News and reports from around the world
In good company: Trusting in the ethics of your business
Based on alarming data in the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, the global public’s trust in institutions such as government, business, media and non-governmental organizations has reached record lows and there is a growing distrust around the world, as reflected by twice as many countries falling into the “skeptics” category. The Edelman data is supported by other global analyses that indicate a general collapse of public trust — which has a multitude of implications for society, including the powerful psychological and emotional headwind that it fosters in the face of economic recovery efforts.
So what can institutions, including the business community, do to rebuild public trust? Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm with 66 offices and more than 4,500 employees worldwide, recommends the best way to move forward is for organizations and individuals alike to put a heavy emphasis on ethics and integrity.
In this spirit, on June 19, 2012, AECOM partnered with General Electric (GE) and the Ethisphere Institute — the leading international think tank dedicated to business ethics — to host the first “Best Practices in Ethics Communications Workshop,” where 95 participants from government, education and Fortune 500 companies brainstormed innovative ways to promote ethical behavior.
Stefan Linssen, chief editor of the Ethisphere Institute, says, “With this one-of-a-kind workshop, we successfully brought together some of the best minds in communications to discuss the vital role that ethics and integrity play in an organization’s reputation and, ultimately, its success.”
Several of Ethisphere’s 2012 World’s Most Ethical Companies — including AECOM, Aflac, Fluor Corporation, GE, Panama Canal Authority and Realogy — shared how they leverage internal communications to employees to create an ethical business culture and engage staff. They also highlighted external communication programs emphasizing ethics as a differentiating brand attribute. Here are some lessons that were shared during the workshop.
Quick Response to Crisis — Aflac
When Gilbert Gottfried, the original voice of the famous Aflac duck, started a public relations crisis by tweeting off-color jokes about Japanese tsunami victims, Aflac leadership immediately fired him, issued a press release explaining the company’s decision, and then launched auditions to replace him and “give the duck its quack back.”
“We can forgive honest mistakes,” says Laura Kane, Aflac’s vice president of corporate communications, “but we can never forgive unethical behavior.”
100% Ethical Business Practices — General Electric and Fluor
One of the key takeaways from the event was that a company’s success comes from maintaining a high expectation of honesty and integrity in all business practices.
“Ethics is one of those topics that when you claim you have it, people start to doubt that you do,” says Gary Sheffer, vice president of communications and public affairs, GE. “You can’t be sort of transparent or have a little integrity. You have to be all in.”
Another common best practice shared during the event was that success starts with strong, ethical leadership.
Keith Stephens, senior director of corporate affairs, Fluor Corporation, suggests securing board- and executive-level buy-in for ethical standards as well as initiating a zero-tolerance policy for unethical behavior in all levels of the organization.
Transparency and Openness — Panama Canal Authority
As a government entity, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) serves as a model for ethics, maintaining complete transparency by freely sharing information with the public. ACP’s website displays the positions and salaries of all employees, as well as information about proposals and contracting regulations.
Ana Maria P. de Chiquilani, ACP’s vice president of corporate affairs and ethics officer, explains, “Sharing information is continuous with all stakeholders. Anything you want to know about the Panama Canal Authority is available to the general public.”
Effectively Communicating Ethical Behavior — AECOM and Realogy
At AECOM, it’s all about consistently and effectively communicating the company’s high ethical standards across the globe. Named one of Ethisphere’s World’s Most Ethical Companies for two consecutive years, AECOM’s ethics begin with the company’s Core Value of Integrity and are ingrained in the corporate culture through practices such as Ethics Week held across the enterprise in September.
“You can have the best ethics and compliance program in the world,” says Susan Frank, AECOM’s vice president and assistant general counsel, global compliance. “But, if it’s boring and people don’t read it, then it’s not serving its purpose.”
Presenters also revealed that open, two-way communication is key to creating an ethical environment. “We realized our employees have a sense of humor,” says Mark Panus, senior vice president of corporate communications, Realogy. Panus experiences successful results from informal and open dialogue, sprinkled with humor, which effectively brings messages home for employees.
AECOM implemented various best practices learned from the Best Practices in Ethics Communications Workshop — including launching an ethics video competition during the company’s 2012 Ethics Week. Employees around the world competed for iPads by submitting one-minute “training” videos on a business ethics topic of their choice.
“Using humor to engage employees in ethical behavior really resonated with us and AECOM has already implemented new programs in this regard — such as the video competition,” explains AECOM Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Paul Gennaro, who coordinated the workshop. “Through this event, we successfully met our goal of engaging in a very candid and robust dialogue around best practices that contribute to an engaged internal culture and an enhanced corporate reputation.”Read more
Making a Global Impact
In keeping with AECOM’s commitment to ethics, the company joined the United Nations Global Compact — a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with 10 universally accepted principles concerning human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. In October 2012, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John M. Dionisio signed a Letter of Commitment addressed to U.N. Secretary-General H.E. Ban Ki-moon that officially made AECOM a part of the largest voluntary corporate responsibility initiative in the world.
