News Archive

RPS wins Public Sector Planning and Environment Award for Dublin Waste Strategy & Poolbeg project

27 July 2015

RPS wins Public Sector Planning and Environment Award for Dublin Waste Strategy & Poolbeg project


RPS has been named winner of the 'Planning and Environment Award' in the Excellence in Business Awards by Public Sector Magazine in Dublin this week.

Pictured at the award ceremony are Gerry Carty MD RPS, Michael Phillips Dublin City Engineer/Assistant Chief Executive, Carol Connery Technical Director RPS, James Nolan Executive Engineer Dublin City Council and P J Rudden Director RPS

RPS and our client Dublin City Council accepted the award for the 'achievements of the Integrated Dublin Waste Strategy and Poolbeg Project.' The full implementation of the strategy will mean practically no landfilling of waste from Dublin post 2017 with the commissioning of the Poolbeg project.

The waste to energy project at Poolbeg is currently under construction and will process some 600,000 tonnes of waste per annum generating enough electricity for 80,000 homes as well as district heating potential for upwards on 50,000 homes.

The project is part of the integrated waste management strategy recommended to the four Dublin Authorities by an international consortium of consultants led by RPS and adopted in 1998. The strategy set up new waste awareness measures and introduced maximum recycling for all Dublin households using source separation into green, brown and black bins. The green and brown bin waste goes for recycling and energy will be generated from the black bin waste at the Poolbeg project. The strategy represents a 20 year vision which now looks about to be realised thanks to the implementation efforts of Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, South Dublin City Council and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. The strategy was formulated after an extensive period of public consultation and stakeholder engagement where the ‘public call for action’ was for waste prevention, greatly increased recycling and minimum landfill.

'The original aim of the strategy was to reduce landfill of Dublin waste from 90% down to 15% within 20 years but we now believe that 'zero landfill' can be achieved by maximising both recycling and energy recovery. This is totally in accordance with the most recent Irish and EU waste policies making better use of our waste resources and supporting the transition to a circular economy. Waste is now recognised as a resource which should neither be landfilled nor exported but processed to create new materials, energy, enterprise and jobs at home' stated P J Rudden, RPS Director who was responsible for the original waste strategy formulation and the planning and environment aspects of the Poolbeg project.

'We are very proud of this award as it recognises over 15 years of concentrated effort by RPS assisting the local authorities to make real change in how the capital's waste is managed more sustainably. We didn't expect it but are nevertheless grateful to see recognition of the success of the waste strategy by a combination of public and private enterprise to achieve the ambitious recycling and recovery goals. As a result Dublin is fast becoming a leading European city in sustainable waste management' he concluded.

RPS has a national and international track record in environmental management. We managed the 'rx3 - Rethink Recycle Remake' project for five years (2008-2013) for Department of Environment Community and Local Government winning the Public Sector Green Award in 2013. Other recent environmental assignments include authoring the 'Guidance on Green Procurement for the Public Sector' completed for the EPA in 2014 and the consultancy of the European Green Capital Award Secretariat for the EU Commission across the 28 Member States since 2010 with winning cities Stockholm, Hamburg, Vitoria Gasteiz, Nantes, Copenhagen, Bristol, Ljubljana and Essen to date. This year RPS also assisted all of Ireland's local authorities in the formulation of the third generation of Regional Waste Plans (2015 – 2021) which were recently adopted based on 'circular economy' and 'zero landfill' concepts.

CETO 6 Enters Deeper Waters off Garden Island

23 July 2015

CETO 6 Enters Deeper Waters off Garden Island


RPS completes offshore geophysical survey works with Carnegie for CETO 6.

Wave energy developer Carnegie Wave Energy Limited has acknowledged RPS Energy in its recent update on the CETO 6 project off Garden Island, Western Australia.

Garden Island. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Carnegie Wave Energy Limited is the ASX-listed inventor, owner and developer of the patented CETO wave energy technology that converts ocean swell into zero-emission renewable power and desalinated freshwater.

The CETO 6 Project will be the first demonstration of Carnegie’s CETO technology in deeper water, with each unit having a targeted capacity of up to 1MW, some four times greater than the current CETO 5 generation.

The offshore geophysical survey activities have now been completed, and the findings of these activities will influence elements of the CETO 6 Project, such as foundation selection, cable route and overall installation methodology.

Marine GeoSolutions managed by RPS Energy, on behalf of Carnegie, have undertaken the survey capturing vital information about the geological characteristics at the site.

According to the Carnegie update, the geophysical survey is a critical step in the environmental approvals process for the CETO 6 Project and the results of the survey will allow Carnegie’s project team to enter the next phase of the design process.

RPS Klotz Associates Receives Recognition for Largest Skatepark in North America

14 July 2015

RPS Klotz Associates Receives Recognition for Largest Skatepark in North America


RPS Klotz Associates is attracting significant attention for its work on the design of the North Houston Skatepark: the largest skatepark in North America, and Dylan Park on the same site with playground equipment for special needs children.

skateparkNorth Houston Skatepark

In addition to local and national press, executives from the X Games have toured the site to evaluate the potential for holding future events there. RPS Klotz Associates provided the civil engineering and overall project management.

Tom Ramsay, PE, Senior Vice President of RPS Klotz Associates holds the ACEC Texas Engineering Excellence Awards – Honor Award for North Houston Skatepark and Dylan Park in April 2015.

The awards that the park has received to date are listed below:

2015 ACEC Texas Engineering Excellence Gold Medal Award in Special Projects for the North Houston Skatepark and Dylan Park

2015 ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards – Honor Award for the North Houston Skatepark and Dylan Park

2015 North Houston Association Environmental Impact Award for the North Houston Skatepark and Dylan Park

2015 American Public Works Association Texas Chapter Public Works Project of the Year, Structures, $5-25 Million for the North Houston Skatepark and Dylan Park

In North America's largest skate park paired with a park without limits, innovative drainage creates unique green spaces. Greenspoint, a north Houston area with 87% minority population and modest to low-income households, offered limited free recreation choices for youth. The Greater Greenspoint Redevelopment Authority, which generates public amenities, started planning a public park in 2009 to fill this recreational void. When they asked area teenagers about activities they desired in a park, the overwhelming response was “skateboarding.”

The Authority also wanted to provide a recreational area specifically designed for special needs children. The 10-acre recreational area was conceived as two parks in one — the world-class championship North Houston Skatepark and a complementary “park without limits”, named in memory of a local child.

skateparkDylan Park entrance – the beautiful entrance mosaic is a portrait of Dylan with butterflies (his favourite creature) by artist Dixie Friend Gay.

Innovative Design Applications

The team kicked off the project by orchestrating a series of charrettes with an advisory committee of skateboarding enthusiasts, eliciting their ideas about desired features. Backyard-style pools, a simple but deep egg bowl, areas that emulate street skating and a snake run connecting them all were features requested by the advisory committee. The skateboarders also asked for a competition-scale full pipe, 20 feet in diameter.

Carving out a barren floodplain site to accommodate these intricate features as well as the accessibility requirements of Dylan Park presented a formidable challenge. Assembling all of these features within a site plan that satisfies agency requirements for stormwater, drainage and detention systems required an iterative process among the engineers, skate park designers and landscape architects that led to a unique drainage solution.

Bordered on three sides by city streets and with a county drainage channel on the fourth side, the entire site is located in a 100-year floodplain. The engineers had to design a detention and drainage system that would carry stormwater off the site without flooding the streets or overloading the drainage channel. A commonplace solution would be to design one large detention pond. Recognizing that the Authority wanted to incorporate green spaces into the project, the engineers devised a unique drainage scheme more akin to a golf course.

Nine separate detention ponds are scattered around the site, providing multiple opportunities to inject green space throughout — a rarity in skate parks where concrete prevails. The ponds hold water during rainfall events before gradually releasing collected water into the drainage channel. RPS Klotz Associates enhanced the detention ponds' functionality by incorporating bioretention cells with engineering soils that filter water. The resulting water that outfalls to the drainage channel is scrubbed of impurities, improving downstream water quality.

skateparkAerial graphic of the site and layout plan.

