Monday, 16 May 2016

Summer Edition of Engineers Newsletter published

This Summer the Engineers Newsletter will be three years old! The first edition in July 2013 welcomed the new Australian President of UCD Professor Andrew Deeks and looked forward to 'the exciting times ahead'.  There were some very exciting times in UCD and the EGA since then. At we looked ahead in 2013, Ireland's economy was just starting to show signs of recovery.  We featured topics on Energy, Water, Digital and looked forward to an Engineers Picnic in Belfield during that Summer as part of The Gathering.
Now we look forward to the UCD Summer Festival 2016 and while the national recovery is definitely getting stronger, from the recent General Election we know it ain't there for everybody yet.
We awarded the 2013 EGA Distinguished Graduates Award to Dr Liam Connellan - a very deserving choice - and celebrated UCD Student Centre as Ireland's 'favourite new building' in the 2013 Irish Architecture Awards.
I want to pay particular tribute to the two Editors of the EGA Engineer's Newsletter - Drs Ciaran McNally (2003-2015) and Vincent Hargaden (2015-2016) for the excellence of content and production. A lot of work goes into producing a professional newsletter like this to current standards. It was overly ambitious to expect that an entirely voluntary organisation like EGA could produce a number of newsletters each year - the five issues to date more than serve the requirement to keep our members informed.  A further 4 issues have followed in October 2013, March 2014, Summer 2015 and now Summer 2016.

Issue 1
Issue 2

Issue 3
Issue 4

Issue 5

As we look over the past issues we see the increasing diversity of the stories that tell the lives of staff and students on campus and the individual events organised by the EGA in terms of Lectures, Panel Discussions, Gold Medal Ceremonies, Mock Interviews for Final Years and Round Table Discussions. Special thanks is due over the past 4 years to Fionnuala McGowan and more recently Clare Ryan for organisation of these events in addition to their administrative work for the College of Engineering and Architecture. We also get fabulous support from Katie O'Neill Marketing Manager College of Engineering, Aisling Harkin of UCD Career Development Centre and Sinead Dolan of UCD Alumni Association.
Inspiring and giving unstinting support to these activities we have been privileged to have had two excellent Deans of Engineering over these 3-4 years - Gerry Byrne in the earlier years and now David FitzPatrick.  In terms of governance I've been privileged to have a very proactive and focused EGA Board who meet regularly and support the work in many and various ways. The current board broadly represent the many professional aspects of engineering in Irelabd across the public and private sectors.
Summer 2016 edition of Engineers's Newsletter is published today highlighting the success of UCD having 7 of 17 female engineers among the Intel 'Women in Engineering' Scholars. This is a new generation of high achieving engineers taking up careers in engineering.

Intel 'Women in Engineering' Scholars
They are Aoife McMenamin (Louth), Aileen McCabe (Cavan), Fiona Maguire (Donegal), Ruth Quinn (Meath), Orlaith Hickey (Wexford), Eimear Murphy (Kildare) and Caoimhe Rose Martin (Wicklow).
Finally the biggest transformation that the Engineers Newletter clearly shows is that we had no Corporate Members in 2013 to support our activities and we now have 25 of Ireland's leading companies on board soon to become 30 when current applications are fully processed. Without our Corporate Members we could not fund the current wide range of activities. They are listed on the website homepage and at the back page of each of our Newsletters.

Click here and scroll down

 Issue 1Issue 2Issue 4Issue 5Issue 5IssueIssue2Issue 4Issue 5

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Interesting Panel Discussion held on Tackling Ireland's Flooding Challenge

On April 21st last we held our Spring Panel Discussion 'Tackling Ireland's Flooding Challenge'. We have always endeavoured to be topical with our Spring and Autumn Lectures and Panel Discussions.
Flooding was an enduring public and media event last winter so it was very appropriate that we seek to address it this Spring. Other years we focused on the Banking Bailout, Water (and we could again!), Manufacturing Jobs, Energy, Food, Engineering Education and the Digital Future last year.