Going coast to coast with arena expertise
The National Basketball Association's (NBA) Brooklyn Nets have taken up residence in the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, United States, while the NBA Golden State Warriors are showing off the first drawings of their new arena planned for the waterfront of San Francisco, California, United States.
Praise for Brooklyn’s new basketball arena poured in once the Nets took the court — after eight concerts by the team’s part-owner Jay-Z had christened the music and entertainment landmark.
“It feels great on all levels to finally be here,” says Nets head coach Avery Johnson in an Associated Press article. “You know, I left the building for two hours today, two or three hours, and just was kind of anxious to get back.”
The New York press was also quick to respond favorably with both The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal noting the positive effect of pulling fans close to the action — something the Nets had not benefited from in a previous arena designed primarily for hockey. The New York Islanders have also announced they will join the Nets in 2015, bringing hockey to a facility designed around basketball. AECOM is considering revisions to the venue that would accommodate both sports.
AECOM also has prior experience designing for home-court advantage at the University of Oregon Ducks’ Matthew Knight Arena in the United States, as well as the National Football League's (NFL) Seattle Seahawks’ CenturyLink Field in Washington, United States.
As an NBA arena, Barclays drew on AECOM’s wealth of experience, most notably from the company’s work on Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the United States, home of the Indiana Pacers, which has long been considered the benchmark within the industry.
According to Bruce Ratner, owner and developer of Barclays, “AECOM has performed far beyond our expectations despite extremely challenging circumstances related to budget, schedule and technology. Their team established a very collaborative relationship with our organization and with our design architect to create what will be a new icon for Brooklyn.”
“The most exciting thing about Barclays Center is the energy and sophistication of the design — both the exterior and interior elements,” says Steve Duethman, AECOM architecture project manager. “It is a different design dynamic from the typical NBA arena. At the exterior, you encounter an 85-foot [26-meter] cantilevered canopy with an oculus that contains high-resolution video in a 360-degree arrangement evoking the energy of Times Square. From the moment you are drawn into the main entry lobby, there is a sense of the dramatic, in terms of the carefully placed dynamic signage, the high level of finish in the public spaces, and the hypermodern design of the premium clubs and lounges throughout the facility.” Duethman notes that Barclays Center is designed primarily around basketball, but is also a destination for top-tier concerts and entertainment, as well as some of the hottest clubs and restaurants in the city, including the 40/40 Club.
Barclays Center’s steel façade evokes Brooklyn’s ship-building history. The building is situated on top of a transit hub served by 11 subway lines, the Long Island Rail Road and 11 bus lines. Ground-floor retail surrounds the building’s footprint, while passersby are offered a street-level view of the action within.
“Barclays Center will truly be a Brooklyn icon and a neighborhood cornerstone,” concludes Duethman.
Meanwhile, designs for the Golden State Warrior’s new waterfront arena are taking shape in San Francisco.
According to AECOM Director of Sports Architecture Bill Crockett, “One of the core ideas behind this site is to give people different ways to experience it 24/7 with over half of the site devoted to open space. You can see in these drawings the attention to the way that the building interacts with its site, both the breathtaking view with the Bay Bridge behind it, and the use of landscape and waterfront to maximize open space and connectivity from outside to inside. In addition to this, we are working to generate the kind of exciting sports experience that we’ve just seen unveiled at Barclays.” The Warriors’ new arena is expected to be ready in time for the 2017 NBA season.
Building schools, rebuilding lives
“Many of them were child soldiers, who all they knew [was] how to destroy, how to kill,” says Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at a recent World Leaders Forum at Columbia University in New York, United States.
Following a military coup d’état in 1980, the West African Republic of Liberia suffered through a 23-year period of economic and social unrest that included two civil wars. It is estimated that more than 50 percent of the country’s schools were destroyed during the conflict, leaving a generation of children with little or no access to education.
Liberia’s current administration, which has been led by President Sirleaf since 2006, is working to improve children’s access to education and has made upgrading the nation’s educational infrastructure a key component of its poverty reduction strategy.
In alignment with this strategy, AECOM is partnering with the Liberian Ministry of Education, the World Bank and a development charity named Plan International to lead a two-year program to build 67 new schools across Liberia, encompassing nursery through secondary education.
AECOM’s multi-discipline team includes project managers, cost consultants and engineers from the firm’s United Kingdom and Africa operations, including the United Kingdom offices of Davis Langdon, an AECOM company.
“The diversity of skills and international knowledge that we bring to the project will ensure that Liberia gets the best possible start to rebuilding its educational infrastructure,” comments Darren Talbot, schools lead, Europe, who is leading the team for AECOM. “Our aim for the project is to raise the nation’s quality of standards in school planning, design and construction.”
