Friday, 29 July 2011

President's Forum at Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland

Last week I was an invited guest of Finn Ahern, President of the Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland, at the Annual President's Forum and lunch.

The Association represents the Consulting Engineering profession in Ireland who plan, design and supervise the construction of major engineering projects. They mostly consist of the major civil, structural, mechanical and electrical consultancy firms engaged in Engineering Design.

The structural design for the leading landmark buildings in our cities have been designed by members of ACEI - recent examples are the National Convention Centre, New Courts Building Parkgate St, Limerick Tunnel, Grand Canal Theatre, Stadia at Aviva and Thomond Park , Samuel Beckett Bridge, Mizen Head Bridge and M6 Motorway to Galway and many more..

If you take the overall life cost of any of these projects or buildings -  the breakdown of life time cost runs about 2% for design, 23% for construction and 75% for operation/maintenance and replacement. We therefore have to ensure as responsible Engineers that we invest heavily in the quality of Design in terms of innovation, energy efficiency, reduced maintenance and whole life sustainability.

More importantly our public and private clients have to realise that awarding Design Contracts solely on the basis of cost to the 'lowest bidder' will return to haunt them in terms of greater multiples of operational and maintenance costs. 

The ACEI President's Forum was a useful discussion opportunity between ACEI and Engineers Ireland  on the current state of the engineering industry and the challenges that face us. Many of the ACEI design consulting firms have been reduced in volume work by 50% or more in adjusting to the greatly reduced planning and development market that currently exists in Ireland.

Pictured at the ACEI President's Forum lunch were Derrick Edge of Arup, P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland, Kate Gannon YPE Chair and Ryan Hanley, Phelim Devine of Arup and Finn Ahern President ACEI
An interesting initiative of ACEI has been the Young Professional Engineers Forum. This forum is for the younger members of the profession in order to attract the bright and talented into consulting. It was set up in 2007 and continues to go from strength to strength. This year's Chair of the YPE Forum is Kate Gannon a young engineer from Galway.

I raised the issue of Regulation of the Engineering profession which Engineers Ireland have been pursuing with Government. ACEI were totally supportive of this initiative.

I also informed ACEI of Engineers Ireland's plans to have a national campaign this Autumn to raise the profile of Chartered Engineer in terms of the role of engineers in society - supplying power, clean water, transport systems, IT systems,  biomedical services and communications in terms of everyday living.

Monday, 18 July 2011

New NUIG Engineering Building Opened by Taoiseach

I was invited by Dr Jim Browne President of NUIG (and Past President of Engineers Ireland) to attend the Official Opening of the new NUIG Engineering Building ( by Taoiseach Enda Kenny last Friday. NUIG's Engineering School is the largest in Ireland with 1,100 students and 110 staff, offering nine fully accredited undergraduates programmes in areas as diverse as civil and environmental engineering, computer and electronic engineering and biochemical engineering.

Pictured at the Official Opening of the new Engineering School in NUIG were Professor Padraic O'Donoghue Chairman of West Region Engineers Ireland, P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland and Dr Jim Browne President of NUIG

Also present from Engineers Ireland ( at the Opening were Vice President John O'Dea who is based in Galway, Chairman of our Finance Committee Murt Coleman and Executive Board Members Professor Padraic O'Donoghue (Chairman of the West Region) Domhnall Blair and Kieran Feighan together with Engineers Ireland Registar Damien Owens and Director of Communications Fionnuala Kilbane. Past President John Killeen was also present.

Carmel Brennan President of Galway Chamber of Commerce, P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland, Mayor of Galway Cllr Hildegarde Naughton and Dr Jim Browne President of NUIG

The Opening of the Building was a tremendous credit to President Jim Browne in particular, together with Padraic O'Donoghue Professor of Civil Engineering and Former Dean and the current Dean of Engineering and Informatics Professor Gerry Lyons.

In addition to the Taoiseach, I was also happy to meet the Mayor of Galway Cllr Hildegarde Naughton (, City Manager Joe O'Neill and President of Galway Chamber of Commerce ( Carmel Brennan at                                                                                            the Opening which was truly a major cause for celebration throughout Galway City. There were in excess of 350 people attending.

