New ICE head calls for vision in handling infrastructure challenges

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IF the engineering community is to rise to the challenges presented by global concerns such as climate change, population growth and resource depletion, it will need to “adopt the vision, tenacity and ingenuity of our Victorian forebears”, according to the new President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Professor David Balmforth.

David Balmforth

David Balmforth

Speaking at his Presidential Address on 4 Nov, Professor Balmforth said early civil engineering greats like Thomas Telford came together to form a learned society for civil engineers at a point when Britain was “at the threshold of an industrial revolution that would ultimately shape the future of the world – and then went on to lay the foundations of the railways, water supply, sanitation and power systems on which modern society still depends.”
“As well as wrestling with the embryonic principles of construction, they needed to convince wary investors, persuade uninterested politicians, and accommodate a sceptical public that often viewed their ideas as absurd. Like us, they understood the importance of sharing ideas, of providing a platform for change, and for ensuring that their workforce was fit for the job in hand.” he added.
“But they also had the vision and ingenuity to look forward, see their role in addressing the difficulties that society faced and achieve progress while avoiding disaster. Put simply – they had the vision to step beyond their threshold.
“Today, we stand on a new threshold for change, in the same way as our Victorian forebears nearly 200 years ago. We must also rise to the challenge in the same way, and work for the benefit of future generations in shaping our future world.”
Professor Balmforth, an Executive Technical Director at MWH where he advises on major flood relief projects, and a national expert and media commentator on flood risk management, said the global mega trends we face, such as climate change, population growth and resource depletion “are of such scale that they stretch our ability to comprehend them. They test our ability to imagine a future where prosperity and sustainability can work in harmony.”

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