Reversing the brain drain

3 February 2020

A new roadshow helping construction professionals to hone their drainage design skills using ACO’s free QuAD drainage design software has been touring the UK, creating new ‘knowledge champions’.

It is well known that there is a significant skills shortage within the construction industry and that we must all invest in ongoing development to help close this gap.

It is no different for surface water management, which is one of the most dynamic sectors of the construction industry – with new legislation, innovative products and ground breaking materials constantly emerging.

ACO recognises that whether new to the workplace or with decades of experience, it can be challenging for individuals to keep up with the latest approaches to design and that knowledge transfer is fundamental in staying up to date.

With over 35 years of surface water design experience, ACO recently took its expertise on the road to help both contractors and engineers to better understand how they can make the best of the latest features of ACO’s free QuAD hydraulic design software.

A unique opportunity was offered to attend one of five half-day design workshops across the UK and Ireland so that attendees could build on and refresh their skills in creating accurate and effective channel drainage and attenuation designs.

Sharing expertise

The QuAD Roadshow was led by Keith Oldham, ACO’s national technical consultant. Oldham is a qualified chartered civil engineer, and chartered water and environmental manager, with a BSc in civil engineering. He is a full corporate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), and chartered member of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).

Design workshop attendees are able to refresh their skills in creating effective channel drainage designs

With 40 years in the industry, Oldham has spent the last seven as ACO’s national technical consultant. His knowledge was shared with participants both as part of the formal professional development as well as the interactive section, assisting with questions and supporting the development of a wider understanding of channel drainage design.

Showcasing the benefits

The workshops were designed to showcase the benefits which can be achieved when using ACO’s QuAD software in day-to-day roles across a number of disciplines within the construction industry, including contracting and engineering.

The first part of the workshop covered the use of the cloud-based software and its host of user-friendly features, providing examples of how each one can help take time out – and improve the overall efficiency – of the channel drainage and attenuation design process. The step-by-step approach helped attendees to calculate sizes for a variety of different applications when applied to a real-world example.

The workshop also taught advanced features of the software, including how users can easily create both angled and irregular surface areas – not just rectangular shapes – to provide much more accurate hydraulic analysis.

Those who attended were complimentary about other unique benefits – such as the integration of Google Maps into the design program, meaning users can apply the data to the project site and automatically receive the rainfall intensity for that area, even when a formal address may not yet exist.

Showcasing the benefits of ACO’s QuAD software

When coupled with the ability to use an appropriate run-off coefficient, based on the chosen surface (a number of options can be selected, ranging from grass to asphalt) and surface storage calculation options, designers were able to create a highly accurate channel drainage design and estimate any attenuation requirement in a matter of minutes.

Planning for the future

Designing for the future is imperative so that each project is resilient for its entire life. Long-term approaches help to prevent the problems associated with storm water events, including flooding. As part of the workshops, delegates were shown how to quickly and easily select accurate rainfall intensity as well as review the impact that any changes in duration and climate change allowance would have on their project.

However, to ensure success in the long term, the channel network’s resilience should be considered and the QuAD software’s resilience tool was demonstrated to produce a suitable maintenance regime for the site. A topical subject with recent flooding, and one which caused numerous questions and debates.

What attendees thought

The workshops were attended by a range of participants from organisations working within a variety of disciplines – from contractors to engineers, architects to merchants. Each brought their own perspective to the day, whether that was to create designs from scratch, select appropriate products to specify or quickly check both the channel and attenuation sizing against an existing project specification.

The range of opinions and input allowed the workshops to not only provide a professional development opportunity but also to improve understanding of each other’s requirements as well as challenges and pressures. It was an element that, while not planned, provided great value and an opportunity to improve how we work to support colleagues across the industry.

For some attendees, the training also opened up new approaches to managing water, offering alternatives to their usual designs. Jerome Shannon, who works for Murphy Design, said: “Our designs have traditionally focused on road gulleys in hard-standing areas but, based on a recent meeting with a local authority official, we intend on including channels in our designs. Your roadshow came at just the right time to explore this further.”

Were you unable to attend?

It’s always hard finding the time to attend professional development events with busy work schedules and competing priorities. To help make this easier, ACO offers a range of professional development opportunities throughout the year to support you whether that’s online or in your offices.

If you are interested in learning more or updating your skills, ACO is running a webinar in partnership with Colab Professional Development covering how to use and make the most of the free QuAD hydraulic design software on 29 January from 12.30pm.

To find out more and to register your place visit the ACO website at

This article has been produced in association with

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