Time spent on a major capital works project helped one young engineer tap into her innovative side and discover a passion for sustainable urban planning.
Career wise, 2018 was an unbelievable, “chaotically fun” and rewarding year for Zoe Wilks.
One highlight was being identified as one of Australia’s Most Innovative Engineers by create in mid-2018. She was also shortlisted for the Property Council’s Young Future Leader of the Year.
Wilks said the reaction to making the Most Innovative Engineers list was pretty extraordinary. When Engineers Australia announced the winners on LinkedIn, her account activity went through the roof with people wanting to connect.
Wilks, who was nominated by her colleagues at Arup, said the company was also very supportive and made it a really exciting achievement for her.
All to plan
Wilks’ nomination to create‘s Most Innovative Engineers list was for her role as Arup’s project manager for the Curtin University Integrated Infrastructure Management Plan (IIMP). She was responsible for delivering a 20-year capital works program for all civil and transport projects across Western Australia’s largest university campus.
After seven years of work on the project, she’s starting to see the fruits of her labour with the Greater Curtin Stage One Development taking off.
“Their campus is growing enormously and at an increasingly rapid pace,” Wilks said.
“It is really exciting finally, being someone in a planning industry, actually seeing things built now.”
Part of Wilks’ innovative approach included conducting a campus-wide existing facility assessment using iPads rather than pen and paper. She also initiated a web-based spatial analysis tool to enable all stakeholders to visually analyse where each of the proposed transport and civil projects are; how the staging works together; the reasoning for the proposed stages; and what the capital expenditure obligations are on an annual basis, all across a 20-year timeline.
The approach contributed to the eight-month project being delivered in just three months, allowing the university to accelerate its program of capital works. And while Wilks hasn’t needed to employ the technology again herself, it’s gained traction on other projects at both Arup and Curtin University.
Wilks said in the past two to three years she has found what she’s really passionate about: public transport planning and sustainable planning for cities.
She’s since taken on the role of design manager for one of Western Australia’s biggest rail projects, the Morley-Ellenbrook Line. And she convened the 2018 Australian Institute of Traffic Planning and Management (AITPM) conference — the institute’s biggest ever, despite being in Perth.
“Being on this Morley-Ellenbrook project has just driven that home for me, how much I love planning really sustainable projects and amazing precincts around public transport infrastructure,” she said.
Now, 2019 is about taking stock and getting the Morley-Ellenbrook line through to a business case submission with Infrastructure Australia.
“I’ve been pretty lucky, the opportunities I’ve been given,” Wilks said.
“I just want to make the most of it.”
A constant state of mind
Wilks believes innovation is at the crux of everything in engineering.
Zoe Wilks.“There’s no one answer to any engineering question that you are faced with,” she said.
“So I think all engineers are innovative. We’re always trying to come up with more efficient and more sustainable ways of doing things.”
Innovation is just constantly driving and finding new, better ways of doing things, Wilks said.
“It’s not some magic thing that happens once a year, by one person,” she said.
“It’s always happening at a constant pace in engineering.”
Are you an innovative engineer? Know someone who is? Nominations are now open for create’s Most Innovative Engineers 2019 list. Applications close 28 February. Apply here.