Inter-institutional Collaboration – why bother?

A couple of weeks ago our staff across Manchester and Liverpool organised and participated in a multi-institute event with the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Structural Engineers, bringing together the Engineering community to share lessons learnt and best practice from a Civil and Structural graduate perspective across a number of contemporary Curtins projects.

Curtins’ speakers  Nushma Juwaheer, Sam Hoyer, Jake Busby, Ben Hughes and Vakass Khaliq all recounted their experience of delivering a technical presentation to a rather imposing audience of over 60 students, graduates and young professionals.

The Curtins projects in the spotlight were:

  • Broughton House Veteran Care Village, Salford – exploring structural philosophy and design in line with the associated phased construction approach and scheme constraints
  • New science and engineering building for Manchester Metropolitan University – how a reinforced concrete frame was being used in line with structural implications such as response factor checks on structural vibration
  • Liverpool Festival Gardens – discussing masterplan delivery in line with finalising a plan considering buildability, phasing and further strategic approaches to the unique site
  • Weavers Quay, in Ancoats (Manchester) – analysing the design approach for a two-block development utilising a movement joint in design to control concrete shrinkage and creep whilst utilising structural software to interrogate the suggested design approach
  • Trinity Riverview – how concrete loading and changes in design can impact on the stability system of the design and building behaviour such as axial shortening


The interactive nature of the event allowed the usual inhibitions of the audience asking questions during a technical presentation to be eradicated. In fact, the environment soon morphed into a collaborative ‘workshop’ with professionals thriving on the opportunity to talk about the complexities and technical nuances of the different schemes through a Q&A format.


Human relationships in their most basic form are complex enough. Within engineering and construction, communication between all stakeholders is crucial to not only keep a building standing but also keep it fully operational.


Through the technical presentations and open discussion, it was evident that no matter the scheme challenges, consultants and contractors need to pay increasingly close attention to the relationships between architectural features, structural frameworks and the integration of civils designs such as drainage. The reason for this? To not only share the universal goal of delivering project success for the client but to gather valuable insight into key lessons learnt without a sole focus on individual agendas.


Sam commented, “it was interesting to hear and compare thoughts and experiences with other engineers in the industry.”


There is boundless knowledge transfer that can be achieved across projects and industry. And the best part – is that engineers are open to it!

Nushma adds, “Whilst I was chairing the ICE North West Graduates and Students committee in 2019, one of my main goals was to promote and strengthen inter-institutional events and links. I consequently put forward the idea of us graduates talking about some of the schemes we’ve all been working on as a joint event between the ICE and IStructE to showcase some of the amazing work we’ve been doing at Curtins.”


So, what was the key message of the event? Share, share, share!


Overall, feedback from the event supported the group’s instinct of opening multi-institute dialogue through project reviews. Regardless of specialism or technical knowledge, the core competencies and skills of an Engineering or Construction Built Environment Professional should be the same, sharing the same characteristics and language. One particularly eminent theme across the event was the mindset of continual improvement, the ability to seek innovation and new solutions to new problems.


Advancing technology and tools such as BIM (building information modelling) is radicalising the design interaction from co-ordination to enhanced production, providing stakeholders with accessible and exchangeable data at the touch of a button – something which has never been so readily available.


Now has never been a better time to encourage multi-disciplinary and institutional integration so boundaries are dissolved, and the industry moves more towards a genuine collaboration where all parties support, challenge and question each other.