Latest News

    Shell International Framework Agreement

    19 January 2017

    Shell International Framework Agreement

    Shell International agreement offers RPS lab services access for international subsidiaries.

    Picture: The symbolic ‘first’ samples under the framework agreement that were delivered by Shell to our laboratory in Breda.

    The framework agreement for industrial hygiene lab analysis and services was signed between Shell International and RPS in 2016. In principle, all Shell International subsidiaries can tap into the agreement, regardless of the country in which they operate.

    RPS has a long business relationship with Shell in the Netherlands. Not only does the framework agreement streamline our administrative process but it furthermore opens up our services to all Shell assets.

    Shell selected RPS based on our high level of service which they have experienced in earlier projects working with RPS, including RPS’ quality and reliability of personal air monitoring services. RPS’ particular expertise in innovation in new techniques was demonstrated as we introduced a tailor-made personal air sampling canister and validated it together with Shell. We have previously delivered excellence in our flexibility in highly efficient sampling and fast turnaround times without loss of quality or attention to detail in the case of incidents like in the Shell Moerdijk incident of 2014.

    We are very proud to receive the recognition of such a renowned company like Shell International and look forward to the continuation of a very positive long standing relationship.

     
    20th January ICE Webinar: Lunch-and-Learn 3-D Modelling

    16 January 2017

    20th January ICE Webinar: Lunch-and-Learn 3-D Modelling

    RPS’ Dr Grainne McQuaid to host ICE 3-D modelling Photogrammetry webinar with a focus on transport.

    Dr. McQuaid

    On 20th January 2017, Grainne McQuaid will host her own ICE Webinar on 3-D Modelling Using Noncontact Close Range Photogrammetry. You can register your interest by clicking on the 'book now' button from the link below and following the onscreen instructions.

    https://www.ice.org.uk/events/lunch-and-learn-3d-modelling

    Methods developed at Ulster University can offer new ways of understanding road surfaces.

    Road surface texture is important at a range of scales. At a mega-scale potholes are a problem to road users and anyone involved in maintenance. Macro-scale relates to the roughness of a road and its ability to disperse water. This is particularly important at higher road speeds and is necessary to ensure safety in wet conditions.

    As a micro-scale, the surface texture of individual aggregate particles is essential to cut through films of water between the tyre blocks and the aggregate to ensure points of contact and reduce the risk of aqua-planning.

    This webinar considers how 3-D models based on non-contact Close Range Photogrammetry methods developed at Ulster University can offer new ways of better understanding these texture related properties. The method offers substantial scope for creating accurate cost effective 3-D models across a variety of texture scales right through to its use even for topographical surveys.

     
    Challenges and Opportunities for Stakeholder Engagement

    11 January 2017

    Challenges and Opportunities for Stakeholder Engagement

    RPS’ Neasa Kane-Fine reflects on challenges and opportunities in the future of PR.

    Neasa Kane-Fine, Director of RPS Project Communications contributed to November’s Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ) on the future of PR. As RPS is strongly focused on public consultation and stakeholder engagement, Neasa reflected on the challenges and opportunities faced in this area – read full article below.

     

    Our work involves advising on and delivering consultations that allow for public and stakeholder participation, whether it is to inform development of a new public policy, sustainability campaign or infrastructure project. We also develop and manage relationships to build trust with the communities and many stakeholders impacted by public infrastructure projects and construction.

    Public participation is healthy and necessary to inform projects and policies. In recent years the industry has seen a seismic shift in the quantity and content of submissions made to public consultations, thanks to increased awareness through online and social media platforms and multiple devices.

    Interestingly, we still see a larger proportion – about 60% – of public consultation submissions being made in writing and submitted via traditional post, rather than through email or online consultation forums that we facilitate. Many people have told us that when they believe something is important, they prefer to write it out and post it, so we facilitate that.

    With access to so much information online, including through social media, we need to ensure that accurate and factual information is easily accessible so we are now developing more animated video and infographics that quickly and simply explain complex projects and policy issues, as well as continuing to utilise print and broadcast media.

    Another trend we see is that with more people aware of projects thanks to social media campaigns and increased mobilisation of interest groups via Facebook and Twitter, social media often makes it difficult for some to discuss their views openly online. Social media campaigns against public policy or projects often promote polarised positions and questioning or differing views rarely raise their head in the online discussions.

