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Award-winning recycling scheme takes the biscuit

07 December 2018

Using roly-poly cakes and rich tea biscuits to explain how demolition materials can be recycled has won a West Midlands civil engineer first place at the global final of Pitch 200, an international competition held by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

Imogen Graves (pictured), assistant design manager at LM (a joint venture of Laing O’Rourke and J Murphy & Sons Ltd, delivering advance works for HS2 in the West Midlands), beat the 12 other finalists at the global final, held at ICE’s London headquarters.

The event was hosted by TV presenter Rob Bell and included contestants from across the UK, as well as the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Bangladesh and Australia.

Her presentation, ‘Demolition: what a load of rubbish!’, which she has used to engage school children in civil engineering, explored the importance of thinking about the reuse and recycling of construction materials.

Using two models, made of roly-poly cakes and rich tea biscuits, Imogen clearly demonstrated the difference between a more traditional “smashing” method of demolition, whereby materials become contaminated and are unable to be reused, compared to the process when carried out with a demolition plan which can, in some cases, allow for up to 90 per cent of materials to be recycled.

As part of ICE’s bicentenary celebrations, Pitch 200 issued engineers the challenge of explaining an engineering concept to the public in an engaging and creative way in only 200 seconds. Contestants were encouraged to use props, presentations and anything their imaginations could conjure.

Pitch 200 winner Imogen Graves, design engineer, said: “I am absolutely delighted to have won. My competition was strong, the other finalists had very impressive pitches.

“It feels amazing to be recognised for something that I’m extremely proud of, on a topic that is really important.  Working on a big project like HS2, a lot of my job is communicating complex schemes to non-engineers, though usually in a less messy fashion!

“This pitch is one I use when engaging with school children, encouraging them to think about civil engineering as a future career. I look forward to continuing to communicate ideas and concepts about our industry as ICE Ambassador next year.”

Chair of the judging panel, Sir Peter Bazalgette, ITV Chair and great-great-grandson of engineer and past ICE President Sir Joseph Bazalgette, said: “The 13 finalists were extraordinarily impressive, passionate, innovative, articulate, and very topical about some of the challenges facing the world. It is great to see such talent coming through for the civil engineering we will all rely on in the future.

“Imogen presented a cutting-edge approach to waste reduction in demolition, and if that sounds dry, her presentation was anything but. A really talented civil engineer.

Judging the pitches alongside Sir Peter Bazalgette were Stephen Metcalfe MP, HM Government Envoy for Year of Engineering; Dr Marty Jopson, Inventor and Reporter for the BBC's The ONE Show; and Ayo Sokale ICE President’s Future Leader 2017/18.

In their comments, the judges said Imogen came across as witty and engaging and was certainly Ambassador material. They commended her extremely well-presented pitch, which clearly connected engineering concepts with wider society.

Imogen won £1000 and will be an ICE Ambassador in 2019, using her communication skills to improve the understanding of the general public that civil engineers transform their lives.

Akshay Budhihal Ashokkuma from TU Delft in the Netherlands, representing Europe, was awarded second place.

He introduced the audience to the concept of ‘Plastic Roads’, whereby plastic waste is used to create a composite material which can replace concrete in the construction of roads.

Third place was awarded to Catriona Salvini from Heriot-Watt University, representing the Scotland region. Her Great ICE Bake-off style presentation used the analogy of baking Rocky Road to the creation of concrete and discussed the possibility of using supplementary materials to improve sustainability.

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