Arup now and in the future
What now for the engineering consultancy industry? How does the current situation look? What effect has the global financial crisis had? What about the impact of prestige projects? And what is ‘hot’ right now? Read what an engineer from a leading consultancy company with its headquarters in London has to say.
Chris Burgess is Senior Sustainability Consultant at Arup, an engineering consultancy company comprising designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists. Chris has an MSc in Clean Technology and six years experience as a sustainability advisor and consultant with expertise in strategy, reporting and development of major infrastructure projects, environmental management systems, carbon footprinting, etc. Chris has been involved in a number of prestige projects, both in the UK, Middle East and elsewhere. He is a man with his finger on the pulse when it comes to sustainability.
Arup was founded in 1946 in England. The company became globally known through their work on the structural design of the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. More recently, Arup has worked on construction projects for high profile sporting events, Heathrow Terminal 5 in London, China Central Television Headquarters in Beijing, Dubai Airport and many others. The company employs over 10,000 people at its offices around the world. More than 8,000 of these are engineering and technical staff.
On the agenda
Chris Burgess is involved in major engineering consultancy projects around the globe. He regularly works with engineers, other experts and major companies from many countries and knows what is ‘hot’ right now in the industry.
He says that carbon management is a much-discussed topic as clients are beginning to look beyond their direct carbon emissions. One aspect playing a role is the increasing consideration of the supply chain and its part in carbon emissions management. According to Chris, this issue is being driven by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol), which is the most widely used international accounting tool for understanding, quantifying and managing greenhouse emissions. The Scope 3 emissions section of the protocol deals with quantifying and measuring carbon in relation to the supply chain, making it possible to target a wider scope of emissions reduction.
Embodied carbon from the extraction, refinement, manufacture, transport and construction of the built environment can now be quantified with greater certainty. This is allowing us to make informed choices about materials and site techniques during the design process.
Chris Burgess, Senior Sustainability Consultant, Arup
The construction industry
Chris brings up another aspect of this topic, which is that the construction industry is starting to understand its role in carbon emissions reduction. He says: “Embodied carbon from the extraction, refinement, manufacture, transport and construction of the built environment can now be quantified with greater certainty. This is allowing us to make informed choices about materials and site techniques during the design process.” The whole issue of looking at the bigger picture when it comes to carbon management is front and center in the industry right now.
According to Chris, sustainability consultants like him are able to assist both clients and colleagues in understanding the role of embodied carbon. He tells us that: “We can provide the tools and licenses with which third parties can more efficiently assess and improve their sustainability performance.” This could typically involve providing the tools and expertise required for GHG Scope 3 emissions accounting. The benefit for the client is improved and more precise carbon management; at the same time, it makes: “The process of sustainable design simpler and more accessible to a wider range of engineers and architects.” A real win-win situation, so little wonder that carbon management is a hot topic.
Sustainability under pressure
Chris Burgess shares some of his particular expertise on sustainability and the state of the branch at the moment. When it comes to sustainability, what is the major challenge facing the engineering consultancy branch at the moment? The answer can be summed up in a few words: Sustainability within a more constrained economy.
He goes on to explain the situation that he often meets in his role as Senior Sustainability Consultant: “Clients are increasingly under pressure to justify the consideration of sustainable solutions within projects. Currently, other factors are taking precedence. Our job is to show how sustainability can be integral and add value to all projects.“ When asked how this can be done, Chris tells us that it requires intelligent project management coupled to a willingness to push the issue throughout all stages of the project.
Buying into sustainability
Buy-in is another factor. He tells us: “Buy-in on a project’s sustainability agenda is critical right from the kick off meeting to ensure that the correct processes are put in place and any trade-offs or compromises are understood.” In an engineering project, sustainability objectives involve many different technical aspects and teams. A particular objective can impact other teams and their objectives. So it is generally easier and better to solve problems at an early stage, rather than when the design is already well developed.
"Buy-in on a project’s sustainability agenda is critical right from the kick off meeting to ensure that the correct processes are put in place and any trade-offs or compromises are understood."
Chris Burgess, Senior Sustainability Consultant, Arup
Managing projects and risk
Giving sustainability a central position in construction projects, places demands on the people who work on the project. Talking about this aspect, Chris tells us that: “The role of a good Project Manager is very important for sustainability because we often need to tie multiple disciplines together and ensure they are all coordinated.” He went on to explain that this is also important because clients should consider sustainability as a risk. Getting the sustainability of a project right will positively impact their situation, both in terms of finances and reputation. But if they get it wrong, it could have the opposite effect.
Traditionally, consultants have been posted abroad to work on major projects. We asked whether this could or would continue in the future. Chris told us: “I expect there to be more remote working from the UK on international projects where we don’t have an office. This will include the effective use of technologies in the transfer of data and of video conferencing, which will make our way of working more efficient and less time consuming. We will be able to meet client needs in many different global areas at the same time.” What’s more, this is already happening on projects, where Arup can draft colleagues in from as far away as Australia to work on a project on the other side of the world without needing to be there in person.