Dr Jan Verkade, Deltares, Professor Micheal Bruen UCD, Tony Smyth OPW, PJ Rudden, President of EGA,
Dr Amanda Gibney UCD, Evelyn Cusack RTE and Professor David FitzPatrick, Dean of Engineering UCD

We were very pleased to have Dr Amanda Gibney  of UCD School of Engineering to moderate the presentations by 4 eminent national and international speakers together with questions from the audience. A full video of the presentations and Q&A is  provided in the link here.

Dr Amanda Gibney UCD opens the Panel Discussion
'The Highs and Lows of Ireland's Weather' are the topic chosen by Evelyn Cusack of Met √Čireann and RTE. A consummate presenter on TV, she started with a few questions thrown at the audience - 'What do you call this cloud type? Yes cumulus. If the atmosphere contains 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen what else is present? That's right 1% water vapour and gives us our Weather! It's no wonder that Evelyn is a popular presenter as she instantly engages the audience.
Evelyn Cusack on "The Highs and Lows of Ireland's Weather"

Did you know that the earth is closer to the sun in winter than in summer and that the sun heats the ground not the air above the ground? Did you know that the most powerful greenhouse gas is in fact water vapour? More men are killed on a Sunday afternoon than at any other time of the week ..... Playing golf!

She did confirm that the weather last winter 2015/16 'was the wettest on record'.

Climate change is nothing new! It's been around for the last 4 million years at least and the earth is about 4 billion years old. Evelyn brought us deep into the world of Physics and Mathematics with Boyle's Law, Charles Law and the Navier-Stokes Equations which are used to model the weather in addition to the flow of water in a pipe and air flow around the wing of an aeroplane.
She introduced us to the growing family of Irish and UK storms - some male some female - Storm Frank, Storm Desmond, Storm Eva and Storm Katie and many more!. Evelyn acknowledged that the quality of 'weather forecasting has improved enormously since the 1980s' due mainly to improved satellite models.
Regarding climate change she also stated that 'the temperature rise is unequivocal' and that in climate change terms, the seas are getting higher, we will have wetter winters causing more flooding and more storm damage.
Our second Speaker was Dr Micheal Bruen Professor of Hydrology in the UCD Dooge Centre for Water Resources Research. He started by telling us that 'floods are natural events and we should not be surprised that they will happen'! Their impacts can however be mitigated by a combination of 'water storage and conveyance'.  There is however a delicate balancing required as flood storage or relief in one area can impact adversely on another area upstream or downstream.
Professor Micheal Bruen
He instanced the River Shannon and showed the levels along its length during the 2009 flood event. As we know the river experienced even greater and more intense flooding last winter with the worst flooding around Athlone and downstream of Ardnacrusha at Limerick City.  Micheal thought the more likely solutions in a flat river like the Shannon lay in increased storage say at Lough Rea to help protect Athlone and/or increasing the cross sectional area of the river downstream and similarly in Lough Derg to help protect Limerick. There may however be other resulting impacts from improving storage and conveyance in terms of land use and environmental issues to be considered.
'You have to target the priority areas to be protected and you need the legal authority and the hydraulic modelling resources to deal with the situation. There is also a role for advance flood forecasting and warning systems based on the most uptodate weather and river modelling.'

Micheal introduced terms about which we were going to hear more and more as the night went on - 'flood risk' and 'flood risk assessment'. Also he cautioned that the term 'return period' in terms of flooding frequency on rivers is misleading to the public. It needs to be replaced by the 'probability or risk or chance of being flooded in any one year' as a flood can return twice or three times in subsequent years even on a river designed to a cater for '100 year return period'.

Echoing Evelyn's view on the history of Irish weather and resulting flooding, Micheal observed that the  'Annals of the Four Masters record that in 920 AD a Shannon flood reached the Abbey of Clonmacnoise - 'it didn't reach that level last Winter!' He remarked. It is also known he said that the monks abandoned Skellig Michael in the 13th century as 'the weather became colder and more prone to storms.' Also the bed of the River Corrib dried up in 1178!