The new NUIG Engineering Building is truly an iconic curved structure designed to blend with the gentle curves of the River Corrib on whose banks it sits. The building has been designed to be a 'teaching tool' in itself with exposed construction techniques and an array of green building methods.

NUI Galway offers a degree in energy systems engineering and has a significant focus on research into environmental technologies. The engineering building itself contains a range of green technologies which will add to the 'hands on' experience of students. There is large scale rainwater harvesting, a biomass boiler, low- embodied energy materials, such as zinc, grass roofs for water attenuation, heat exchangers and many other cutting-edge technologies.

The structure is among the first in Ireland to employ the use of voided slab systems. The innovation introduces 'plastic bubbles' into the concrete reducing its weight and quantity of concrete used. Areas of the building such as the plant room will be accessible to showcase to students the industrial biomass boiler and combined heat and power unit at work.

All Irish engineers can be justly proud of this new national learning centre in NUIG, as Learning and Research Institutes are the future of Irish Engineering and the roots of future Job Creation.

That's why I've decided during my year as President of Engineers Ireland to visit a number of Research Institutes around Ireland like Tyndall Institute in Cork (, Marine Institute in Galway ( and many others in addition to also visiting various Infrastructural Projects in the Regions to highlight their role in Job Creation and in balanced regional development.

Friday, 15 July 2011

ASME Board of Governors meet at Powerscourt Co Wicklow

Yesterday John Power, Director General, and myself had the pleasure of welcoming the President, Executive Director and Board of Governors of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers ( to Ireland on the occasion of their Summer Strategy Retreat. This was only the second time in their history that they held this event outside the US.

The ASME President Victoria Rockwell and Executive Director Tom Loughlin very graciously invited us to lunch and to address them on the challenges facing Irish Engineering. They also made us aware of the issues informing their own strategic discussions - Global Energy and Workforce Development.

P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland Victoria Rockwell President ASME Tom Loughlin Executive Director ASME and John Power Director General Engineers Ireland

ASME  is a global organisation with 120,000 members, and offices outside the US including in Brussels, India and China. The 40 strong Board of Governors had been addressed earlier in the day by speakers from all over the world with different perspectives on global engineering issues. I therefore felt very privileged to have been invited to give the keynote speech of their meeting.

I gave some insights into the trading relationship between the US and Ireland - all of which showed just how critical US investment in Ireland has become. I outlined where Engineers Ireland stood on the issues of Energy Generation and Workforce Development. Finally I outlined some of the challenges facing us in terms of engineering education, professional development, regulation and our policy advice role with Government. 

It is hard to believe that in 2010,  US investment in Ireland actually exceeded combined US investment in China, India, Russia and Brazil. We have 600 US firms in Ireland creating some 100,000 jobs and pumping €20 billion into the Irish economy. 9 of the US top 10 ICT firms ranked by Forbes are in Ireland and we have recently attracted leading US social media firms Google, Facebook and LinkedIn to our shores.

The US is the number one destination for Irish exports, worth €20 billion in 2010. US investment has come a long way since Abbott Pharma first set up in Ireland in 1946 and IBM Computers ten years later in 1956, in a very different Ireland than we have today. Happily both of these companies are still with us and both continue to go from strength to strength. Both have strong local links with Engineers Ireland and with Dublin City Council, in terms of Science and Technology Education and helping to front Innovation Dublin 2011 respectively.

The traffic though is not all one way. 227 Irish firms invest more than €23 billion in the US, which currently creates 82,000 jobs. Its little wonder then why, despite our relative fondness of the EU, that so many Irish people feel closer to Boston than Berlin!

In the informal discussions that followed we realised how happy these friendly Mechanical Engineers were in visiting Ireland. The added fact that they were treading in the footsteps of President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth appeared to add extra comfort to their choice of country to visit this year. We can now clearly see that the high cost of security of these visits will be handsomely repaid in increased tourism and trade in the years to come.

We only spent a few hours in the company of Victoria and her colleagues, most of whom were 'first timers' in Ireland. We met there as strangers but parted as firm friends 'who never met before', exchanging email and LinkedIn details. ASME has now joined the 'global network' of Engineers Ireland or perhaps the other way round. In any event we look forward to continued networking and the crossing of ideas to mutual benefit in the years ahead.