According to Rene John Dierkx, project architect, World Bank, “Quality schools are the key to realizing safe, healthy and durable school environments that enhance the well-being of children and their families. They increase students' attainment and create healthy children.
“The key elements of this project will be to promote sustainable development and a respect for the environment, engage rural communities, deliver quality school design, and help plan for sustainability and resilience in light of ongoing climate change.”
In addition to the foundations that these schools will provide Liberia’s future generations, AECOM will help to build skills capacity within the government through ongoing training. This promotes the country’s autonomy, helping to resolve President Sirleaf’s concerns regarding the nation’s skills shortage. This shortage limits Liberia’s ability to take the lead on many important rebuilding projects without international assistance.
“This development will ensure that Liberia has the educational infrastructure it needs to prosper,” concludes Darren Talbot. “We will equip the Ministry of Education with the skills and knowledge to manage and maintain these schools, and to build more schools in the future. As the country continues to rebuild, these skills will prove beneficial for ongoing residential, healthcare and transportation construction projects.”
Starting in January 2013, the program will be delivered in two phases to account for the country’s six-month rainy season, which makes many of the roads outside of the capital Monrovia impassable. The first phase of schools is due for completion during June 2013.
A quarter century of on-the-ground solutions for U.S. Air Force
AECOM’s designers and engineers contribute vital services supporting people and missions at major U.S. Air Force installations worldwide, meeting the needs of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s (AFCEC) programs for the past 25 years.
That help includes program management and contract execution services for programs such as installation master planning, designing and constructing facilities, protecting the environment and establishing energy-management techniques.
AECOM’s Sally Macon, vice president, federal programs, government technical services, and client manager for AFCEC, explains, “AECOM has greatly evolved its partnership with the AFCEC — moving from providing environmental services to providing full-spectrum, architectural engineering services in almost every corner of the world.
“These projects are rewarding because they require collaboration across AECOM’s capabilities and geographies. The interaction and exchange of ideas encourage innovation and build on our expertise.”
Transforming a barren landscape
AECOM’s work in Afghanistan for AFCEC began in 2009 out of an office in Camp Bastion and is now nearing completion. The company is providing engineering, planning, design and construction support services.
“When our team arrived at Camp Bastion, which is a main operating base in Afghanistan for U.S. Marines, it was a barren desert landscape,” says AECOM’s Wayne McDermott, senior project manager. “We helped provide concept designs and construction oversight for more than US$700 million in new facilities. Our fast-track response was critical to the military mission and our design of the runways, aircraft maintenance and support facilities became the model in the region.”
Reducing the demand for resources
Focused on sustainability, AECOM’s teams across multiple business lines and geographies identified opportunities to reduce energy and water demand at three air bases in Europe. AECOM also performed sustainable infrastructure assessments at six bases located in the eastern United States — assessing space utilization; water; lighting; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; and process energy systems.
“AFCEC has to meet energy and water use reduction goals — and extend the life of facilities at bases worldwide,” says AECOM’s Annika Moman, program manager, energy. “We brought in 20 technical experts, who spent two weeks gathering data and walking more than 2 million square feet [186,000 square meters] on each base. There is a massive need for data to gauge facility conditions and opportunities for savings. When our experts finish an assessment, each facility manager has a checklist of sustainability measures to program and plan for over a seven-year period, and some which can be implemented immediately.”
Envisioning a path forward
The AFCEC employed AECOM’s master-planning expertise for future development of Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA) in Texas, United States, which encompasses five geographically separate bases in the San Antonio area. The client’s vision was to consolidate the planning efforts for the five U.S. Army and Air Force installations, spanning more than 55,000 acres and supporting 53,000 military personnel.
“Our team provided comprehensive site modeling and created a web-based, long-range plan — optimizing land use allocation, improving operational efficiencies, and meeting future transportation and infrastructure needs,” says AECOM’s Komal Dewan, principal, buildings + places, and principal-in-charge for JBSA. “The master plan encompasses an innovative approach to planning to include Core Mission Districts (CMDs), which create functionally focused areas tied to mission and future growth. These CMDs allow JBSA to make function-based investment decisions regardless of location.”
Building homes for Air Force families
AECOM provided Title 2 construction services for two Pacific-region installations, overseeing more than US$200 million in housing renovations at Misawa and Kadena air bases in Japan.
“The Air Force selected AECOM for its application of leading-edge technology in base housing reconstruction,” says AECOM’s Bill Wanner, Pacific District construction manager, water. “We combined our construction management and information technology expertise to provide online concentric project management tools via customized websites. After brief on-site training, the air base staff, designers and Japanese contractors were ‘flying high’ with paperless workflow routing and document tracking. The increased efficiency resulted in on-time housing deliveries to Air Force personnel and their families.”