In conclusion Micheal was of the view that more local intelligence should be used to help inform future flood defences. He agreed that 'climate is changing' and its likely effects need to be included in future urban and rural planning. All in all we heard an interesting take on what is required to  tackle future challenge of flooding in Ireland. In the next two presentations we hear how The Netherlands tackle the very considerable challenge of their very flat country and the ambitious plans of OPW to protect the most vulnerable parts of Ireland.

Dr Jan Verkade of Deltares (the not-for-profit Dutch national R&D institution for water management and geotechnical engineering) and Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands had a fascinating story to tell.

Dr. Jan Verkade
Unknown to many outsiders, there was very severe flooding across The Netherlands in 1953 which after levee barriers failed in the south, some 136,500 hectares were inundated which claimed over 1800 lives and caused some 200,000 people evacuated from their homes and some 750,000 people to be affected! Some 10,000 buildings were lost and another 37,300 buildings were damaged. This happened after a spring tide coincided with a flood surge and there no warning systems in place.

The impact was catastrophic requiring urgent Government action as much of the country is below sea level and even marginal rises impact on additional very large land areas. In addition to make matters worse, most of the high population areas and areas of principal economic activity (like The Hague and other major cities together with the Port of Rotherdam) are sited in the most vulnerable areas to flooding.  In fact even currently, some 30% of the country is below sea level and areas supporting some 60% of GDP are vulnerable without very robust engineering defences. Coastal flooding from the North Sea can be severe but equally problematic is potential fluvial flooding from rivers  Rhine and the Meuse.

So what was the Dutch Government response to these disasters? Economic factors drove a dramatic response to include shortening of the coastline through new barriers closing off gaps in the coastline. In addition a 'risk based approach was adopted to flood protection' in accordance with a new national plan - The Delta Plan and a new company called Delft Hydraulics (since merged into Deltares) was set up to design the flood defences. These barriers were only completed some 50 years later in 2010 and cost tens of billions to construct.

In the 1960s a new national risk based strategy was put in place in The Netherlands where the country was divided into different 'risk zone' categories and new flood defences designed to cater for the designated risk. Areas of high economy activity and areas of high population were prioritised and all dykes and levees raised accordingly.

Since 1960 the population of The Netherlands increased from 10million to 16million greatly increasing the risk in an area the size of Munster in Ireland!

A further development of flood risk management is now in recent years underway to continue risk reduction in terms of any probability of levee failure, a three tiered approach of structural safety/spatial planning/flood emergency management and finally 'adaptive planning'. Adaptive planning creates flexibility based on managing uncertainty including some dyke raising but also 'room for the river' measures to include nature protection if rivers are widened or deepened.

Jan supplemented his talk with some diagrams and photographs the most striking of which are illustrated below.

Tony Smyth is Chief Engineer of the Office of Public Works the statutory body charged with implementation of the EU Floods Directive. They too have adopted a 'risk management approach' following a major National Flood Policy Review in 2004. Thus they have identified some 300 areas which 'are potentially at risk'. These projects now all form part of the  Catchment Flood Risk Assessment & Management (CFRAM) process which will be completed during 2016 and implemented thereafter. Already parts of Dublin City in Drumcondra on the Tolka and Ballsbridge on the Dodder together with Clonmel, Carlow, Fermoy, Ennis and Waterford City have formal flood defences and more now planned.
Tony Smyth
The country has been divided into 6 major areas based on the principal river catchments ((Shannon, Eastern, South Eastern, South Western, Western and North Western).  Some 6,500 km of rivers have been surveyed and 40,000 maps produced based on Lidar surveys.
OPW have sought to ensure that all identified flood protection works are technically feasible, environmentally acceptable and cost effective. Neither have they ruled out home relocations or land use recategorization as a future measure where justified.

