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Our world city: risks and opportunities for London’s competitive advantage to 2050.

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A new way of building


Atkins response to 'A City for All Londoners'.

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Richmond upon Thames College


The Atkins-designed mixed-use development includes a further education college, a new free school, a special educational needs school and a Technology Hub.

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We’re working on London’s biggest infrastructure projects, including the Thames Tideway Tunnel.
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Latest Angles

Chris Raven
14 Feb 2017

In December 2015 Atkins was commissioned to design, tender and oversee landscape improvements around Ivybridge Primary School in Isleworth, London.

The school's existing external environment consisted of large open areas of tarmac with inaccessible boundaries and overgrown vegetation. Our brief was to design multi-functional landscape features that support learning across the curriculum whilst also providing improved playtime resources for Reception, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.

The project has been a great success and so I wanted to share my five step process for achieving the perfect design project:

1. Engage the wider community during the consultation

Gaining comment and inspiration from teachers, pupils, parents and maintenance staff is the best way to ensure any project meets and hopefully exceeds the ambitions of the client.

Rather than asking a simple "What do you want?" we provided a number of consultation questions, such as "What do you currently like/dislike externally" and "What would you like to be able to do in your school grounds?" to prompt deeper thought and provide better insights for us as designers.

2. Interpret aspirations and transform ideas into inspired designs

Inevitably, early consultation comments can include unachievable aspirations. Rather than dismiss these requests or take them literally, we strive to incorporate the sensations or experiential qualities the children are seeking with these elements into our landscape designs.

For example, At Ivybridge Primary School the pupils had requested a bouncy castle and helter skelter. We were able to install a bouncy board belt feature that provided the bouncy castle sensation and replicate the swing and spin sensation of a helter skelter by incorporating a basket swing.

3. Support the client through the decision making process

School communities usually find hand drawn sketches far easier to interpret and understand than 2D CAD models. We developed three initial interpretations of the design brief, including annotated plans, hand drawn sketches and precedent images, while developing detailed indications of costs for different elements and features to make the school’s decision making as easy and informed as possible.

This was also a fantastic opportunity to involve pupils and use the design process to develop their mathematical and comparison skills.

4. Bring the design to life

Where possible we undertake construction during school holidays to minimise disruption to teaching. In the case of Ivybridge Primary School the construction phase was mostly carried out over the summer holidays, achieving completion on schedule, within budget and to a very high standard.

5. Our work is done - time to celebrate!

Projects like this are extremely rewarding and make me proud to be a landscape architect. With the playground completed in November 2016 we’ve had some excellent feedback on how the pupils have been enjoying their new learning and play area, as well as how teachers are finding innovative ways of bringing the curriculum outside of the classroom.

I look forward to my next playground project!

The above images show some of the features we included in the Ivybridge Primary School playground design, including a basket swing for inclusive play, a slope climbing area to make us of previously unused space, outdoor classrooms and a wet play fountain. 


UK & Europe ,

Phil R Davis
13 Feb 2017

It's an exciting time for STEM skills. There is an almost universal acceptance that we have a STEM skills shortage in the UK. Regardless of Brexit, we need to be better at 'growing our own' engineers and future thinkers as they will be critical to maintaining and growing our industrial output and making the Government's Industrial Strategy a reality.

Our 2015 report The Skills Deficit. Consequences and opportunities for UK infrastructure created by the national skills shortage explored the likely impact of prolonged STEM skills shortages in the transport, water, energy and digital infrastructure sectors. Two recent publications have brought this issue into even further focus: Sadiq Khan's ‘A City For All Londoners’ and the Government's Industrial Strategy.

In my role as Atkins' director of technical learning & development I need to be very aware of the factors that affect our corporate level of technical skills. I often use the analogy of a water tank, where the fluid level represents the collective skills of our people at any point in time. The level is increased as the tank is topped up by new entrants, apprentices and graduates; also by training colleagues. The fluid level diminishes when skills perish through technological advances and as colleagues retire. And to extend the analogy further, the tank becomes larger as we move into new capability areas - which may lower the fluid level, unless we are prepared!