Cleaning up our environment
AECOM continues supporting AFCEC environmental programs by leading multi-million dollar, performance-based cleanup efforts across the United States — including March Air Reserve Base in California and Point Lay Air Station and Clear Air Force Station in Alaska. Work ranges from landfill removal in the remote Arctic to implementing innovative groundwater treatment technologies.
“AECOM’s technical approach and expertise in site closure and life cycle cost reduction are primary decision factors in awarding performance-based contracts,” says Tim Green, vice president, federal accounts, environment, and program manager. “AECOM has technical experts at the Performance Based Contracting Center of Excellence, who develop the best technical solutions for the most challenging of sites.”
“The AFCEC is an evolving organization that continues to expand its role in managing Air Force engineering and environmental programs,” concludes Macon. “As the AFCEC transforms, AECOM will continue to anticipate and meet its changing needs.”
AECOM, schools benefit from academic alliances worldwide
Through collaboration with renowned universities around the world that combines academic research with real-world applications, AECOM’s experts positively influence engineering students at the start of their career journeys. The company’s commitment to social responsibility is the cornerstone of these alliances, and, similarly, students in the programs are encouraged to mentor younger students. In addition to developing tomorrow’s engineers, academic research broadens AECOM’s exposure to cutting-edge research and ideas. One of these alliance relationships is with Villanova University, a private school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.
“By collaborating with universities, our professionals are not only developing mentor relationships with these students, but they’re also inspiring them to discover new, innovative solutions to problems around the globe,” says David Didier, an associate vice president in AECOM’s transportation practice and the Villanova University alliance relationship manager.
Christopher Rapone, an alumnus of Villanova’s college of engineering and now an engineer in AECOM’s transportation practice, participated in AECOM’s Academic Alliance Program. In 2009, the program was created to recognize the company’s university partnerships around the world.
Says Rapone, “At the end of the two-year program, I presented my graduate thesis on bridge research to Villanova faculty and AECOM engineers. It addressed the issue of aging transportation infrastructure across the United States, a topic on which our chairman and chief executive officer actually issued a white paper. By testing the durability of concrete bridge decks with alternative reinforcement materials, I investigated new methods of designing bridges with longer lives, as well as lower capital and life cycle costs.”
”AECOM helped with each and every stage of the project, from designing the lab specimens for testing to providing the industry contacts necessary to complete the project,” continues Rapone. “In addition to earning my master’s degree, I gained experience in the professional realm through my internship — which was how I determined that AECOM would be the perfect fit for me in the long term.”
As an alumnus of Villanova’s college of engineering and Rapone’s mentor, Didier has been impressed.
“Christopher’s work has been beneficial to both AECOM and Villanova University,” he says. “Employees from the company’s structural department presented his research at a local American Society of Civil Engineers dinner and received feedback that the idea was interesting, progressive and would be pursued further. The impressive technical outcomes from these university partnerships are indeed a testament to the program’s success.”
In addition to fostering critical thinking, AECOM’s collaboration with Villanova reinforces the high value the company places on corporate social responsibility through community outreach.
Last year, Villanova’s Community Action by New Engineers (NovaCANE) program worked with 40 AECOM employees to host after-school engineering clubs for more than 300 students ages 6 to 13. The students augmented their normal math and science curricula by actively observing how sustainable technologies solve problems in civil, structural, mechanical and electrical engineering.
Dr. David Dinehart, assistant chairman of Villanova University’s civil engineering department and NovaCANE faculty advisor says, “AECOM’s involvement in our NovaCANE program is making a huge difference because it allows us to give children the opportunity to experience fields of study they might not have thought about. Our goal is to have the middle school participants continue to be involved in engineering clubs at the high school level.”
According to Rapone, “As a graduate student, I participated in NovaCANE by helping to teach children hands-on activities that demonstrated real-life applications of the basics of engineering. The most rewarding part was their outbursts upon our arrival at each visit. They genuinely enjoyed interacting with us and learning new topics, which made me look forward to going to the schools even more. It is amazing how much they were able to recall from previous lessons — and I really think we made a difference.”
“The two most important aspects of the program are that university students are not only educating youth on the field of engineering, but also learning how to use mentoring to develop professionals who will uphold our legacy for future generations to come,” says Didier. “We want all of these students — from ages 6 to 22 and up — to become professional engineers and mentors who will strive to transform the world around them.”
AECOM collaborates with more than 30 universities worldwide on a host topics, such as infrastructure and low-carbon living. The schools include:
- Bartlett School of Architecture, University College, London, United Kingdom;
- Bauhaus University, Weimer, Germany;
- California Polytechnic State University, United States;
- Central Saint Martins, London, United Kingdom;
- City College of New York, United States;
- Columbia University, New York, New York, United States;
- Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States;
- Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States;
- Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., United States;
- Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States;
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States;
- National University of Singapore;
- New Jersey Institute of Technology, United States;
- School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, India;
- Stellenbosch University, South Africa;
- University of Alberta, Canada;
- University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada;
- University of Hong Kong, China;
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States;
- University of Manitoba, Canada;
- University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia;
- University of Queensland, Australia;
- University of Technology Sydney, New South Wales, Australia;
- University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada;
- University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada;
- University of Wisconsin, United States;
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, United States; and
- Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, United States.
