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Project alignment becomes cross-channel cultural exchange

Principal Civil Engineer Rob Lowe and his team visit the Netherlands as part of their European project.

The Netherlands is a fertile country when it comes to engineering challenges, with only around half of the country a metre above sea level, and nearly a quarter below. This narrow margin is no doubt one reason why, as a country,  the Dutch put such emphasis on the engineering stage of a development, with engineers leading design decision-making.

This is just one difference our Principal Civil Engineer Rob Lowe and his team Maddie Eaves, Wai Yim, and Christina Makrodimitri learned on their recent visit, when the team ventured across the channel for a two day workshop on an exciting project with Dutch consultancy TAUW Nederland.

This was a great chance to align on solutions for the multi-million pound development – and also for both teams to learn from their respective engineering approaches, as Rob explains:

“What strikes me is the culture of trust and respect towards engineers in the country. It is accepted that engineering is king because of the complex challenges to be overcome and this leads to  a great deal of specialisation – with the profession broken down into specific ‘micro roles’.

Perhaps the most refreshing difference is the knock-on effect for developments: “The local authority has a more collaborative approach to the design process, allowing the design teams to address the development needs in a more holistic way. As a society, they consider the impact of a new building much more regionally – for example, examining the impact on drainage canals across the region rather than just in the immediate vicinity.”

This cultural difference means the teams enjoyed the chance to really contribute to the planning and design process, with Jubb recommending different solutions, material and product selections which are not common on the continent, but also learning alternative approaches from our Dutch colleagues.

And while the trip did highlight significant differences in things like regulations and practices, it also proved Jubb and TAUW’s business cultures are strikingly similar – with open communication lines, friendly people, and a ‘let’s get this built’ mentality.

“This was my third trip, but the first for us as a team, explains Rob. “It has definitely opened our eyes to possibilities we’d never even considered. I feel like we’ve been exposed to the kind of new perspectives that can influence your entire career.”