Creative Republic’s latest project is an online catalogue of interesting things happening in Birmingham – and some wonderful person has been kind enough to nominate the Paper Project – more information here.

In other news, the project managed to pick up the Chairman’s Award from the Wesit Midlands Institution of Civil Engineers annual awards – well deserved by everyone who has been involved.

It was a good night all round for young engineers in the West Midlands – Engineers for Overseas Development picked up the overall project award for the Koutulai Mill project in Uganda. I’ve only been peripherally involved, so can testify as to the hard work that’s gone into fund-raising, designing and supervising the project.

The radio silence over the last few months has not been down to lack of progress!

Like a swan, the aparent inactivity above the surface masks some frenetic paddling – and I’m pleased to be able to share the fruits of that effort. Over the last six weeks, a Paper Project installation has been in residence at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, as part of the ‘Future of Building’ Exhibition which I put together with some great collaborators in Birmingham. The Exhibition itself is moving location soon, as it completes its run, but more details on where to see it will follow.

In the meantime, the following photos should give a sense of what’s been going on…

Well, here we are in 2010 – and I can already promise exciting things for the Paper Project this year. The education side continues to be a great sucess. We have a number of volunteer run events at schools for the year ahead, all of which give young people a taste of why civil engineering is so rewarding.

As well as continuing to take the project to schools and young people, the ‘art’ side continues to flourish.

This summer, we’ll be bringing the exhibition ‘Sustainable Habitation’ to Birmingham, and we’ve already managed to secure some fantastic exhibition space in the centre of the city.  We’re working with some great artists, architects and engineers to built a thought provoking collection of new installations from the talented people of this fair city. There’s an image from our proposal document below – very much an artists impression but I hope it’s an exciting taster of things to come!

The Paper Project has been on holiday over christmas, but, never one to stand idle, it’s gone a step up the newspaper supply chain. Why build with newspaper, when you can built with trees – fallen winter branches in this case, oh, and cotton string.

Of course, it will all biodegrade over the next few years, but then transience has always been part of the artists toolkit.

Happy New Year!

Someone asked me:

“What is the contribution that good structural engineering can make to reducing our carbon footprint?”

The answer (which surprised me once I’d written it) went:

It seems that structural engineering can only contribute a statistically small amount to the climate change debate.

By the time structural engineers are involved in a project the key ‘climate change’ decision – what to build and whether to build it at all – will have been made by other people. The main way for structural engineers to contribute is to drive for minimum material through efficient design but this is only available because efficient design happens to be cheaper. The client wants ‘minimum cost’ first, ‘minimum material = helping climate change’ is a happy coincidence.

As soon as material efficiency is no longer a client’s desire, structural engineers must forget it too. Witness the structurally unoptimised (but very quick to construct) concrete high-rises in the middle east – at the flick of a client’s pen, ‘fast to build but inefficient’ takes precendent over slow and sustainable. Structural engineers’ service are bought by, and hence respond to, the client’s wishes, and sustainability is likely to be bottom of their list.

We can (and probably should) try to shave 10% off a building’s materials by efficient engineering, but it’s possible that if an individual structural engineer really wants to help mitigate climate change they should consider a move to a new field – renewable energy, new materials research, politics, climate science or possibly just join a low-energy commune and live a life of quiet minimal-consumption!

We’re hooked on a long line, and it’s rare that the fish can persuade anyone to stop fishing…

P.S. I’d love to be convinced that the above is wrong – anyone care to restore some optimism to this blog?

Over the next few weeks, the art:21 blog will be discussing Art and the Environment as their next Flash Points topic. The kick-off post is here.

I had an E-mail this morning with more images from the second day of the Bridging Views of Llangynidr weekend (below).

On the second day, the local community continued to build structures and began to hang them with images of local scenes as well as memories and recollections of the area. There were a lot more young people involved on the Sunday, including a group of girls who must have set some kind of speed record with an enthusiastic construction of the smaller arch in about ten minutes. Supervising the cosntruction was like steering an out-of-control HGVdownhill – only limited control available to direct a huge amount of momentum! Spotting potential problems in the frenzy of activity and trying to correct them with a well timed suggestion was both hugely entertaining and incredibly difficult – a day of managing structural scheme design at work seems simple by comparisson…

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