A Complex Site Plan

Balancing skateboarding features, aesthetic needs and technical engineering requirements was a complex exercise throughout the design process. Many of the skate park features created undulation in the site. The client also wanted berms and a grassy banked viewing area instead of permanent bleachers. Because the site is located in a floodplain, flood control regulations require stormwater mitigation to assure any changes in elevation will not be impede the flow of water and therefore potentially flood nearby properties. As part of collaborative design, the skate park designers laid out features for optimal sequencing of skate elements by degree of difficulty while the civil engineers analyzed site grading for effectiveness of the stormwater system, drainage and detention.

Existing wetlands also affected complexity in site planning. Both parks were designed around conditional wetland areas, so that no wetlands mitigation was required. The landscape architect incorporated native plantings to improve the appearance of these areas without negatively impacting the wetlands.

Paving and Special Surfaces

Specifications for surface materials proved another complex aspect of the project. The skatepark designer specified “skateable concrete” to achieve a glassy-smooth finish. This required thicker concrete with a different water-to-cement ratio than ordinary sidewalk concrete. Plans specified five different colors of skateable concrete, including aqua green, to give the backyard-style pools a retro 1970s feel.

Construction of the skate bowls also entailed complexity. To achieve the best skating experience, the number of joints to create the bowls was minimized. Contractors hand-finished the concrete, massaging it to smooth perfection. Dylan Park also incorporated special surfaces, with sandblasted concrete for aesthetics and purple and blue poured-in-place rubber for safety surfaces.

skateparkDylan Park – the blue and purple curves of the special safety surface are lively and eye-catching, echoing the undulating landscape and the colourful wings of a butterfly. The standing mobile by Seattle artist Andrew Carson also draws on Dylan's love of butterflies expressing a plethora of bright air-borne shapes.

A Focus on Aesthetics

By incorporating detention ponds and green space throughout the parks, RPS Klotz Associates set a precedent for a more eco-friendly and aesthetically pleasing approach to skate parks that diverges from the standard sea of concrete. The team applied creativity in designing the parking lot as egg-shaped with a detention pond in the middle — demonstrating that not all surface parking has to look ordinary.

Social, Economic and Sustainable Development Considerations

In transforming a featureless site into an urban oasis, the team delivered an important community asset. While the skate park is targeted toward skateboarders, families with younger children can picnic on its grassy observation bank. Seniors can interact with their skateboarding grandchildren under one of the canopied rest areas. The lower inclines of the beginners' skate area can host wheelchair games.

Dylan Park has ADA-compliant ramps, tables, benches and playground equipment, plus open grassy areas for unstructured play and paved trails. The park facilities, combined with multi-sensory features, delight children of all abilities, from sight-impaired and hearing-impaired to autistic and wheelchair-bound.

“A lot of the kids in this area don't have the funds to play tennis or golf or enroll in Little League. They can go to a skate park with a skateboard and a helmet, and they're set. They have a safe environment to skate in instead of ravines or empty shopping centers.” Sally Bradford, Greenspoint Redevelopment Authority Executive Director.

Community Engagement

The RPS Klotz Associates team facilitated active community engagement throughout the process. Charrettes with the advisory committee resulted in the request for a Texas-shaped bowl for the 20-foot-diameter full pipe. This feature provides visual interest from the ground and to airplanes on the flight path to George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The team also held two rounds of public meetings — the first to get feedback on preliminary ideas and the second to review refined plans, which overwhelmingly met community approval.

Integral Artwork

The RPS Klotz Associates team incorporated artwork commissioned by the Authority into park plans. Because Dylan loved butterflies, artist Dixie Friend Gay incorporated them into the gate and a mosaic of Dylan at his park's entry. The mosaic is also tactile, providing sensory experience for the sight-impaired. The skate park entry sports an edgy armadillo-themed gate.

Seattle artist Andrew Carson designed a colorful standing mobile for a quiet area within Dylan Park, to appeal to autistic children. Skateboard Hall of Fame inductee and artist Steve Olsen crafted a bronze skateboarder statue for the skate park.

