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Planning for our Future Environment: Thoughts on two pioneering engineering schemes in Yorkshire

There is growing concern in the UK regarding climate change and the effects that increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather is having on the places we live and work. The latest Constructing Excellence Yorkshire and Humber seminar explored the role construction has in combating this and featured presentations on a flood protection scheme in York and a coastal defence scheme in Runswick Bay, Scarborough. The School's Head of Subject for Construction, Surveying and Project Management, Mark Wilson, chaired the event and has written his thoughts below.

Thoughts from Planning for our future environment event

I had the privilege of chairing a Construction Excellence Yorkshire and Humber breakfast event on Thursday 7th November where we were presented with two environmental schemes; one considering the Foss Barrier in York and another exploring the coastal defence scheme at Runswick Bay near Scarborough. Many thanks to the team for inviting me and to the speakers from Esh Construction, Environment Agency and JBA Bentley for enthralling me.

The schemes discussed the local community and how they had interacted with them to help provide an answer to the problems that are being caused by the current changes in climate. They also looked at the impact they were having on the environment and we had some good discussion around the subject of sustainability and the wider impact we are having on the planet.

River flood defences

The Foss Barrier is designed to prevent flooding of the Foss due to increasing levels in the River Ouse preventing water from discharging from the Foss into the flow of the Ouse. Submersible pumps capable of moving 50 cubic meters of water a second have been installed to move water from the Foss into the Ouse once the barrier has been raised. The impact on the Ouse was discussed, but with the Ouse having a peak flow of 650 cubic meters per second the extra flow from the pumps was not considered significant.

A map of the area covered in the project

The catchment area for the Ouse is considerable and stretches far wider than most of the attendees thought. The size of the catchment area means that there is a lag between rainfall and the need to operate the barrier, i.e. today’s rainfall will have an impact on tomorrow's water levels. It’s a complicated matter predicting the flow rates. The project has attracted much recognition for it's innovative build processes and solutions and has recently won the Constructing Excellence National Civil Engineering Project of the Year Award. Congratulations to all involved and good luck with the final completion of phase 2 - getting the permanent barrier installed (booked in for an 8 day period - we hope the weather conditions are favourable on those days!).

Montage of images showing rockdelivery, storge and placement in flood defences.

Next up was the coastal defence works at Runswick Bay. This caught the interest of the audience due it's innovative use of materials and attention to preserving the heritage of the site. Not only were large boulders of granite transported from Norway, but their placement was considered very carefully. Photographs of the original rock structure were used to carefully place the new rocks in place to maintain the look of the coastline. Boulders were also laid to form rock pools where there were indentations occurring. Where no indentation occurred the contractor (Esh Group) formed them to make bespoke rock pools.

The work was part of a MSc study into environmental enhancements that moved into PhD study and has gained interest from around the country. The new rock pools have been monitored over a 12 month period and after 6 months were found to have 11 different species in them. Over the 12 month period there were 23 species that had inhabited the new rock pools.

I came away thinking that if we approach all our construction projects with nature in mind we could make so much more of a positive impact on the surroundings and for such little cost. We can enhance schemes for wildlife benefitting the residents and occupiers of the area and lessening our ever increasing impact on the environment.

A flooded area.

Notes: Constructing Excellence Yorkshire and Humber (CEYH) is the regional partner to National Constructing Excellence, the single organisation responsible for driving innovation, growth and productivity in the UK Construction Sector. CEYH is run by a team at the School of Built Environment, Engineering and Computing at Leeds Beckett University and supported by an industry led board and supporters from across the built environment sector.

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About the Author

Mark Wilson

Mark is the Head of Subject for Surveying, Construction and Project Management which delivers a varied range of technical courses. He is a chartered building surveyor with over 20 years experience in the industry and he is still active in consultancy work for local companies, specialising in timber and damp investigations.

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