There is perhaps no greater need than now to connect the world, to learn and share our cultures and experience.
The primary outcome from the 2023 IFME World Congress held in Birmingham, UK, was the interconnected stories of looking after what we have and addressing climate change issues over a range of surprisingly interlinked presentations that told a greater story.
The opening presentation from the USA outlined the political and engineering relationship in managing the US's infrastructure budget of $ 1.2 trillion. It reminded the US Administration that although it wanted to deliver new ideas, it also had to address its current backlog of infrastructure issues.
A series of presentations went into detail about how it's so important to look after the public infrastructure we already have and the need for a long-term plan, despite dealing with short-term political cycles.
An important message is how Engineers communicate the state of infrastructure with financial authorities and, critically, politicians. A story from Australia showed how this could be done effectively with a comprehensive infrastructure report outlining the current state of assets nationally. This report can be accessed here: ALGA_NSotA_SummaryReport2021.pdf
In addition, the need for more international skills specific to asset management and municipal engineering was highlighted along with solutions focused on delivering discreet micro-credentials. IPWEA has recently launched the IPWEA Asset Management Pathway. More details can be found here: IPWEA AM Pathway - Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia
On a similar subject, there was the story of how underground space for utilities was not being managed in many countries. This is now becoming a critical disrupter to planning the street layout and management of new infrastructure.
A series of presentations described the history of how we have increasingly congested underground space and the damage this is causing. Issues such as providing sustainable heating systems and upgrading utilities such as broadband, to name a few. Also, the cost of disruption to traffic during work and, most seriously, accidents from striking existing utilities result in hurt and even death.
The main lesson from this series of presentations was that poor asset management resulted in higher costs than if it had effectively planned maintenance and renewal.
A bright spot was the solution of underground management from New Zealand which resulted in better planning and a lot less disruption whilst also reducing costs for maintenance.
The afternoon sessions focused on climate change and how it will affect infrastructure planning in the future.
New Zealand gave a sobering presentation on how Climate change impacted them recently and how they had to reactively manage the emergency response. It went further to ask what you do individually in reaction to the climate emergency and provided information on what impact this could have globally. It asked, "What's your why".
Maintaining that theme, we looked at how city infrastructure must change, and several presentations from Scandinavia told a story of finding route maps to sustainable climate-neutral cities.
The Conference was a great opportunity to discuss global issues affecting public works. As a member country and a member, you will have access to tools and resources. If you want to learn more about IFME please visit Home - International Federation of Municipal Engineering (ifmeworld.org).
You can view and download all the Congress presentations from Birmingham here.
We look forward to seeing you for the 21st IFME "Future Green City" World Congress in Utrecht, The Netherlands, 23-26 September 2024.
Great summary John, thank you for the opportunity to present on the climate resilience and utilities management challenges and mitigations New Zealand has discovered and learnt from. The Interchange and ICE Conference was a great showcase of international best practice and learning. Lovely to see you with Paddington who has also seen the world. Nga mihi nuiPriyani de Silva-Currie President IPWEA NZ (Apopo from 1st July 2023)