principles into practice.

This investment in the future is good to encourage and hopefully this scheme, which has only been running for seven years, yields some results and can be expanded.

This sort of forward-looking investment in skills and industry is to be encouraged.

In this issue Roland Leucker, managing director of Germany’s Stuva research organisation points to BIM as an industry-altering improvement that is looming just over the horizon.

A lot of thinking and development is going into BIM – the ITA has launched Working Group 22 to consider it, and DAUB is currently working on a series of recommendations, but a lot of the usefulness is still to come, and it will come from the next generation of engineers.

I once attended a seminar on BIM, apparently to teach younger and student engineers about the technology, but ending with a brainstorm on new ideas for its use. The exchange went both ways, and I hope the attendees picked up on that.

The revolution will come, however. Leucker wryly remarked, “I can remember the time when engineers did drawings by pencil and I remember some colleagues who are a little bit older who said CAD is of no use, I am still faster using a pencil, doing the drawing by hand.

“Nowadays everyone is using CAD, and I think the same will come about with BIM.”

Also in this issue, VMT’s Florian Werres talks about convincing clients to bury RFID tags in precast concrete segments, which will allow engineers as yet unborn to do clever things with predictive maintenance through BIM, but for which they will need detailed records of how the segment specifi cation and casting situation.

You cannot solve the problems of the future today, but you can still prepare to face them by making sure the right skills and resources are in place.