The value which infrastructure engineering delivers to the world is greater than what is often appreciated, a leader in the sector says.
Speaking at the Year in Infrastructure (YII) conference held online by engineering software provider Bentley Systems, Chris Bradshaw, who this month took up the role as Bentley’s chief marketing officer, said the importance of infrastructure engineering was not always fully appreciated as many infrastructure assets are not visible to the general public.
Where such assets are visible however, engineering can deliver inspiration.
“An awful lot of infrastructure service systems are behind the scenes and many are literally underground,” Bradshaw said.
“So (they are) largely underappreciated right up until the moment where they slow down or they fail. Nobody likes it when their power is out or their water isn’t working or they can’t get to where they want to go because the roads and bridges are closed.
“Infrastructure engineering is important. It is important for the economy. It is important to protect people.
“(Conversely,) when infrastructure systems are not hidden and are instead visible, they can be really inspiring or jaw dropping.
“You think about the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It attracts millions of sightseers every year. But at the same time every day, it is a commute path for Bay area workers going to and from home at least in a non-COVID environment.
“Beautiful form. Important function. That combination can be very inspiring.”
Bradshaw’s comments come as Bentley hosted its YII conference, which was originally scheduled to take place in Vancouver but was switched to online due to COVID travel restrictions.
For Bentley, recent times have been busy as the company listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange in September.
As well, it has expanded an alliance with Microsoft to accelerate innovation in digital twins, introduced an asset performance management solution with Siemens for oil and gas operators, announced a number of executive appointments expanded its offering in digital built environment advisory services through its acquisition of UK based Professional Construction Strategies.
Bentley chief executive officer Greg Bentley said the infrastructure engineering sector has been resilient in the face of COVID-19.
Speaking of his own company’s experience, Bentley said user activity on his firm’s software returned to normal levels on a year-on-year basis by the middle of this year having initially slowed after COVID hit.
This, he said, was due to the indispensable nature of infrastructure engineering services along with the ability to perform many tasks remotely.
Going forward, Bradshaw says the engineering profession faces challenges in two areas.
First, there is requirement to not only build a sufficient volume of new assets to cater for a global population which is expected to reach ten billion over the next three decades but also to deliver assets which both minimise their own carbon footprint and are resilient in light of anticipated climate risks.
Beyond that, Bradshaw talks of the need to engage the next generation of engineers.
For Bradshaw, this has been a passion for many years.
During a sixteen-year period at rival software firm Autodesk, he was instrumental in driving expansion of that firm’s education program.
He also sits on the board of non-profit STEM education provider Project Lead the Way.
He says the engineering profession must reach out to students at younger ages.
“The traditional wisdom in design and engineering was ‘well, we don’t really need to interact with or try to inspire people until they get to college,” Bradshaw said.
“The biggest change that I have seen in my years is that kids are engaging with engineering software and 3D software at a much younger age than ever before. In fact, a lot of studies are showing that kids at around the fourth or fifth grade are making decisions about, ‘am I going to be good at math, am I going to be good at science?’ that lead them to careers in engineering.
“I think it is more important than ever that we reach out not only to college students but also to high-school students and even junior high and middle school and inspire them to help solve these incredibly daunting challenges.”