The Future of Engineering: What do the next 10 years look like?

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Brian Flood
Director & Principal Engineer
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When I first started as an engineer, electronics were very much in the primitive stage. Everything was done manually; the drawings were done by hand and calculations were done using a calculator. There wasn’t any auto-calculations or computer assistance. If your design didn’t pan out, you had to start over.

It was quite a long process which meant it was very difficult to change a design once it was finished - it forced us to get it right the first time. Any variations would have to be completed on-site because there was little time to go back to the office.

Fast forward to 2022, due to the advances in computer technology, we can easily make changes or amendments to designs and drawings. We can capture data on-site and send it back to the office where someone can reissue drawings. We do not have to start from scratch anymore if a design doesn’t work out. Whilst this technology is a great development, it can be to the detriment to the engineer’s development if they rely on it too much, which is something we’re very much aware of at Woods.

Which got me thinking, how will engineering change in the next 10 years?

Engineering in 2032

In my view, engineering is going to change quite a bit - not just how we work as engineers but the work that we will be doing. There certainly will not be a shortage of work, but the mix of projects will change. There are a lot of factors that will shape how we approach these projects, from a greater focus on the environment and climate change to changes in legislation from the top level of Government.

There will be a significant reduction of greenfield projects as undeveloped land becomes harder to find. Brownfield projects will take over with more intensification in city areas. New Zealander’s attitudes towards the size of the ‘ideal’ section are also changing. While previously a dream home came on a quarter acre section, we have already seen attitudes shifting towards apartments or dwellings with smaller sections.

We must also consider how the 'normal' or 'standard' commute will change. In 10 years, will we be using public transport to commute to work rather than private vehicles? One of the challenges for engineers will be designing a train system that takes passengers into the city centre without affecting those who still need to drive.

Sustainable transport systems to grow healthy communities

There will come a time where we have a good public transport system and much less dependency on roads. However, people still need to meet and interact; they still need to connect. While working from home (WFH) reduces travel and congestion, it doesn’t solve all things; it is just part of a solution, a tactic.

As engineers, we will need to focus on the solution, not the tactics if we want to deliver sustainable change. We need to design fit-for-purpose transport systems without congestion, so people can still meet, and travel safely. The ability to meet and travel safely is necessary for the healthy growth of any community.

The focus on centralisation of businesses is not needed anymore which creates a greater opportunity for local cities and towns to thrive. Established firms and businesses can set up satellite offices in outer regions. Employees will no longer have long commutes and can spend more time in their communities.

With a focus on alternative means of transport i.e., public transport, there will be a shift from major roading projects to the maintenance of existing road networks and safety.

Creating sustainable solutions in the future

For engineers, sustainability and the environment will be at the forefront when creating solutions and achieving objectives in the future.

Engineers will need to be able to answer questions such as how can we reduce the burden of traffic and fossil fuels? There will also be more scrutiny on the products used in construction – where they have come from and how they have been obtained. As the number of open quarries drops, we will be using more and more recycled products.

With the rise in solar farms and electrical vehicles, there are several challenges ahead that will shape our future work. At Woods, we embrace technological advancements and change, however, the underlying principles of engineering will always underpin our work.

Brian Flood - Director & Principal Engineer