Low-carbon living in Australia
For the next seven years, AECOM and the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Low-Carbon Living at Australia’s University of New South Wales will collaborate with government agencies and industry in providing the technology and tools to promote the adoption of low-carbon infrastructure.
“Our research of local community behavior and purchasing decisions helps us to create tools that enable the design of, and stimulate the market for, low-carbon infrastructure,” says Lester Partridge, technical director and global leader of advanced design and applied research, buildings + places. “This greatly reduces overall costs for property developers and government partners who provide infrastructure at the planning point of delivery.”
“By linking my research to ongoing industry problems, CRC helps to ensure my work remains practical and suitable for real-life applications,” says Alison Wenham, a former AECOM employee who is pursuing a Ph.D. in renewable energy at the University of New South Wales. “It also offers resources to support my work, while allowing me to establish relationships with industry partners.”
“This initiative gives AECOM the opportunity to influence the future of global cities by laying the groundwork for future low-carbon cities and providing a blueprint of how to work with government and industries to explore sustainable urban solutions,” concludes Partridge.
Sponsoring research for innovative solutions
AECOM’s environment practice has been working with the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), United States, since a corporate partnership was established in 2006. The initial research project related to climate change and currently, the alliance focuses on using nanotechnology in manufacturing.
In 2011, UCSB alliance students and China’s Nanjing University School of Environment researched green building energy performance in the United States and how to mirror these best practices in China.
“We addressed climate change and rising energy demand in the U.S. and China, which account for 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide,” says student Fernando Accame. “After surveying occupants and analyzing audit data, we found a potential annual savings of US$25,000 per building on campus.
“AECOM opened doors for me. I was exposed to a different culture and a professional way of thinking, which gave me a fresh perspective on solving problems."
Currently, AECOM is sponsoring research that advances the application and beneficial uses of nanoscale zero valent iron, a nanomaterial being considered for effectively treating contaminated ground soil and groundwater.
“Our research is critical to understanding the impacts of nanomaterials,” says Bob Weber, chief executive of AECOM’s resources and industry practice and member of the UCSB Dean’s Council. “We are investigating methods of safely developing and using nanomaterials with unique properties for products within the biomedical, chemical, manufacturing and environmental industries.”
Urbanizing China through sustainable design
AECOM and the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) formed a partnership that examines emerging urbanism issues in China through a series of sponsored seminars and design studios.
“China is facing challenges brought about by fast urban and economic development,” says Christopher Lee, GSD design critic and studio supervisor. “Through this partnership, we will examine common frameworks behind developmental cities and build on our mutual experience to achieve a harmonious balance between a city’s residents, buildings, space and its environment.”
For three successive years, students will embark on weeklong field studies of fast-growing cities — beginning with Xiamen in 2012, Macau in 2013 and a city in the northeast of China in 2014 — all of which lie along cultural fault lines and are vying for first-tier status.
“Humanizing architectural norms in China is a challenge because the focus is on grand-scale planning, not on the level of a space for individuals,” says architecture student Waqas Jawaid. ”Since structures are built very fast, innovation can slow construction down. This alliance gives me the luxury of an academic space, where I can take the time to study successful design and incorporate that into future development.”
Simandou — Promising Guinea sustainable economic prosperity
The Simandou mountain range stretches along southern Guinea, forming a vital ecosystem in West Africa that holds a wealth of natural resources. At one end of the mountain range is a vast iron ore deposit that promises sustainable economic prosperity when connected to the capital port city of Conakry and its access to world commerce. The responsibility for connecting these two distant locations with a new cross-country mine-to-port heavy-haul freight railway and a new deep-water port falls to AECOM’s Bill Hjelholt and Jeff Fosbrook, project directors and transportation vice presidents, and their global team of 400 design engineers, scientists and planners from 14 AECOM global offices.
“The Simandou project is a Greenfield development of the largest integrated iron ore and deepwater port infrastructure project in Africa,” says Fosbrook. “Upon completion, the project is expected to double the gross domestic product of Guinea, providing broad social and economic gains, including employment opportunities for skilled and non-skilled Guineans during construction and operation of the mine and port.”
For a project of this magnitude, a commitment to high standards of safety, health and environment is critical. AECOM recorded no lost time injuries or accidents over a total of 566,000 hours of work on the project.
