29th June 2017

Delivering Healthy Cities – The Importance of Arts and Culture

Continuing our theme of ‘Delivering Healthy Cities’; As Manchester International Festival 2017 gets underway today, we explore the part we play as engineers in arts and culture  and the its role in helping us to deliver healthy cities.

Art & culture is engineering. This may surprise some but for us it’s a seamless, symbiotic partnership that we proudly embrace. The best of both rely on authenticity, in that they are original, of undisputed origin and are based on facts, accurate and reliable.

The Institution of Civil Engineers charter states.”…for promoting the acquisition of that species of knowledge which constitutes the profession of a Civil Engineer, being the art of directing the great sources of power in Nature for the use and convenience of man (kind)…”

For years we have enabled, supported and led artists with their installations and structures. We have helped launch and transform cultural spaces, breathing life into much loved but threadbare and broken buildings, and bring confidence and clarity to inspired ideas and notions that we develop into things; or experiences; or both.

This is most obviously expressed through our long standing support of MIF. This year we are corporate supporters, however since the first Festival we have also supported them technically and creatively by assisting them with engineering of the festival programme on a pro bono basis. For MIF 2017 we are involved with four venues and we are working with one of the artists on his sculpture, which is the focal point for the closing ceremony. We also support the Festival by taking our clients and colleagues to the various events / shows and use it as an opportunity to showcase Manchester and all it has to offer. Just as importantly, a number of our team are taking part in the volunteering programme this year too and have been given the time to fully participate.

We invest considerable time and resources in and on the Festival because we recognise the massive benefits that it brings in terms of the social, economic and cultural vitality of the city. These benefits resonate with our own view of the environment and experience of a progressive city and they fit with the objectives we seek to deliver through our work in the built environment. Our portfolio of completed and live projects, along with our ‘Delivering Healthy Cities’ campaign, demonstrating the value of what we have to say and our willingness to contribute as engineers to this critical discussion.

To help better understand and communicate the positive impact on the places in which we work (as part of a wider project team and an engaged local authority) we have started to evaluate the social and economic benefits of our work. We are doing this using industry recognised metrics, calibrated by the empirical data captured in the performance of the delivered schemes in operation. Using these methods we looked at a comparison of statistics pre and post implementation. Post implementation, there has been a reduction in crime of 20%, an increase in footfall of 10% and a reduction in commercial vacancy rates of 17% in the year for year comparison. In addition, there has been the creation of 90 new jobs by the 24 new businesses that have moved into the area. In Poynton, we have seen a saving to the local economy of £695,500 in terms of safety, public health and congestion, using the SART and HEAT measurement methods.

In our minds, and actions, there is a clear and direct link between the thinking needed to position and erect a statue, to design a lift core for a tower, to draft the movement and access logic for a town or authoring a regional policy piece. Each require creativity, expertise and craft to achieve the best outcome. All are very different but all are cast from the same spirit and aim to reach out to enrich people’s lives.

Here’s to a fantastic Festival!

Delivering Healthy Cities – The Importance of Arts and Culture