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AECOM Coastal Engineer Harriet Ridler works on climate resilience

AECOM Coastal Engineer Harriet Ridler works on climate resilience

 April 18, 2024

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AECOM's People Spotlight series provides an inside look at the company's technical experts working around the world.

Meet AECOM Coastal Engineer, Harriet Ridler, from the Water business line in Basingstoke, UK.

After completing her degree in Civil Engineering, Harriet joined AECOM as an early career professional straight out of university. For the past two and a half years, Harriet has worked as a Coastal Engineer for AECOM's engineering design projects that boost flood and coastal erosion risk resilience and environmental protection for local communities.

Learn more about Harriet's inspirations, how she engages with communities to develop solutions that help build climate resilience, and her work to protect Langstone, England, against tidal flooding.

AECOM Coastal Engineer career

Inspired by emergency coastal engineering works

Harriet grew up in the coastal town of Dawlish in the southwest of England. Dawlish was heavily battered by storms in 2014, which led to the collapse of the coastal wall that supports the only railway to and from the town.

"I used to catch the train down to secondary school and my journey time doubled during the repair works, so I witnessed firsthand the devastation this caused," says Harriet.

"The emergency coastal engineering works to make the frontage more climate resilient inspired me to study civil engineering at the University of Southampton. This is where my interest in flood and coastal engineering grew. The ongoing challenge of implementing cost-effective, climate-resilient and sustainable projects makes it a fascinating field to be a part of."

AECOM project enhances resilience against tidal flooding

AECOM project

For the past two years, Harriet has had a strong involvement in designing the Langstone Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) project in the south of the UK. Due for completion in 2025, the project aims to provide enhanced resilience against tidal flooding for the village of Langstone and A3023, the only road on and off Hayling Island.

"The site itself is heavily constrained and challenging. The village is bordered by Langstone and Chichester Harbours, which are environmentally designated at a local, national and international level, with a required 10 percent biodiversity net gain for land take of the foreshore habitat. As a result, new structures have a minimal footprint and sit adjacent to existing, deteriorating structures that must be considered in design and works sequencing," says Harriet.

"The village is also an important area for cultural heritage, falling under two conservation areas with eight listed buildings. This has partially dictated the aesthetics and form of the new structures."

AECOM Coastal Erosion Risk Management project

Opportunity to lead the design of a frontage

Harriet explains that what she has enjoyed the most about working on this AECOM project is seeing the design for the project come together, with a solution that, in her opinion, blends in and respects the unique historical setting of the village.

She has had the opportunity to lead the development of a 3D BIM model for the project, which has formed the basis of a holistic design and is used to support stakeholder engagement. As part of the project, Harriet also had the opportunity to lead the design for one of the seven frontages.

"This frontage is eligible for minimal central government funding (Grant-in-Aid) and would require funding from the community. For these works, I explored and developed four different tiers of options which would extend the life of the existing sea defences and maintain or increase the standard of protection offered to the residents. The options included: Tier 1 consisting of toe stabilisation works; Tier 2 consisting of patch repairs works to existing defences in conjunction to the toe stabilisation works; Tier 3 consisting of capital refurbishment of the existing defences; and Tier 4 option consisting of capital refurbishment of the existing defences, ecological enhancements and introducing new defences," recalls Harriet.

"I also considered how these options could be constructed in phases. For example, ensuring that the toe stabilisation works could occur before the wall encasement works for most effective deployment of capital investment. The output from this work was a prioritised remedial work schedule, with the top-tier design incorporating ecological enhancements such as ecoformliners and release of hard surfacing to intertidal habitat."

"It’s been a great learning experience to approach the design of this frontage differently, providing the community with options to maximize flood protection. The lower tier designs aim to extend the life of the existing sea defences and the highest tier design focuses on bringing the standard of protection up to a 1:200-year protection against still tidal water level," adds Harriet.

Project positively impacting the community

AECOM positively impacting community

As part of the Langstone FCERM project, Harriet shares that she's been involved in several stakeholder engagement sessions.

"My role involved presenting and answering queries on the technical design to the community and helping them understand the key drivers for the project. What’s been most rewarding with community engagement is seeing the level of public support go from below 50 percent at concept design stage to above 90 percent at the final stage of design," shares Harriet.

"Photo realistic visualisations and 3D model demonstrations of the project have been greatly helpful in garnering support from the local communities. There’s still a way to go before the project obtains planning permission and is constructed but it’s great to see the community involved in the project at this pivotal moment."

AECOM helping community

Harriet's piece of career advice

When sharing her career advice, Harriet highlights that it is important to say 'yes' to opportunities.

"It’s often our own insecurities and doubts that hold us back. Even if the opportunity doesn’t work out as you had hoped, by taking an active role and saying yes, you will have taught yourself something along the way. Sometimes you won’t know a wrong turn until you take it," concludes Harriet.

Inspired by Harriet's rewarding career with AECOM?

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