“With a project like this that is vitally important to the Republic of Guinea and Rio Tinto — one of the world’s top mining companies — few companies can deliver like AECOM,” explains Hjelholt. “We needed a strong global effort to meet an aggressive and complex schedule for design, engineering, environmental and project management on this massive project — and we got it. We are managing railway work with an experienced transportation team in Toronto, Canada; port work led by infrastructure experts from Perth and Melbourne, Australia; and adding expertise from Madrid, Spain, and across the United States.”
“The sheer project scope and complexity are impressive,” says AECOM’s Eric Smith, project design manager and AECOM vice president, transportation. “For the railway component alone, we worked to study, design and engineer 670 kilometers [416 miles] of railway corridor, 29 kilometers [18 miles] of tunnels, 39 bridges, approximately 1000 culverts, 13 passing sidings, rail yards, maintenance and employee facilities, as well as a control center.”
AECOM worked diligently to minimize project impacts on local communities and the environment. According to Renee Pettigrew, environment permitting and community liaison, “We encountered numerous biodiverse animal and plant species among challenging geographic elements — while ensuring design considerations included social impact assessments and field surveys of the natural environment, heritage sites and communities. Compiling critical avoidance criteria onto our geographic information systems helps to ensure protection of these sensitive areas.”
Andi Hucker, transportation technical lead, railway rolling stock, adds, “We also carefully adapted requirements for rolling stock [locomotives, ore and freight wagons, and track maintenance vehicles] to ensure that an estimated 10 trains, each consisting of approximately 240 wagons or measuring 1.7 miles [2.8 kilometers] long, operate in the safest, most efficient and environmentally conscious manner possible.”
“This project is coming to life,” explains Fosbrook. “And we’re proud of the contribution of our global team and the positive impact it will have on Guinea.”
Simandou is just one of several major mining projects around the world where AECOM is providing key design, engineering, environmental, program and construction management services, including the Argyle Diamond Mine expansion in Australia; Bloom Lake Mine Rail complex in Labrador, Newfoundland, Canada; and several mining operations in Brazil.
“At AECOM, we are fortunate to have the global capacity and expertise to work on such large and important global projects as Simandou, providing the technical leadership and project management very few companies can match,” concludes Fosbrook.Read more
Advancing Guinea, developing young engineers
Along with the many seasoned veterans on this assignment, Simandou provided learning opportunities for young engineers and designers, including AECOM’s Imran Lalji, an engineer on the track and civil team. Using state-of-the-art tools, he learned firsthand the methods for fast-tracking the design to allow for schedule constraints.
Lalji joined AECOM in 2011 and was part of the early contractor involvement group for the Simandou project — responsible for preliminarily developing local and international partnerships with needed suppliers on the project.
“The most interesting element of this project for a young engineer like me,” Lalji notes, “was the fact that we are actually designing everything along the 640-kilometer [416-mile] corridor from the port to mine — providing so much to learn about on such a huge project. It was also amazing to explore Rio Tinto’s strategy of investing in and operating large, long-term, cost-competitive mines.”
Q&A with Deepak S. Parekh
As the chairman of India-based Housing Development Finance Corporation Limited (HDFC), Deepak S. Parekh has helped transform society in India by turning the dream of owning a home into reality for millions across the country. Deepak is a leader in India’s housing industry and AECOM has proudly named him as a charter member of its Global Advisory Board.
The board supports AECOM’s efforts to grow in new geographies, markets and high-growth service areas, and is made up of members who can provide valuable global business perspectives.
How does being on the AECOM Global Advisory Board fit in with your own vision of supporting social and economic progress?
As a professional in the field of mortgage finance for more than 35 years, I have had the opportunity to interact with a number of architects, engineers, designers and urban planners. I was impressed with the work done by AECOM and its vast global experience.
AECOM established its credentials in India by designing the master plan for a major airport in India, working on the layouts of the metro in Kolkata and Chennai, and providing project management and design services to residential townships and industrial corridors, to name a few. The company has the technical expertise and the global experience to understand and provide practical solutions for India’s infrastructure development.
Personally, the AECOM Global Advisory Board has given me an opportunity to interact with well-reputed and like-minded individuals. India needs the kind of expertise and domain knowledge that AECOM has.
What are the challenges for affordable housing in India?
There is no disputing that there is a huge shortage of housing in India. If you look at a city like Mumbai, 55 percent of its people live in slums. It is important to note that not all slum dwellers are poor. Archaic and faulty land policies have resulted in huge price distortions and created artificial shortages of land. With the rapid pace of urbanization in India, there is a need to create more land for urban use. However, conversion of agricultural lands for urban use is extremely tedious and often mired in controversies.
There is also a need to have a single-window approval mechanism for all permits required by a developer. It is estimated that a developer in Mumbai requires over 69 approvals from various authorities at the local or municipal level, at the state level and from the central government. This results in considerable time and cost overruns. It is for this reason that today many developers tend to focus only on the mid-income or high-end luxury apartments, rather than building low-cost housing units. Developers need to be incentivized to cater to the affordable housing segment. Fast-tracking approvals would be one such incentive.