Friday, 8 July 2011

'The Building of the State' in Merrion St

Last evening I was invited by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the President of UCD Dr Hugh Brady to celebrate 100 years of the Engineering Building in Merrion St which is now the Taoiseach's Office. It was a wonderful celebration of a historic building that started life as the Royal College of Science in 1911 then the UCD Engineering School and finally became the Taoiseach's office in 1989 (

Pictured at Government Buildings Taoiseach Enda Kenny P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland and Dr Hugh Brady President of UCD

As the emerging State asserted its independence, the engineers of UCD in Merrion St were at the forefront in the practical expression of that independence. As the country's industrial ambitions grew, so too did the scale and scope of the research in Merrion St. The engineers educated there played a vital role in creating a technologically advanced Irish economy.

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny in his opening remarks joked that the reason why Queen Elizabeth felt so much at home in his office recently was that the building shared the same architect - Sir Aston Webb - with Buckingham Palace.  Still though I thought the most iconic image of the evening shown here in the wonderful atrium of light was the stained glass window by Evie Hone depicting 'My Four Green Fields'!

"The Four Green Fields" by Evie Hone

Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Dermot McCarthy current Secretary General of the Dept of the Taoiseach and Secretary to the Government. Also present were former Taoisigh and Secretary Generals of Government Depts including T K Whitaker, Dermot Gallagher, Paddy Teahon and Padraig O'hUiginn. Ministers Ruairi Quinn and Brendan Howlin accompanied the Taoiseach. President Hugh Brady of UCD had his Vice President for Development Aine Gibbons.

The current Dean of Engineering Dr David Timoney represented the UCD College of Engineering Mathematical and Physical Scientists. Former Presidents of Engineers Ireland present were Brian Sweeney, Liam Connellan, Brian Kearney and Jack Golden - all former or current Captains of Irish Industry with Siemens, Dalkia, Project Management and CRH respectively. It was a pity that Professor James Dooge another former President of Engineers Ireland and - in my days in UCD - Professor of Civil Engineering did not live to see yesterday's centenary event as he was the principal bridge between Engineering and Government over the past century. I was pleased though to see there his successor Professor Tom Casey who remains very active in consulting circles. Also present were Gabriel D'Arcy CEO of Bord na Mona and Dermot Byrne CEO of Eirgrid.

The event booklet 'The Building of the State' by Professor Orla Feely was aptly named. The event was truly a dual celebration of the State and Engineering working together to build the new formative nation. In the 1920s and 1930s hydroelectric plants were built to fuel the emerging state. Semi states like Bord na Mona ESB and Aer Lingus were set up. Roads, bridges, rural electrification, factories, airports, radio, TV, and telecommunications were all designed and built by Engineers and were the foundations for our modern Infrastructure of today.

Within the Merrion Street complex, generations of scholars studied, created, invented and adapted while generations of political leaders and officials determined the policies that have shaped modern Ireland.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Meeting the Middle East Region in Abu Dhabi/Dubai

Last night I passed through Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on other business and dropped in on a meeting of the Middle East Region of Engineers Ireland together with the Irish Business Network (IBN) (

I was very happy to meet the Engineers Ireland Region Chairman Tom
Riordan and Region PRO David McKenna at the event. Tom is Arabtec
Professor of Civil Engineering at Dubai Higher Colleges of Technology.
David is employed as a Senior Engineer in Abu Dhabi Municipality.

We discussed the unique challenges which the farthest off Region of
Engineers Ireland encounters in providing CPD and other services to
their Members and their absolute need to network with other Irish and
professional organisations in UAE.  The Irish Business Network (IBN) is
such a local network in Dubai/Abu Dhabi and draws on all professional
and business members across the UAE.

I was also privileged to meet the Irish Ambassador to the United Arab
Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar - His Excellency Ciaran Madden and the Middle
East Regional Director of Enterprise Ireland Jim Mongey at the event.
Both of them are very committed to assisting Irish citizens and
businesses to prosper in their newly adopted country.

Pictured at the Irish Business Network event P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland, Irish Ambassador to UAE Ciaran Madden and Professor Tom Riordan, Chairman of the Middle East Region of Engineers Ireland.

We all know that Irish Engineers and indeed Irish consultancy companies
and contractors see the Middle East (mostly UAE Saudi Arabia Oman and
Qatar) as their export market of choice.

