LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD WINNERS
The UKSTT’s Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded in recognition to individuals in recognition for services in the promotion and advancement of trenchless technologies.
We are so far proud to have awarded seven of these awards to date. Click on each name to find out more.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD WINNER 2023 – JULIAN BRITTON
UKSTT are pleased to announce the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2023 is being awarded to Julian Britton. Throughout his career Julian has been a tremendous ambassador for trenchless technology and a great supporter of the UKSTT and its members. The following is an interview we had with Julian when we first announced he would be presented with the award this year.
First of all, congratulations on being presented with the UKSTT Lifetime Achievement Award.
Some questions for relating to your time in the trenchless industry.
- What does it feel like to be recognised for what, for those of us that know you, has been a significant part of your working life?
So, its quiet overwhelming to be ranked alongside those who have received this prestigious UKSTT award in the past. Also, over the five years I was a UKSTT Council member, I observed so many members who gave huge amounts of their personal time to drive the organisation forward, and I greatly admired all of them as it perpetuates today.
My working life became entwined with ‘Trenchless’ after my mentors Barry Underwood (Principal Engineer Woodspring District Council) and Chris Rees (Sewer Services Ltd) launched GRP lining with the trials at Weston super Mare in 1979, which supported the designs in the WRc SRM manual launched in 1984. I wanted to be involved and moved to the Bristol City Agency for Wessex Water in 1986, to undertake a year of lining in the Feeder Road. And form there I started 20 years of tunnelling.
I am really satisfied that I found in civil engineering, a niche expertise that stole my imagination.
- What does the Award mean to you personally (and/or to your family)?
The first half of my career in tunnelling was exhilarating, I was promoted to Senior Engineer on four large tunnelling schemes with a cumulative drive of 15,000m of pipejacking, ‘Drill and Blast’ hard rock and ‘Roadheader’ soft rock tunnelling, the majoring of which was 2 – 4m diameter and up to 70m deep, all for Wessex Water.
The award is a recognition of the time and effort I committed to those 16 years in the design office and 4 years underground. Long days, great camaraderie with engineers and miners striving for the same goal.
In addition, the second part of my career was primarily ‘Cured in Place Pipelining’ (CIPP). I commenced in 1999 and by 2004 Wessex Water asked me to set up their Critical Sewers Team, responsible for all sewer and tunnel rehabilitation. This became a 20-year period of innovation, looking worldwide for solutions; and where we could not find solutions, we invented our own.
Over the period 1987 – 2023, I mentored around 20 engineers and I am very proud of all of them and some went on to win the UKSTT Young Engineer Award from 2008 to the present day.
- What was your background/experience originally and what brought you into the trenchless industry?
I wanted to be a civil engineer and was offered a job as a draughtsman at Bristol Water Works in late 1978. It was a great family orientated business with fathers and sons forming the gangs, and a relaxed approach with old fashioned leadership. They encouraged me to go to college and after 6 years of day release at West of England University, I found myself at Woodspring District Council on the sewerage side of the business, who were agents for Wessex Water. So, in the first 7 years, I was a general engineer doing pipework and sewerage design, Developers infrastructure etc.
As mentioned, the SRM Manual was launched in 1984, and I wanted to be part of that movement in avoiding excavation. After a year of GRP lining, I was designer for a large pipe jacking scheme at Avonmouth with contractor Laserbore Ltd. My next mentor Roy McCourt (Principal engineer Bristol City Council) asked me to set up the team for the Northern Foul Water Interceptor, 6000m of 4m diameter hard and soft rock tunnelling, it all started with my 70 boreholes up to 100m deep and 2000m of rotary drilled core with Dr Hawkins , geologist at Bristol University.
Brian was to become a tremendous friend, and I would sneak into the back of his engineering geology degree courses at the Wills Building top of Park Street. I learned so much about engineering geology ,and we were also together on The Frome Valley 2 tunnel in 1991, the Weston super Mare tunnel in 1995, and the Ice Rink Tunnel in 2005, amongst others.