    Looking ahead? Social media needs to mature to enable a grown up, inclusive and informed debate about important policy and issues, where all views can be expressed and respected. Social media will never replace direct engagement as meaningful consultation builds understanding as well as addressing issues and concerns, but tools like Twitter and Facebook ensure we reach all our audiences with engaging content.

    Data management is a growing area for us and we see more and more large projects requiring bespoke cloud based systems to manage stakeholder and project data across multiple platforms and users, and this need will continue. Demand for creativity will never cease.

    Video will continue to grow in importance too. Print will remain relevant for particular projects and certain demographics, but print will become more graphics driven as people have less and less time to consume the written word.

    Finally, more than ever, there is a strong need for quality traditional journalism; to objectively establish the facts and provide balance through impartial reporting and valid questioning of all positions.

     
     
    RPS’ Belfast Office Strikes Gold with Environmental Benchmark

    06 January 2017

    RPS’ Belfast Office Strikes Gold with Environmental Benchmark

    RPS’ Belfast office has been awarded Gold in the Arena Network Environmental Benchmarking Survey for the second year.
     

    Since 1998, the Northern Ireland Environmental Benchmarking Survey has assessed the extent to which environmental business practices have been embedded within the corporate strategies and operations of local organisations. The survey is designed to encourage organisations to identify measures and understand their environmental impacts, to continuously seek for better environmental performance and to benchmark themselves against their peers across Northern Ireland.

    Over the last decade it has grown to become Northern Ireland’s leading environmental benchmarking exercise, attracting organisations from over 14 industry sectors including participants from the top 200 companies and leading public sector organisations such as health trusts, local authorities, education and library boards and universities.

    The survey is a key driver for corporate environmental management and improvement. It is recognised as a positive influencer that is helping organisations throughout Northern Ireland achieve more sustainable ways of doing business.

     
    Overwhelming Infrastructure: Looking at the Recent Houston Flooding

    21 December 2016

    Overwhelming Infrastructure: Looking at the Recent Houston Flooding

    Major flooding event in the U.S. Image: FreeImages.com/Jeff Jones

    As April left the US city of Houston, Texas with many neighborhoods under more than a foot of water, the matter of flood control has remained firmly at the forefront in state discussions on environmental management plans.

    With major flooding events becoming more common worldwide, government authorities are under intense pressure to find and allocate multimillion dollar funding for proactive flood prevention measures amidst the reactive costs of repairing the physical toll of events barely elapsed. Likewise, water supply and drainage infrastructure must respond to thousand-fold increases in consumption and output since the heart of that infrastructure was originally installed.

    The low-lying city of Houston has endured more than 35 significant floods – 26 of these since the 1970s and since the inner city population passed 1 million. RPS Klotz Associates President Wayne Klotz, PE, D.WRE has presided over the Coastal Water Authority Board since 2011 and has run a professional civil engineering business in Houston for over 30 years. In this capacity and as a former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, he is often approached to discuss the issues from a professional viewpoint.

    Wayne notes that the efforts to maintain a built environment on a flat topography, little above sea level and subject to the Gulf Coast’s humid climate, have not kept pace with development. ‘The Barker and Addicks reservoirs [were built] in the 1940s after major floods in 1929 and 1935 [and they were way out in the countryside, but the city continued to grow as cities will, and [they] are now in the middle of a huge municipal center.’

    Certainly the two detention reservoirs have reduced flood levels downstream Buffalo Bayou, but they have not grown at the population’s pace. As America’s fourth-largest city and a world-leading business center for energy, biomedical and aeronautics, Houston has a 2 million inner city population, extending to some 6 million counting outlying areas. Its incoming population grew by 90,000 last year alone. Construction on new outlets for the reservoirs began in late 2015 and is expected to complete during 2019. A full operational review of the reservoirs is tabled for 2018.

    Over $1 billion has been invested in Houston’s flood-risk protection since 2012, but this has not been able to contend with recent events, notably the Memorial Day storm and April’s ‘tax day’ storm .

    Various improvements have been made to the bayous with the current program including creation of new detention basins, channel improvements and state voluntary buyouts of the most flood-susceptible houses. The Sims Bayou improvements off the Houston Ship Channel, completed in 2015, provided three new detention basins, 19.3 miles of channel improvements and 22 new bridges. It should save 35,000 homes and 2,000 commercial structures in the 1:100 flood risk bracket from structural flood damage. Current works on White Oak Bayou include four detention basins, 15.3 grass-lined miles of channel improvements and 12 miles of greenspace.