During the last decade, what social innovations have helped advance India?
The rise of social entrepreneurship. There are a number of entities that have created profitable and sustainable businesses in rural India by capitalizing on market opportunities within challenging communities. For instance, companies have created innovative products, such as water purification, solar lanterns, shampoo sachets and the e-Choupal initiative, which links rural farmers via Internet to directly procure agricultural products for rural India. Another example is providing low-cost health services such as mobile eye camps, where cataract and other complex eye surgeries are carried out in remote villages.
Technology also has played a key role. As a result of the telecom revolution in India, the country has one of the lowest tariffs in the world and a high teledensity of around 80 percent. This has changed the way business is done and how money is transferred. Mobile banking is going to be the next big leap in India.
India’s large market share in business process outsourcing has also helped to create better job opportunities for the youth in India.
What are some of the infrastructure challenges in India?
Infrastructure remains the key challenge for India and the investment opportunities in this sector are immense. India needs US$1 trillion for investment in infrastructure over the next 5 years. Of this US$1 trillion, 47 percent is expected to come from the private sector. Power, roads, telecom and railway sectors are expected to account for 80 percent of the total infrastructure requirements.
I believe the availability of funding for well-structured projects is not an issue. What has unfortunately created a loss in confidence has been the lack of clarity in terms of policy decisions. The fallout of the telecom scandal and the irregularities on some of the coal mine allocations has led to a standstill on a number of other policies pertaining to infrastructure. Economic growth cannot happen without government support to stimulate the investment cycle again. The government is trying to iron out some key issues and is taking measures to fast track approvals of large infrastructure projects.
I am reasonably optimistic to believe that there will be progress made in the coming months. One of the major players in the infrastructure space aptly told me that as far as public-private partnerships (PPPs) are concerned in India, you need three additional Ps — patience, perseverance and passion!
How do you see AECOM’s role evolving in India and in other developing countries?
I think AECOM will play a big role in countries that are seeing a sudden spurt in urbanization. For instance, in India, currently 31 percent of India’s population is urban and by 2030, 40 percent of people will be living in cities. While this per se is not alarming, if you translate it into numbers, we are looking at India’s urban population increasing from 300-million people to more than 600-million people by 2030. To put 600-million people into perspective, it is double the United States’ current population.
There is going to be immense pressure on the infrastructure of existing cities and we need to create many more new cities to be able to handle the urban influx. These new cities will need to be planned and designed, and the necessary infrastructure has to be put in place.
An area where India does not seem to have sufficient expertise is urban planning. Urban plans are typically done by bureaucrats, but clearly the need for professionals is becoming extremely compelling. We need expertise on how cities should be designed, master plan layouts, infrastructure layouts, transport networks and improved civic amenities. And, AECOM has demonstrated that they have this talent pool and countries can benefit by using its expertise.
What are your thoughts on corporate social responsibility (CSR)?
The relationship between corporate and society must be synergistic and based on mutually beneficial ties. Being profitable doesn’t necessarily translate into being a good corporate citizen. I strongly believe that businesses need to be responsible about social issues, whether it be education, health care, child development, livelihood support, housing or the environment.
In India, corporate philanthropy is still at a relatively early stage. Corporate houses and India’s philanthropists prefer to operate through their own personal foundations or institutions, and the mindset is largely charity oriented rather than playing a key role in engineering social change by collaboration with all stakeholders.
Currently, there is a bill (Companies Bill) pending in India’s parliament that proposes to make it mandatory for companies to spend 2 percent of their net profits on CSR. I personally feel that making it compulsory for companies to support CSR activities will not yield the desired results over the long term. CSR must be voluntary. Instead of focusing on making CSR mandatory, awareness needs to be created among companies on how CSR is an extension of good corporate governance. This will also ensure a gradual shift from the traditional charity model to a more strategic CSR model that fits in with the long-term objectives of companies.
At HDFC, we realized that to be a good corporate citizen, we need to be sensitive to society and give back. Every year, we earmark a portion of our profits, which helps us maintain an active corporate social responsibility portfolio that is dedicated to supporting the challenging sections of society.
What advice can you give on advancing social progress in underdeveloped countries?
One must recognize that it is important for the private sector and the government to work together to arrive at optimum solutions. Social progress in any country is entirely dependent on ensuring that its people have a stake in society. I always believe that economic prosperity and a sustainable existence can only be achieved if there is commitment toward the inclusion agenda.
Advancing hydropower for the future
With a dramatic, 30-percent increase in the world’s population since 1990 — the number now stands at approximately seven billion people — and the world’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels for energy generation, the need for renewable and clean energy sources is crucial. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, fossil fuels provide approximately 80 percent of the world’s energy supply. And, although an exact date cannot be established with certainty, some studies predict that non-synthetic oil resources, for example, will be depleted by the end of this century.