- What has been your most challenging trenchless experience over those years (project/product development)?
Without doubt it was the Northern Foul Water Interceptor tunnel which absorbed 7 years of my life for 1987 – 1994, three years in design, tendering and then four years on site engineer with Donelon Ltd and Balfour Beatty Ltd contractors. With shafts at every 1000m on a 2.44 – 4.0m diameter tunnels, we had to confront the quarzitic sandstone 70m under Clifton Village with UCS strengths of 450 MPa, one of the strongest rocks in the UK. We had a very conservative peak particle vibration constraint of 10 mm/sec so the advance was slow and careful. Other interventions included abandoned wells, caves, geology saturated in petrol which had leaked for a filling station, river crossings, railways crossings, underground rivers of ‘running sand’, you name it .
- What do you see as being your own greatest personal achievement in the trenchless industry?
Of course, CIPP became a passion when I understood its attributes, 95% less CO2 (thanks to the NASTT carbon calculator) and excavation avoidance per annum of some 500,000 tonnes of muckaway and therefore imported backfill, taking some 35,000 lorry movements off of our customers roads, a huge clean air and safety benefit.
I was fortunate to work for a company like Wessex Water, who believed in their staff and allowed them to explore without too much constraint. I devised my vison of the ‘Needs’ and then collaborated around the world with likeminded people to bring those solutions to the business. I filled the gaps with innovation, the last being Telesto, the LiDAR survey platform. I asked two geospatial engineers if they could take a floating platform and scan up to 4500m of tunnel in one pull, up to 5m diameter, whilst mathematically discounting for the semi-turbulence of flow without a gimbal or keel, to give us a steady state model in the X/Y/Z. We seed funded the concept and they made it happen. Incredible.
- Have you any now or when you started in trenchless did you have any role models in the industry? Who? Why?
Yes, loads. And listing them is the most important aspect of this interview for me. Roger Wyatt at Bristol Water for setting me off in my career (1978), Barry Underwood at Woodspring Council for teaching me water engineering (1984), Chris Rees of Sewer Services Ltd for always having a solution over 40 years !! Roy McCourt, Bristol City Council, for believing in me and giving me a huge opportunity on so many tunnel schemes (1987 – 1998), Ian Armstrong who asked me to form the Critical Sewers Team at Wessex Water and gave me room to explore and innovate (2004 – 2010), John Thompson Chief Operating Officer at Wessex Water who expanded Ian’s initiative and brought me into the commercial world with our own CCTV and CIPP lining teams (2010 – 2023), and of course Colin Skellett our CEO who I have known since the Northern Tunnels in 1989. Colin has always been so supportive because he always recognised that trenchless solutions bring so many benefits to our customers, and that’s why we are there.
- What do you currently see as the UK’s and the industry’s most urgent challenges and where do you hope to see the trenchless industry in the next 10 to 20 years?
Believe me, I think the trenchless industry worldwide has made a tremendous fundamental progression this last 20 years, and since 2005 we at Wessex Water have been looking at material and resin modifications and from 2015 we were exploring artificial intelligence in CCTV defect recognition algorithms for sewerage classification.
There are so many opportunities to innovate out there in the extensive supply and waste networks, and I leave the business at a time where the opportunities to bring bold and exciting concepts have become exponential, it’s an exciting time to be a young engineer.
Will CIPP materials always be available in the quantities we need as we move to carbon zero ? I have been concerned recently about the acquisition of any of our resins and polyolefin materials derived from the petrochemical cracking of oil extracts, primarily in regard to CIPP manufacture of linings, but that of course extends to plastics across the rehabilitation field as we reduce reliance on oil. Do we have to reinvent ourselves now ?
- If there is anything else trenchless related you would like to mention that we have not covered already, please feel free to comment.
I would thank, all of my colleagues with whom I have worked over the years, especially my direct reports in teams I have led since 1987. I would also like a special thank you to Dr. Dec Downey who has had intrinsic role in my team advising on innovation since 2005.
Thank you to all this year’s sponsors: