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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

An Innovation and Knowledge Centre funded by EPSRC and Innovate UK

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Tunnels & Tunnelling profiles Head of CSIC

last modified Oct 04, 2017 10:35 AM
Professor Lord Robert Mair talks British civil engineering past, present and future in an interview published by Tunnels & Tunnelling.

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The interview, which appears ahead of Professor Mair’s appointment as President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) for 2018, brings focus to his professional and academic career, highlighting some of the many challenging tunnelling projects he has contributed to, including the Jubilee Line Extension and Crossrail.

While acknowledging the historical triumphs of British engineering – which provides one of the themes for the ICE bicentenary celebrations – Professor Mair looks to the future: “The ICE was founded in 1818 and there will be a lot of focus on the huge achievements of British civil engineering over the last 200 years. The real emphasis will not be on the past, but on the future.”

Creating space for underground living and storage could become increasingly relevant as changes in society add pressure to already densely-developed cities.  “I think there are a lot of opportunities for creating underground space, especially with a worldwide increase of urbanisation. It is well known that by 2050 the world population will be around nine billion, with two-thirds of that population living in cities.

“The possibility to use underground space is becoming increasingly attractive for environmental reasons.”

Reflecting on the current UK political and economic landscape, and the uncertainty of Brexit casting a shadow over the construction industry, Professor Mair stresses the importance of the cost-benefit analysis of tunnelling projects in attracting the required investment, but remains positive:  “I think that the strength of the British tunnelling market worldwide is very high – there is a strong influence of British tunnelling in many parts of the world.”

Professor Mair gives the innovative work of CSIC and the use of sensor technology for monitoring the performance of infrastructure, including tunnels, as an example of how the digital revolution is transforming industry.  

“This is the opportunity for exciting new technologies to really change the way that we are doing a lot of civil engineering,” says Professor Mair. “It is time to make a big difference to civil engineering.”

Read the full interview courtesy of Tunnels & Tunnelling here.

Tunnels & Tunnelling is a monthly industry publication. See http://www.tunnelsonline.info/ to subscribe.