A major capital programme of €430m has been identified to be implemented from 2016 to 2021 for flood alleviation projects to manage the risk (though not to eliminate it entirely) in a whole-of-government holistic approach to the challenge. This will also be a major challenge to the engineering profession in terms of efficiency and innovation though it was noted that all of the engineered flood barriers and defences recently constructed by OPW held well during the unprecedented floods of last winter.
All of the projects are subject to Cost Benefit Analysis, Strategic Environmental Assessment and Public Consultation. The CFRAM maps are based on a comprehensive analysis and best available information. The maps are 'predictive'  and thus the perception of insurance risk and availability will arise.

The four presentations were followed by a lively Question and Answer session moderated by Amanda.
A geography lecturer from TCD questioned whether engineers were open to looking at records beyond 100 years into histories going into 200 and 500 years? The panel answered that while historical records were interesting they may not be very useful in predictive terms.

There were questions about the OPW authority to produce a new scheme for the Shannon. Tony's response was that there was a much greater interauthority cooperation than realised. There were a lot of competing interests but the major challenge was financial not institutional. The question really was what areas most needed protection and at what cost? Last winter the flood flow in the Shannon exceeded 700 cubic metres per second compared to 130 cubic metres per second to flood the Shannon Callows each winter! Also the future water supply flow proposed for Dublin in comparison would only extract some 4 cubic metres per second from the River Shannon flow.
Jan was asked by John McGowan President Irish Academy of Engineering did the building of the flood defences add to the nation's wealth? Is your country wealthy because you are well protected from floods or are you well protected from floods because your country is wealthy? In response Jan agreed that they were related. They have no choice but to spend the money because of the high risks as in his view if the principal coastal dyke ring fails, then The Netherlands as a country would probably never recover. Micheal added that the flooding caused Deltares to be set up which is now a world leader in hydraulics and flood control.
Evelyn was asked by Kieran Feighan Vice President Engineers Ireland why weather forecasting gas improved so much? Yes the new Harmony model introduced 5 years ago is more accurate in topographical terms to fine tune climate modelling. Compliments to Met √Čireann!
Kieran also asked is there public support for the expenditure on flood control? There may not have been initially but now that the public can see the clear effects yes very much so.
What about use of flood plains in urban areas to increase flood relief? Ok but depends on the relative land use and how confined the river sides are. The river banks in Ireland are far less engineered than in Holland.
Tom Browne of ESB questioned if Lough Ree could offer as much storage as assumed as the lake levels there were quite low before the heavy rains of last winter and yet Lough Ree only offered marginal relief to Athlone.

Duncan Stewart, Architect and Environmental Journalist asked about the impacts of climate change where sea levels will rise more than previously expected and parts of our coastline might not be capable of defending? Similarly with inland catchments what can be done on the bigger issues of climate change though he acknowledged the good work of OPW. Tony agreed that all these scenarios need to be taken into account particularly with respect to the cities of Dublin Cork Limerick and Galway. The next phase plan on the EU Floods Directive will have to address. Micheal agreed it was a societal decision and there will be winners and losers. There is more uncertainty about sea levels than about river flooding.
Jim Casey of OPW outlined their methodology to deal with the increasing threat of river flooding.
Dean of Engineering Professor David Fitzpatrick thanked the Speakers, Moderator Attendees and UCD EGA especially Clare Ryan for her organisation of the event.
UCD Dean of Engineering Professor David Fitzpatrick says thanks to all
Duncan Stewart, Martin Hogan, Evelyn Cusack, Dr Amanda Gibney and PJ Rudden

Professor Michael Bruen, Clare Ryan and PJ Rudden

Architect and Television Producer Duncan Stewart and OPW Director of Engineering Tony Smyth

Professor David Timoney UCD and John McGowan current President of the
Irish Academy of Engineering (IAE) and Former President of Engineers Ireland