Carlos.jpgWessex Institute of Technology is the Headquarters of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), UK Group. The Institute hosts a series of events organised by the Group, including special lectures by well known colleagues on topics of current interest. The recent Meeting was well attended, which is a reflection of the comparatively large number of ASCE members resident in the UK.

Prof Carlos A. Brebbia, Director of the Wessex Institute of Technology welcomed the delegates on behalf of the ASCE and his own Institution. He explained the aims of WIT and the type of work carried out at Ashurst Lodge.

Carlos explained the function of WIT as a medium for knowledge transfer at international level. This work is partly carried out through a series of training programmes for Master and PhD candidates. These programmes are, in most cases, organised in conjunction with major institutions all around the world. At present, four Master programmes are being offered in the following fields:

  •     Computer aided engineering
  •     Information technology engineering
  •     Electromagnetics and the environment
  •     Environmental engineering

These programmes are complemented by a series of PhD projects on similar topics with emphasis on the use of computer simulation and advanced numerical modelling.

Research at the Institute is supported by a variety of sponsors, including EU, NATO, UK Research Councils, USA companies and organisations throughout the world. The research is channelled through its Divisions, ie:

  •     Studies Division dealing with training programmes.
  •     Environmental Fluid Mechanics Division currently involved in many projects related to ecology.
  •     Information and Communications Engineering Division interested not only in Data Mining and related applications, but also in the field of Electromagnetics and related environmental problems.
  •     Damage Mechanics Division Active in the field of fracture mechanics, crack propagation and a whole range of material characterisation problems.
  •     Industrial Research Division acting as a link between academic research and engineering applications. Its work is of practical importance in providing a solid basis to the research at WIT, as well as sources of financing.

group image.jpgThe Institute has developed a major software code based on its research, called BEASY (Boundary Element Analysis System). WIT is renowned throughout the world as the best centre for boundary element research, a technique which originated at Southampton University when Prof Carlos Brebbia was working there. The Method has many applications in civil engineering, as well as other types of problem, and performs particularly well for cases with rapidly varying fields, problems extending to infinity, complex boundary evolutions (such as in crack propagation) etc.

The Institute is also very active in the organisation of international conferences which are an ideal medium for knowledge transfer. The programmes consist of 25 conferences per year all over the world on a wide variety of subjects, including environmental and ecological topics. The conference papers are now held in our Web Library under the title of Transactions of Wessex Institute.

In addition to the conference books, WIT publishes a number of other volumes and has now launched three important scientific journals. These and other services add to WIT’s strategy to become a forum for knowledge transfer.

The invited speaker at the Meeting was Patrick Griffin, from Bechtel Corporation in the UK who summarised the work being undertaken to modernise the West Coast Rail Route. This is one of the largest transportation upgrade projects in Europe, with a budget of more than £7 million. The Project will provide the infrastructure upgrades necessary to deliver a modern 125mph rail system and to dramatically improve journey times between major cities in Britain. The West Coast Main Line is the primary intercity rail link between London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. It comprises more than 600 routes of electric railway.

Pat is a member of the management team which is delivering the railway infrastructure for this important project. He received his PhD in Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, and has more than 35 years of civil engineering and project management experience, including works in Europe, South America and USA. For the last 9 years, he has been employed by Bechtel. Pat is a Fellow of the ASCE, has previously served on several national ASCE committees and is a past President of the San Francisco section.

Speaker.jpgHis talk was entitled “Network Rail and West Coast Modernisation”. He described the Project which started in 2002 and will end in 2009. It has a large number of stages and a complex project management organisation. The bottleneck of the Project is the upgrade of the cross country lane which is complicated by the use of tilting trains (ie the Italian Pendolino). A major problem was having to renovate all infrastructure rather than build them anew. The network will be provided with new signalling and control systems. The main targets were to allow for a tilting train running at 125mph. Another challenge was to increase the transportation capacity by a factor of 80%. It was also essential to improve the safety.

The project was of particular interest to Manchester, which will greatly benefit from the improved facilities. Another important result of the work will be the standardisation of many work methods and processes.

The talk was followed with great interest by the audience, who had many questions at the end of it.

Following Pat Griffin’s talk, the Director of Software, Dr John Baynham, described the simulation facilities available at Ashurst Lodge, including fracture mechanics, crack propagation, seepage, electric and electromagnetic field simulation and many others. The audience was interested in the applications of those programmes, based on boundary elements, to the analysis of pipelines and offshore facilities.

The Meeting ended with a general discussion regarding the location and date of the next ASCE/UK function.