About Time!

We’re long overdue for an update and I think I’m finally getting my head above water here. I’m not sure how long it will last but I’ve been so busy over the past 3 weeks that I haven’t even managed to keep a regular dog-walking schedule, much less get on the Interweb.

The long and short of my new job is that I’m working for Atkins. For those that don’t know, Atkins is the largest Engineering practice in the UK and around 11th in the world. So my career has moved from smaller, independently owned, companies to the bigger, publicly traded, multi-disciplinary firms.

Needless to say, things are different! Just to put it in terms of day-to-day, I’m currently sitting on the 27th floor looking south over London. I’m sitting in a group of Engineers / Technicians working on surface water drainage for the Olympics. Traditionally, I would be the only guy discussing drainage in an office. Now, everywhere I turn I’m surrounded by conversations, computer screens and drawings covered in drainage. One of my directors called our area a “swamp”!

Lately I’ve been split between three offices: Epsom in Surrey, Euston in London and Canary Wharf in London. Canary Wharf is an interesting place. The offices are very nice and there’s access from the station all the way to the basement of my building through the massive low-level shopping plaza. I can understand why it’s a prime destination for business. The work in Canary Wharf has been some bits and pieces on Crossrail. When I get my head around storm drainage for Crossrail I’m going to definitely do a post about it.

The most interesting part of working on projects like Crossrail and the Olympics is that I am having difficulty working out who is paying for my work. I know where the money is coming from, but how it gets to Atkins is a mystery to me! This is partly because the work is all mega-urgent so I’ve had to just stick my nose down and get on with it rather than spending (wasting?) time on long introductions to the project. But as things settle down around here I’ve started to pay close attention to the current political discussions about public spending and the future of major infrastructure projects, and I’m not sure how much I like being relevant! Hopefully things will continue on the way they are now, keeping goliath companies like Atkins in good stead and able to employ many thousands of engineers!


More on IDF curves

Hi Folks

Just so you know, I finally dug out that IDF curve from Alabama. Calera, Alabama actually, I get nostalgic just thinking about it.

At my new place of work I have been using Civil 3D a little bit. I was excited to use it as it finishes off my journey of software packages from: LDD > Eagle Point > PDS > Civil 3D. I like to spend a few years on a Civils package before moving on. It’s healthy.

Civil 3D comes equipped with an add-on of Hydraflow for storm sewer design. I haven’t really messed with it yet but I understand I could use it in the UK if I input the IDF curves I came up with below. Although, after comparing the IDF curves below with Alabama’s curve I am wondering if I’ve done this correctly. They seem so extreme in their gradient change!

This brings me to my next piece of news. Civil 3D bought Boss International last fall and I assume they have incorporated Boss’s software into AutoCAD in order to make it the most uber-design package known to man.

A little birdy told me today that Boss will be rolling out a fully functional UK version of their software for drainage design. Could this be the package that gives Microdrainage a run for their money? Up to now we haven’t seen much, so I’m hoping the competition is a little more fierce from Boss. A little competition can go a long way to improving these software packages!

Well, I’ve been saying I was going to do it. So I did it. In fact, it is one of the most often reasons someone visits the site. That I mentioned Intensity Duration Frequency (IDF) curves for London in a previous post has generated a lot of site activity for me. So, in return for the traffic I sat down and worked out a first attempt at the graphs.

Using Microdrainage and the Flood Studies Report (FSR) I cut out a lot of the hand work from the Wallingford Procedure (Rational Method). Their generate rainfall looks like this:

Pretty nice, eh? After a laborious bit of data entry and clicking it gives us everything we need to create a nice set of IDF curves.

So here it is, in all its glory, the IDF curve for London, UK in mm/hr:

Or, for you Americans, inches/hr:

Obviously I can take no responsibility for this information, or whatever you might do with it, but it does go a long way to pointing out why they get away with 6 inch pipes everywhere here. I’ve got an old IDF curve for Birmingham, AL somewhere so I might dig it out and do a little comparison. From memory though I believe they’re about 10-12 inches per hour in the 100 year storm. Quite a difference!

Okay, it’s been a couple of weeks and I have started to settle in at the new company. My impressions I’ll keep to myself for the moment until I can clear all the blogging issues with HR/PR.

I said I was going to run through some of my favourite Curtins projects and I meant to do it. So there is no reason I still can’t update with some of the projects I enjoyed doing most. I would like to run through one of my all time most favourite projects: Marine Scotland, Fisheries Research project. As it is in research and probably fairly protective of its data I will spare you the gritty details and leave you with the Youtube video:

Nice huh? I particularly like the part where they see the pond. That’s my pond! Hopefully it will look like that in reality but I have the sneaking suspicion that it will end up like all the small ponds I’ve ever designed (horrible).

The thing I enjoyed most about this project was that it was in Aberdeen and I got to fly there once a month for about 18 months. And most importantly, I loved the design team. The Architects were some of the best I’ve ever worked with and the whole group of us got on really well. That’s not to say that there wasn’t the odd bit of heated debate (I believe the design team leader once suggested to my director that I be “taken outside and shot”) but in all it was one of the most satisfying projects to work on, both in complexity of design and involvement throughout delivery.