Therefore it was a proportionate response that in Autumn 2009, as the
Irish construction industry severely contracted, that the Council of
Engineers Ireland approved the setting up of the Middle East Region -
the first outside of Ireland since the Great Britian Region was set up
during the last bad recession in the late 1980s when most Irish
engineering graduates went to the UK.

The bulk of engineering endeavour in UAE has in recent years moved from
Dubai to Abu Dhabi and most Irish engineers in the UAE are now employed
in Abu Dhabi where development is proceeding, though at a slower pace
than heretofore. The City has many challenges not least its car
overdependence (due to low fuel prices) and lack of adequate parking
facilities. There is however a new Metro under construction which should
help to relieve traffic congestion.

Yet we should not forget the huge architectural and engineering heritage
that Dubai has created over the past 10 to 15 years for future
generations.  I was delighted at the IBN in Dubai to meet Gerry O'Leary,
the acclaimed Irish industrial/aerial photographer, and am happy to show
here some of Gerry's photographs depicting the sheer scale and beauty of
the buildings that Dubai has produced over the past 10 years including
the Burq Dubai which is currently the tallest building in the world at
828 metres. A truly amazing engineering feat! I can recall being here
18 months ago as the final floors of the building were being constructed
and to see the gigantic cranes high up looking like mere tiny specks in
a sometimes misty blue sky.

As I stared at the 'gleaming spires' of Dubai I was reminded also of the
unsustainable property and construction bubble at home that eventually
caused a lot of engineers, architects and other professionals to find a
new temporary home at least in the Emirates. I referred to these Members
and their families in my inaugural speech in May (my first blog here in
'archive'). I found last night that many of them remembered that they
had not been forgotten by Engineers Ireland. We will continue to support
the Middle East Region in the years ahead as it grows and prospers.

Monday, 4 July 2011

New DCU Masters in Sustainable Development

Last Friday I was invited to assist the DCU Launch of the new Master's Degree in Management for Sustainable Development ( together with Vice President for Learning Innovation Professor Richard O'Kennedy. Richard launched the course and I gave the Keynote Address on behalf of Engineers Ireland.

The timing was very apt on the day after the preliminary results for the 2011 Census were announced showing Ireland's population at its highest for 150 years at 4.5million approx and some 100,000 more the CSO had expected. The implications of this increase will have significant consequences for our social and educational infrastructure in particular.

The new Distance Learning MSc by Oscail - DCU's distance learning unit - is based on the philosophy that for a business to be successful and sustainable longterm that the business manager must effectively manage the economic social and environmental challenges in a holistic way.

The core infrastructural areas to be covered by the course are Waste, Water and Energy - all critical areas which are key to our economic recovery. Uniquely for a third level institution, in my experience, the course will also cover the whole area of Procurement which is complex and will require interfacing with technical commercial and legal issues.

Anne Morrissey, the course director, and Seamus Fox, Head of Oscail, demonstrated the Wimba based tutorials available at home for those pursuing this course. More graphically a Connamara based student of the course living on the Sky Road in Clifden talked of the ease with which she hopes to take the course this autumn based on her previous distance learning.

 At the launch in the Helix DCU - P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland, Professor Richard O'Kennedy Vice President of Innovation and Learning DCU and Dr Anne Morrissey Programme Director DCU

DCU recognise the importance which Engineers Ireland attach to the whole area of strategic national infrastructure based on our recently published The State of Ireland's Infrastructure Report.

In my remarks I referred to the banking and property crisis and remarked that we needed "to get back to 'plan led' sustainable development not 'developer led' which had created much of our current difficulties". I also expressed my amazement that not a single town planner, architect, engineer or environmental scientist had yet been employed by NAMA so it was impossible for them to accurately assess the true value of the distressed assets under their control. "Never was the content or timing of this course on Management for Sustainable Development more needed in Ireland than at present", I concluded.

After the launch I got a guided tour of the Engineering faculty from Dr Noel Murphy, Head of the School of Electronic Engineering, and Professor Barry McMullin, Director of the RINCE Institute (Research in Networks and Communications Engineering). DCU research supports Irish Industry in biomedics, fibre optics, biophotonics, plasma and nanoelectronics.