RPS wins ICE's first ever Carbon Champion award

29 Sep 2021

Named as one of the first ever Carbon Champions by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), a huge congratulations goes out to our Geotechnical Director, Cian McGuinness. The newly launched Carbon Champions programme formally recognises initiatives that support the quest for net zero carbon emissions. Cian was commended for his innovative design work at the Glasgow Airport Investment Area (GAIA) – a world-class business and commercial location which will underpin the development of Scotland’s manufacturing innovation district.


Cian provided the design services for Wills Bros Civil Engineering on the GAIA project. The development is being directed by Renfrewshire Council, and jointly funded by the UK and Scottish governments through the £1.13bn Glasgow City Region Deal.

With the enormous challenge of not disrupting 132kV underground power cables which supplies electricity to 30,000 people, Cian and the team explored the best possible solutions for minimising disturbance to the sensitive underground assets, as well as prioritising sustainable materials.

Cian comments: “It was a really difficult but interesting design problem. The power cables are extremely sensitive to movement, so it was essential to minimise settlement and to account for variable groundwater levels, as well as potential flooding of the site. It was also important to prevent the cable heating up as a result of being more deeply covered, and to minimise the risk of accidental damage to the cable during construction.”

With carbon reduction being a main priority for the team, the solution comprised of forming an ‘embankment’, with recycled plastic lightweight Geocellular crates, which were made up of 95% air. Using this design left the carbon footprint a huge 87% lower than the original bridge proposals.

The air permeable crates were robust enough to sustain traffic loads, allowing the cables to remain cool, and not vulnerable to flotation. Another advantage was that no heavy machinery needed to be used to assemble the structure, as the crates are easily moved and placed by hand.

Recognising decarbonisation efforts from across the civil engineering community, the ICE Carbon Champions programme provides recognition for project owners, as well as best practice insights and expertise for the wider industry.

Cian adds: “I’m delighted to be one of a chosen few recognised for this award, but it was a collaborative effort. The contractor, Wills Bros, are really committed to carbon saving, and drove the solution forward. Renfrewshire Council and the cable owners, Scottish Power Engineering Networks, were receptive to innovation and willing to work with us to deliver the significant carbon benefits.

“I’m very pleased the design delivered such a large reduction in carbon. It was also less expensive, quicker and safer to construct than a conventional reinforced concrete solution. So, it was a real win-win.”

Gerry Carty, RPS Managing Director – Republic of Ireland, comments: “My colleagues and I at RPS are incredibly proud of this achievement – congratulations to Cian and the project team. As engineers and environmental scientists, we have real opportunity to positively shape the future and this project is a best-in-class example of carbon reduction through sustainable design.

“World leaders arriving by air for COP26 in Glasgow next month will now be able to see sustainability and carbon reduction in action, by simply looking down on their final approach to Glasgow Airport.”

This work will now enable infrastructure and connections into Netherton Campus, part of the new technology district next to the airport, as well as the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland and the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre. The two facilities will be central to the emerging Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland (AMIDS).




Cian McGuinness

Director - Geotechnical T: +353 1 488 2900 Email

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