And did I mention the fish and chips you could get at the golf course club house across from site?! I’m not a huge fish eater, but when you’re designing a building to protect fish health you can’t help sitting there thinking about a nice piece of deep-fried ocean dwelling animal. See here a photo of Niren enjoying the dish:

Fish of the North Sea, I enjoyed eating you almost as much as I enjoyed being a part of the delivery of your future healthcare.

I’m finishing up here and while I’m going through old files and cleaning out drawers I’ve started to wax philosophically about all the projects I’ve worked on over the past five years. My first large scheme and the project I used for my Civils exam was Larden Road.

Larden Road was a £68 million housing scheme with a mix of for sale/affordable residential and commercial units. The project comprised approximately 500 individual residential units spread across a 2.1 hectare site. The small plan area of the site required that the units be situated in high density multi-storey buildings with a central private access road. The site is located within the floodplain of the river Thames.

This resulted in a host of design and feasibility problems. I think this project has a special place in my memory because I was part of the team that not only secured planning for the scheme, but also part of the design and build design team for the contractor who built it. This meant that I wrote a Flood Risk Assessment, carried out preliminary designs for costing, produced construction information and saw the construction through to site.

The site:

The Microdrainage Model:

The basic idea is that the Environment Agency asked us to attenuate to Greenfield rates. This meant we needed a large amount of attenuation in order to achieve the required volume of storage necessary to meet the rates. I designed a system that cascaded permeable paving zones through the site with a single outfall. I even selected recycled material for use beneath the paving.

The recycled material:

And the finished product:

Ch Ch Changes.

Well, it’s been official for 2 weeks now. My time at Curtins is finally at an end. I will be leaving here this Friday and start at the new job on 16th August. I’m not certain what their policy is on employee blogs yet so I won’t name and shame them by associating myself directly. Not yet anyway.

By way of send-off I thought I’d take a look back at some of my favorite projects I’ve completed here. I haven’t done a full count, but by my reckoning I’ve been involved in over 80 different schemes during the last 5 years. I also used my time here to get Chartered. Curtins are tied into my whole British experience. They were the first people we met when we moved here and many of them remain close friends. I’ve spent a fair few great nights and days working and playing with the people here. I am going to miss them!

The 2009 office Christmas Party:

The 2009 drainage team:

There are too many good times to cover in one post. I’m going to try and update throughout the week with some more memories/projects.

Some of the places I’ve done work in include (in no particular order):

Greater London
Norfolk (Hopton, Flegg, Hobart, Winterton, Glebeland, Gilingham)
New Castle

I’m sure the list could continue, but I won’t bore you any longer. I just want to say that working for Curtins has been a pleasure.

I’ve got a nice little job in one of England’s port towns. There are some good Civil Engineering works like ground improvement and roads/drainage. But something happened recently that got my eyebrows lifting. It’s times like these that I worry about the industry.

That’s the site. The short version of this little debacle, if that’s what I’m calling it, is that the future building and its owners would like to flush the toilet. They’d like to flush the toilet in the knowledge that the water will drain away and not end up in the English Channel.

Funny thing about that, the water company had their consultant send me a letter after accepting the application form and roughly £500 to look into the possibility of a future connection. In my letter I asked:

1.) Could we please connect surface water to your storm overflow culvert that crosses the site?
2.) Could we please conect our foul via pump into your combined sewers draining into the pump station?

Here’s the site plan:

Their response was this:

1.) No, please look for an alternative connection location like a local watercourse.
2.) Yes, so long as the flow does not exceed 1 liter per second. Also, please connect to MH 0302.

Now this leaves me in a funny spot. I’m guessing by watercourse they are referring to the *&$£ing English Channel that is obviously adjacent to the site. I mean, if the site location plan didn’t make it obvious then the joker who works for the OS Mapping service should have given it away with the hilarious “Dolphins” note. I can only assume that this refers to some kind of named pier and was not based on observations from the day.

And to make matters worse, 1 liter per second from a pump has got to be the most asinine solution I’ve ever heard of. What sort of tom-foolery resulted in that number? I’m guessing they want us to use some sort of hand-pump to achieve these rates. Either that or we have some kind of operational siphoning regime in which the person who draws the short straw has to go out to the outfall and “get the siphon started…”.

The biggest insult was that they denied my connection to the combined sewage overflow from 0302 and asked that I instead connect my foul to this manhole. Really? You want me to connect my foul drainage into a chamber that drains directly to the English Channel? ARE YOU SURE?!?!

My discussions with the company in question have been drawn out and tiring since their initial nonsense letter. To their credit they have some very intelligent and hard-working engineers that have worked with me to resolve some of the issues we’re having.

Despite our best efforts we’re still not there. Because of this I’ve decided I’m going to use internet Memes to counter argue local water authorities in these situations. Because believe me, if four months of discussions haven’t resulted in a suitable solution then maybe it is time for a change in tactics. Perhaps I would have been better served to have responded in the first instance with this:

Enough said.