Sustainable Project Elements
L-R: Wayne Klotz PE, President of RPS Klotz Associates, Mayor Annise Parker – City of Houston, and Mike McClung PE, Project Manager of RPS Klotz Associates at the opening.

Sustainable design is incorporated into multiple aspects of the project — the bioretention cells that improve water quality, wetlands mitigation, a retaining wall of gabions-wire cases with rocks inside that filter water and reduce run-off, grass pavers on the access driveway and energy-efficient LED lighting. Carving the deep skate bowls into the site required moving a substantial amount of soil. The team devised ways to reuse excavated soil for skate park features, the viewing hill and berms, eliminating the environmental impact of hauling soil off site.

Completing the Project

Client Engagement

The RPS Klotz Associates team worked closely alongside Greenspoint Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Sally Bradford, maintaining active engagement with the client's board members and the local community. The end result more than meets the client's goal to create a park without limits and fill a recreational void. As the largest skate park in North America, the park has attracted inquiries from all over the U.S., including Alaska, plus the Netherlands and Chile. A YouTube video of a drone flight over the park has racked up 93,000 hits.

skateparkGroundbreaking ceremony including Sally Bradford, Executive Director of Greater Greenspoint Redevelopment Authority (far left), Mayor Annise Parker – City of Houston (fourth from left) and Wayne Klotz PE, President of RPS Klotz Associates (third from right).

Budget and Schedule

Greenspoint's Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone #11 is funded by five taxing agencies — the City of Houston, Harris County, Lone Star College, Aldine Independent School District and Spring Independent School District. The Authority sought the support from all five agencies to move forward into construction.

Originally slated to go out for construction bids in 2010, the park was put on hold while the Authority worked through concerns expressed by the City of Houston about safety and ongoing maintenance costs. When these concerns were resolved and the project received approval in 2012, construction in Houston was booming and construction costs had escalated substantially beyond the $5.5 million budget originally developed in 2009. Because of the overwhelming public acceptance of the project, Bradford was able to get the Authority's board to approve the additional funds to get the park constructed. The 2012 bid came in at $6.5 million, construction began in January 2013 and the final costs came in at the bid amount. The project was completed in August 2014.

Iconic Gobbins Cliff Path Restoration Completes Soon

08 July 2015

Iconic Gobbins Cliff Path Restoration Completes Soon


The iconic Gobbins Cliff path in Islandmagee, Co Antrim is nearing completion after a £6.4m path restoration and visitor centre building project.

The Gobbins is an area of basalt sea cliffs, up to 60m in height, on the east coast of Northern Ireland.

The Gobbins path was originally designed by visionary engineer Berkeley Dean Wise and built in 1902, and in its heyday attracted more visitors than the Giant's Causeway but fell into disrepair following the Second World War and was closed to the public in 1954. It is being reinstated at a cost of £4.2m, with an associated visitor centre that is combined with a local community centre built at a cost of £2.2m. Larne Borough Council provided more than half of the funding for the scheme, the balance is grant funding from EU INTERREG IV and Ulster Garden Villages. RPS were appointed by Larne Borough Council to lead an Integrated Consulting Team to undertake the project management, design, planning application, procurement, environmental monitoring and contract administration of the two construction contracts for the reconstruction of the Gobbins Coastal Path and construction of the visitor centre.

The name ‘Gobbins’ comes from the Irish ‘An Gobain’, meaning ‘the points of rock’. Legends associated with the Gobbins include mythical figures such as Gobbin Saor, a terrifying giant who lived in the cliffs. The project will revive the original Gobbins cliff path, installed in 1902 by Berkeley Dean Wise, and consists of a series of spectacular bridges and gantries.

The concept design for the Gobbins project was completed by RPS' Mark McConnell and Sinead Henry which involved the restoration of a 750m long coastal path, including the provision of approx. 23 stainless steel structures incorporating bridges which range from 5m to 35m in span, hand railing and walkway structures inside a cave known as The Tunnel. The team sympathetically designed the iconic 17m Hoop Bridge at the Man‘O’War sea stack site and also the suspension bridge at Gordon's Leap to replicate the original 1902 Berkeley Dean Wise designs. During the design and construction stage RPS engineers utilised their Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to capture video and photography which enabled them to carry out cost effective site inspections.