Leading the effort to ensure energy availability for future generations, AECOM has been working with clients worldwide in developing clean energy fuel sources such as hydropower, wind, solar, tidal and geothermal.
“Hydropower is not only a cleaner, more efficient alternative to fossil fuels, but it also generates significant advantages for our clients,” says Claudio Vissa, vice president, energy, and an AECOM fellow, a company distinction recognizing renowned thought leaders. “The clean energy sources being used don’t produce waste or gas emissions, and, therefore, will not contribute to air pollution, acid rain or global warming. And as a sustainable alternative, hydropower follows the water cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation. This means that as long as there is water, through rain or snow, then there will always be a hydropower energy source — which permanently eliminates the cost of purchasing fossil fuels for power plants.”
Despite its advantages, managing hydropower projects — coordinating between developers and communities, and designing a feasible infrastructure for specific site locations — can be complex due to difficult climates and terrains, flood control demands, as well as the need to avoid adverse effects on the surrounding community and environment during and after construction.
“Though challenging, hydropower is the oldest area of expertise for us,” says Georges Dick, chief executive of AECOM’s global energy practice. “We have been active in this field for the last 120 years via companies that were part of or have joined the firm since its inception. Our first hydropower project was the 37.3-megawatt Chaudière power plant on the Chaudière River in Quebec, Canada, which was completed in 1901.’’
By incorporating safety, critical thinking and cutting-edge technology into every project, AECOM has successfully delivered projects across more than 100 countries worldwide — ranging from the Allain Duhangan hydroelectric development in the Himalayan Mountains to the La Romaine hydroelectric complex in Canada.
Defying difficult site conditions
In the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, India, the village of Manali is nestled among the Himalayan Mountains and the Allain and Duhangan streams. These streams, both tributaries of the Beas River, are the power source for the Allain Duhangan complex, a 225-megawatt hydroelectric power plant.
“The Allain Duhangan project was situated in one of the most difficult sites I’ve ever worked on in my entire 40-year career,” explains Vissa, project manager. “As both lead design and construction manager, AECOM worked closely with a number of teams to resolve various situations in a safe and efficient manner — including establishing construction access in the mountainous terrain; operating under winter conditions; and handling delays and obstacles in land acquisition, risks of avalanche, forest-cutting restrictions and agreements concerning the local population.”
AECOM’s team designed hydraulic structures and electrical systems to save costs and avoid disrupting the site’s ecosystem. They also collaborated with local workers to build 40 kilometers (24.9 miles) of access roads using traditional manual techniques instead of mechanical methods that would have disrupted villagers’ lives. This boosted emerging infrastructure and provided training and employment for local communities.
A wonder of modern engineering, the project supplies a significant amount of clean energy, which powers a large portion of northwestern India’s grid. It has a combined overflow of 26 cubic meters per second (918 cubic feet per second) and a gross head of 876 meters (2,874 feet).
According to Vissa, “Through our advice, site-specific technical design, work methodology and recommendations, we created a winning relationship with significant future opportunities for projects in this region, since less than 35 percent of the region’s hydroelectric potential has been harnessed at the moment.”
Cutting client costs
In addition to successfully delivering hydropower projects in difficult locations, AECOM constantly examines opportunities to reduce costs for clients. When Hydro-Quebec, a major public utility, needed a designer to standardize criteria and design approaches for the construction of the 1,550-megawatt La Romaine hydroelectric complex on the Romaine River in Quebec, Canada, AECOM’s reputation as the premiere design expert in North America spoke for itself.
According to Jean-Francois Mercier, project director, hydropower and dams, “Through elemental standardization, Hydro-Quebec aimed to reduce engineering, construction and operational costs for the complex. Due to AECOM’s success across various projects, it was clear that we were the top choice for the job.”
One of the four power stations, La Romaine-1, will have an installed capacity of 270 megawatts with an average annual production of 1.4 terawatt-hours when all the upstream generating stations on the Romaine River are operational. A key design aspect of La Romaine-1 is the use of 3-D design tool Computer-Aided Three-Dimensional Interactive Application (CATIA). While providing technical review services for Phase 1 of the project, CATIA allowed AECOM to set parameters for each component, which will help in the design of the additional three power stations.
“Parameterized 3-D skeletons are 3-D wireframes, where instead of modifying the length of a line, the engineer or technologist can edit the parameter,” says Sylvie Robichaud, AECOM project engineer and department head. “Once a parameter has been edited, the skeleton’s geometry is automatically updated to fit the new dimensions. This allows users to rapidly perform calculations and analysis; study and evaluate various alternatives; as well as optimize the design through the template, which can now be reused on future projects.”
By incorporating CATIA into the design, AECOM accelerated the conception phase, which continues to significantly reduce costs for Hydro-Quebec.