The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is presenting many challenges in the engineering sector. The successful delivery of live projects has been adversely affected over the last six months by site shut-downs, material supply chain issues and shortages of personnel. If you had told me last year that in the first few months of 2020 there would be raging Australian bushfires, climate emergencies and a deadly virus spreading across the globe – I would not have believed you!
The sharing of knowledge, tools and techniques is something that comes naturally to engineers. Our working environment necessitates an open attitude to sharing information with colleagues, clients and the project team. Many of our engineers now find themselves conducting their everyday design activities remotely. This has required us to be more forward thinking taking e-conferencing to new levels of sophistication.
Until recently, the construction industry had not really understood that the pandemic was destined to be much more than a tragic but temporary pause before a return to normality. Increasingly, it seems clear that society and the construction industry will not return to the pre-pandemic world and that we need to adapt to a “new normal”.
The actions of our client’s remain mixed across the various sectors of the construction industry. Not surprisingly, many retail, hospitality and leisure schemes are currently on hold and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Despite the current challenges that we all face, my engineering team continue to be successful in delivering high quality Civil & Structural Engineering consultancy services on projects in Torbay and across the wider region.
I am particularly proud that we have been able to support Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, a long-standing client for in excess of 25 years, on several vitally important fast-track projects at Torbay Hospital.
The refurbishment of Theatres 1 and 2, Recovery and the old ICU department is now near to completion and will shortly be handed back to the Trust for clinical use. The team have also completed works to RIBA Stage 3 for the Trust on an exciting new Urgent Care Centre (to expand and replace the existing Accident & Emergency Department), which has recently developed into a series of phased projects to reflect operational and strategic changes due to Covid-19.
Our team has developed expert knowledge of Healthcare work over a significant period of time and we are currently working hard to deliver these new facilities under tight cost and programme constraints. Our engineering expertise has enabled us to secure a further Covid-19 fast-track commission, for Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust, which is currently under construction.
Following the recent success of the 3 year European Circle Project, involving the participation of 20 European partners from 9 countries – Greece, Italy, Cyprus, UK, Germany, France, Croatia, Norway and Poland – looking at coastal flooding and critical infrastructure, my team continue to develop their specialist knowledge and expertise in the Civil Engineering sector, despite the challenges currently presented by Covid-19.
TDA have been highly successful obtaining European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and Environment Agency funding for our key clients, to facilitate construction of numerous coastal engineering and flood defence structures. These include £3.4m improvement work to Victoria Breakwater and the construction of a new £2.3m Shellfish Landing Jetty in Brixham, Devon.
My team have also recently secured £1.2m funding across three flood alleviation schemes to carry out essential watercourse improvement works, in addition to obtaining significant grant in aid funding to improve coastal defences across Torbay.
Our expertise in these areas of Marine and Hydraulic Engineering allows us to provide cost effective and innovative design solutions, in addition to developing high quality focused business cases to maximise funding opportunities.
Our next team venture will involve undertaking a South West pilot study of our coastal defence structures in Torbay, as a direct commission for the Environment Agency. If successful, this service will be offered to other coastal risk management authorities on a regional level by TDA.
My hope is that the specialist skills that we are able to offer will provide TDA with a level of organisational resilience during these unprecedented times. Increasingly, it seems clear that society and the construction industry will not return to the pre-pandemic world. As engineers, and natural problem solvers, we therefore need to adapt to the “new normal” – however this may look.
Tim Jones BEng (Hons) CEng MIStructE – TDA Head of Engineering.