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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

Transforming infrastructure through smarter information
CSIC smart tunnel in final for Product Design Innovation Award

CSIC’s sensing technologies operating in a section of London’s Royal Mail Tunnel have been shortlisted for a prestigious British Construction Industry (BCI) Award for Product Design Innovation.


The annual awards recognise outstanding achievement in building and civil engineering projects. This is the first time CSIC has entered these awards and the shortlisted project is one of only six finalists for the innovation category.

The smart tunnel project has already attracted the attention of the BBC which recently featured the project on its flagship technology programme Click that was broadcast around the world (click here to view).

The shortlisted CSIC team working on this ground-breaking project comprises CSIC co-investigators Dr Mohammed Elshafie, Laing O’Rourke Lecturer in Construction Engineering, Professor Kenichi Soga, Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Cambridge, CSIC Head Professor Robert Mair and CSIC research students Mehdi Alhaddad, Matthew Wilcock, Heba Bevan and Chang Ye Gue. 

Dr Elshafie said: “The instrumentation of the Royal Mail Railway tunnel at Liverpool Street in London was a first on a number of counts: it was the first time a range of high-tech, revolutionary monitoring devices, developed at Cambridge University, had been used to monitor the movement of an existing tunnel. It also meant that the project team involved could see what effect the construction of Crossrail’s new platform tunnel, directly underneath, would have on a cast iron tunnel for the first time (almost in real time). The novelty of this project extends beyond the use of high-tech gadgets; it goes beyond the use of technology into advocating the use of the knowledge gained to understand the performance of civil engineering infrastructure and hence adopt the concept of performance-based design.” 

Mehdi Alhaddad, an engineer currently working on the Crossrail project and completing a PhD at CSIC, said:  “These are very important industry awards and our entry had to meet strict criteria that demonstrated how CSIC’s project creating a smart section within the Royal Mail Tunnel is efficient, innovative, sustainable and delivers results with a greater level of detail but with a fraction of the cost.” 

“It is extremely exciting for CSIC to be a finalist in this category as we are up against some of the major players in industry and the fact we have caught the eye of the judges is an achievement in itself,” said Matthew Wilcock. “CSIC works to create technologies that offer major benefits to the construction industry and our smart tunnel project demonstrates the potential of our sensing and data analysis technologies.” 

The annual BCI Awards ceremony will take place in London in October. The shortlisted CSIC team presented to the judging panel on 19 June. 

The instrumentation fitted into the smart tunnel, including fibre optics, laser scanning, wireless linear potentiometer displacement transducers (LPDTs), photogrammetric techniques and wireless tiltmeter sensors, has been devised by CSIC and the Centre’s co-investigators, or optimised specifically for the tunnel environment. The project utilises data and information technology featuring construction dashboards that introduce site-specific architecture that will allow real time monitoring of infrastructure to take place. 

“Each member of the CSIC team is responsible for a different aspect of the instrumentation and data analysis and these have to be linked together to tell the whole story of what’s happening in and around the site in real time,” said Chang Ye Gue.  “The judges have seen the potential value of what we have achieved for the construction industry.” 

The CSIC industry partner representatives for this project are: Michael Devriendt from Arup, Peter Wright from CM2M HILL, Stephen Roberts, Mike Black and Chris Dulake from Crossrail, Mitch Harris from Royal Mail and Paul Waterfall from Imetrum. 

The shortlist for the British Construction Industry Award for Product Design Innovation includes: 

Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure & Construction, Bridging the Knowledge Gap in London's 'Secret Tube'

Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions, Pipe Scanning and Data Capture: Delivering Network Intelligence to Gas and Water Infrastructure
Connect Plus Services, Connect Plus - Rapid Cure Concrete M25 Bay Replacement
Permaban, Permaban Eclipse
Siniat, GTEC Weather Defence at Abercynon Community Primary School
TfL, Costain, Ramboll, Parsons Brinckerhoff and Freyssinet, Hammersmith Flyover Post Tensioning Design Innovation 

Read more here.

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