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IGS Chapter Focus: United Kingdom

Invitational lectures, technical symposiums and annual golf days are just some of the activities organized by the thriving UK chapter of the IGS. Formed in 1987 as the third national chapter of the IGS, the group continues to go from strength to strength under the leadership of Chairman Andy Belton and Vice Chair Patricia Guerra-Escobar.

Andy explained more about the chapter.

Can you tell us a little about your members?

“We have 151 members, of which 46 are individual members and 12 are student members. The remainder are from chapter sponsors – we have 36 chapter sponsors and each sponsor has the option to include three members. We have a great mixture of experienced heads, engineering experts, commercial knowledge and academics. We cover all of the UK: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

What is your core focus?

“IGS UK is dedicated to the scientific and engineering development of geotextiles, geomembranes and related products and associated technologies; therefore a lot of our efforts are concentrated on information gathering and information sharing. We host many events to promote the use of geosynthetics, showcase case studies and provide networking opportunities. Our aim is to hold evening lectures at least six times a year.”

What are some of the chapter highlights?

“In 2018 we ran a rail symposium in York which was very popular. Many of our members work in railway applications so they appreciated the opportunity to build their networks and knowledge, and we had speakers from HS2 (a major UK rail infrastructure project), specialist rail contractors and academics and network operators from France, Portugal, Italy, Germany and Japan. In May 2020 we have a symposium on containment systems and brownfield remediation that promises to be an exciting event. Our annual golf days are always very popular… and not too competitive!”

Who do you work with?

“Our members never cease to amaze us with their dedication and passion for the industry. They drive our activity, but we also work closely with groups including the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE), The British Geotechnical Association (BGA) and The Engineering Group of the Geological Society (EGGS), among others.”

Where can you find geosynthetics in use in the UK?

“You are never too far away from a geosynthetic in the UK!”

Which products and applications have the most traction in the UK?

“Mainly in all the areas of earthworks, soil reinforcement and stabilisation, such as retaining walls, slopes, embankments, roads, working platforms. Also in erosion control, river and coastal protection, contamination barriers, brownfields, ponds, attenuation systems, drainage systems. Landfill containment applications are still a requirement but the number of landfills is on the decline.”

What are the challenges for the industry?

“A continual challenge is to reach and engage with the civil engineering design community, to alert them to the potential benefits of geosynthetics as a cost-efficient and robust means to develop creative engineering solutions, whether those be steepened earthwork embankments, managing complex environmental challenges, or in allowing beneficial reuse of otherwise marginal soils.  There are well-established design codes and a substantial body of experience and case histories of successful schemes from the UK and internationally of what is now a mature technology. However, geosynthetic engineering design is rarely part of the undergraduate civil engineering curriculum, and only taught at postgraduate level in a handful of courses, so often there is a lack of awareness and confidence to design with geosynthetics among engineers.”

How is the UK geos market and industry evolving?

“As society moves to respond to the climate emergency in a range of ways, part of the solution will be improved technical responses including better use of existing materials and less reliance on (say) virgin aggregates. Geosynthetics have a really important role to play in these developments, and as a community of geosynthetics practitioners we need to understand and engage with those societal concerns.”

Any notable facts or statistics about the UK market, EG market size etc?

“There was reportedly over 100M m2 of geosynthetics used in 2018 in the UK. Recent figures are unknown as yet but expected to be on the increase.”

Any other key messages you’d like to communicate?

“This year we are organising the 6th National Geosynthetics Symposium at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. The symposium will be two days, May 12-13, 2020, and the main theme will be: Containment Engineering and Geosynthetics in Brownfield Remediation. As key speakers we will have George Koerner from GRI, Richard Brachman from Queens University, Pete Bradshaw from Etihad Stadium and Steven Odunmbaku from NHBC. Also experts from different areas (academics, consultants, contractors, agencies and developers) will talk about their challenges and the solutions using geosynthetics.”

To find out more about the IGS UK Chapter, click here.

To find out more about the 6th UK Symposium in May, click here.