The project is located within The Gobbins ASSI (Area of Special Scientific Interest) that is designated due to the maritime plant communities, the large seabird colonies and the unique geology found at the cliffs. Working within an ASSI- RPS Planning Director Raymond Holbeach and his team completed detailed ecological surveys and liaised closely with NIEA to ensure the proposed works did not impact on the qualifying features of the Gobbins ASSI. Mitigation measures were agreed with NIEA in advance of the submission of the planning application. Such measures included limited works along the path between March-August to avoid any impact on the breeding seabird colony (including kittiwakes and razorbills of which 1.6% and 1.1% of the Ireland population are found at the Gobbins Cliffs), no netting of the cliffs, and controlled scaling of the cliff face with an ornithologist present.

One of the key challenges was access explains Project Manager, Morgan Haylett– “The coastal path is located in a remote coastal environment, at the base of 60m high cliffs. The shallow water depths and exposed location precluded the use of marine plant for the project. Therefore the design of the structures and handrailing facilitates segmental/lightweight construction where possible and minimises the number of heavy lifts required over the cliff edge”.

The Gobbins Coastal path is one of two RPS projects that have been shortlisted for the UK wide British Construction Industry Award, Civil Engineering Project of the Year – the awards are to be held in London this coming October.

Tourism NI's Kathleen McBride said: “It showcases the shoreline, it showcases the people of Northern Ireland and it is just a great facility and a great new attraction to have, it complements what we already have on the Causeway Coastal route. We have the Giants Causeway, we have Carrick-a-rede, we have the shore road and the coastal road”.

“This is a fantastic facility in Islandmagee and a fantastic attraction.”.

The Gobbins Coastal Path is scheduled for completion in summer 2015.

Panorama of Gobbins Cliff path restoration in progress earlier this year.

A New Stream-Lined Approach to Bats and Development

02 July 2015

A New Stream-Lined Approach to Bats and Development

Dr. Stephanie Murphy with long-eared bat

RPS Associate amongst few to be registered under new bat licence.

A new type of bat licence was launched by Natural England in April 2015. The new Bat Low Impact Class Licence (BLICL) aims to reduce the administrative burden on development in certain situations by speeding up and streamlining the application process.

After participating in the 2013/2014 trial of this licence and attending two days of workshops lead by Natural England in April 2015, RPS Ecologist Dr. Stephanie Murphy is now a registered consultant for BLICL, one of only around 60 in the country.

This new licence type will permit works that have an impact on bat roosts of low conservation significance occupied by a small number of common species without the need for a traditional licence from Natural England. The BLICL allows faster processing of applications and will have the following additional advantages:

Reduced burden on clients, especially delays and associated costs;

Robust legal approach which balances needs of the business with those of the environment; and

A more proportional approach with respect to the conservation status of the species.

Once surveys have been completed it is expected that processing of the licence by Natural England will take 10 working days (instead of the 30+ currently required), meaning the licence can be written, applied for and granted in less than four weeks. The licence still requires full surveys to be carried out to determine the species and type of roost present. Whilst a pragmatic approach can be taken, the overall outcome for licences that are granted will be no detriment to the species so suitable mitigation etc. will still be required. However, this faster and more efficient system should have a positive outcome for conservation by reducing negative associations of having bats on site while also streamlining the process to ensure development can progress in an efficient manner.

This is a welcome move away from time-consuming and costly individual licences previously required for all bat roosts, regardless of conservation status and RPS hope to be able to make use of this innovative new licence for our clients and their projects in the current survey season.

Click here to view RPS Ecology capability brochure (PDF file)

RPS' Bat Ecology team is based at offices across the UK, and offers legal advice as well as undertaking surveys such as tree and building inspections and helping to ensure bat protection measures are complied with – an issue of great importance to Defra, Natural England, other conservation groups and local authorities. This includes such services as ecological assessments, observation surveys, radio-tracking, infra-red surveys, remote monitoring with thermal-imaging and design and installation of mitigation measures such as bat bridges.