    RPS is engaged on several county projects to deliver an overall improved flood management infrastructure for the city and region. RPS Associate Engineer Francisco Carrillo is engaged on the Bayou Greenways 2020 project. It delivers a plan for the transformation of underused land into protected greenspaces. Appropriate wetland landscaping will increase ground absorbency surface area. It gives the opportunity for residents to better use and take pride in their local landscape as the completed continuous parks system will create a long network of hike and bike trails within easy pedestrian access of most residents – 60% of Houston’s population will be less than a mile and a half from a Bayou Greenway space. With the land used effectively, it is removed from immediate risk of heavy urban development and potential renewed issues of inadequate drainage and increased surface water runoff. The proposal is solid, simple and fairly inexpensive, says Francisco, and what’s more, for the bodies partnering to deliver it, the creation of desirable green areas will attract newcomers, including families, and also outside investment.

    One of the largest detention projects that RPS is engaged on is the Willow Waterhole Bayou – a 19-mile-long earth- and concrete-lined channel surrounded by the dense urban sprawl of southwest Houston. RPS Associate Project Manager Morena Arredondo, PE, is leading RPS’ team on the project. It is a section of the Brays Bayou watershed that has suffered significant flooding on several occasions .

    Approximately 280 acres of the site is to be transformed into a unique greenspace with a new Willow Waterhole Channel, inflow concrete weirs and six wet-bottom detention basins with a 600m gallon total capacity. The greenspace aspect is led by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and will provide a range of community recreational spaces, wildlife conservation plans and prairie restoration .

    RPS has helped devise an effective stormwater improvements plan, identifying need to prepare for worst events as a first action and prioritize the health, safety and welfare of its inhabitants. The latest highly accurate reporting and monitoring software tools have been brought on board, says RPS Manager William Conlan, PE, CFM, combined with more hours devoted to gathering reliable data and now able to cover all 130,000 drainage areas effectively .

    ‘Before there was Houston, the land was swamp,’ Wayne explains. ‘When it rains, it rains a lot and it rains hard. It is a priority to respond efficiently to the drastic flood events the region experiences, but more so to plan way ahead to be certain that we can greatly reduce the impacts of such events before they are felt.’

    Further Reading:

    The Harris County Flood Control District has formal reports on regional flooding events and flood control available to download in PDF format from its website: https://www.hcfcd.org/

     

    Endnotes:

    i Houston was founded in August 1836 in the south-east of Texas, near the Gulf of Mexico. It was incorporated as a city in 1837. Its population was over 2,000 by 1850, almost doubling each decade until growth slowed in the 1930s. By 1970 the inner city population was 1.2million. Demographics from Wikipedia.
    ii The project, worth around $105m, is led by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which originally constructed the two reservoirs.
    iiiMemorial Day Storm (24th – 26th May 2015). Houston suffered 23” rainfall in 72 hours, parts of Harris County suffered up to 10” of rainfall within a six hour period. In excess of 6,000 homes were flooded, some press reports noting up to 4,000 of these properties suffering significant damages. Less than a year later, several days of heavy rainfall began on April 17th 2016 with Houston experiencing what the Harris County local flood control district estimated to be a 1 in 10,000 year rainfall event. Over 15” of rain fell on Houston and Harris County within the first 24 hours. Excepting the July 2012 storm, meteorologists are viewing the Tax Day and Memorial Day storm events as the most unprecedented rainfall to affect Houston since the 1960s. Over $3bn has been incurred in insured flood damage for Houston between 1999 and 2009.
    iv1983 (Hurricane Alicia), 2001 (Tropical Storm Allison), 2008 (Hurricane Ike), 2015 (Memorial Day Flood).
    vThe conservation plans focus on the site’s 36 bird species and the conservation of the endangered Texas Prairie-dawn flower (Hymenoxys Texana) that is unique to Houston’s Gulf Coastal Plain, growing almost solely in the Fort Bend, Harris and Trinity counties of Texas.
    viThe former CDP produced in the 1990s only covered 65% of the regions storm-sewers. These 130,000 drainage areas include 33 million linear feet of infrastructure and 12 million linear feet of ditches. Person hours include not only desk-based technical analysis but also physical drive and walkovers with gyroscopes, scanners and sensors.