So what are we doing to keep our skills tank topped up and how can we support the Mayor's plan?

Showing young people that STEM careers can be fulfilling and rewarding is a great start and our outreach programmes such as Pathways to Engineering and Love Plays seek to do just that in London. Young people can have mixed views about what a STEM career involves and requires from them. Providing contact with our professionals is one of the best ways to encourage, inform and dispel the myths. We have a particularly exciting story to tell about engineering design consultancy, part of the profession that is largely hidden from the public consciousness. So we're really keen to further collaborate with other STEM employers in London, for example through the Tomorrow's Engineers programme, to reach some of the schools as yet unsupported by our sectors.

Two years ago, I visited a school in east London to explore ways of supporting new maths and science teachers. During the visit, I was amazed to discover just how many students were fluent in another language, often from countries in the middle or far-east. In a global consultancy business such as ours, those language skills are highly valued in a professional engineer. My host was also excited to learn of this potential competitive advantage her pupils had in the employment stakes.

When it comes to applying for employment as an apprentice we find that many students are unaware of how to apply - and how to apply themselves to the application process. Our Pathways to Engineering programme aims to level the playing field in schools where STEM students may lack an awareness of how to present themselves to best effect when applying to a professional services employer. With our partner Citizens UK, we're keen to introduce other STEM employers and London schools to the programme and thereby reach out to further, as yet untapped, potential talent.

As a member of the Technician's Apprenticeship Consortium, Atkins has been involved with several Trailblazer apprenticeship programmes, developing new standards in areas related to engineering design consultancy. Presently we are collaborating in the creation of two new design engineering degree apprenticeships. On-the-job, vocational learning is a key aspect of any apprenticeship, so we want the Government to not only encourage recruitment of apprentices, but to make it easier for apprentices to be used on all projects, as their apprenticeship status can sometimes preclude them from working on major infrastructure projects.

We also need to continue to work at retaining skilled professionals as they near the end of their careers, through flexible working arrangements including 'zero hour' contracts that, when used responsibly and applied fairly, can work really well for both parties in these instances. We would like to see proactive support for flexible deployment of all our skilled professionals in public sector work so that we can bring a diverse range of talents to bear on the city's challenges.

Read Atkins’ full response to ‘A City For All Londoners’

UK & Europe ,

Mike McNicholas
01 Feb 2017

The more I think about it though, the more I’m interested in the unanswered question for our industry – what impact can designers and engineers make on building a better city for all? 

To make this a city that truly benefits everyone, we need to focus the planning, design and delivery of our infrastructure on outcomes. This means recognising that infrastructure is a means to an end - an enabler of everyday life - and is there to make a positive impact on people’s lives. We can no longer deliver just another new building or road. From the earliest stages of planning, we need to be thinking about how our infrastructure can create better results for every Londoner. ‘A City For All Londoners’ talks about ensuring planning isn’t myopically focused on one amenity without seeing the big picture – the only way we can do this is by being clear at the outset what outcomes we want to see at the end of a project, and planning our infrastructure so that we achieve all of those outcomes. 

For me, excellent infrastructure delivery isn’t just about completing a project on time and on budget – it’s about doing it right, doing it once and doing it smarter. We can’t do this in today’s world without a clear understanding of outcomes. For design and engineering consultancies, this means more collaboration, efficiency and disruptive thinking, and delivering on our promises. It means outcome focused delivery, enabled by technology and data. If we do this in a wholly integrated way - looking not just at a new station or housing development in isolation, but at placemaking, with all of the social infrastructure that creates thriving communities for people to work and live - then we can achieve the Mayor’s ambitions for London to be a growing, inclusive city.

Read Atkins’ full response to ‘A City For All Londoners’


UK & Europe ,

Paul Reynolds
13 Jan 2017

The reason is that public land is increasingly being seen as the panacea to our housing crisis. On the surface it is a win/win situation - cash-strapped public bodies and local authorities can monetise underused or surplus land assets, while the development market gets to pick up sites in often prime areas.

However, there is the small issue of ‘best value’. This underpins any transaction involving public land, and while government guidance sets out a number of factors that need to be considered when evaluating if best value is being achieved, nine times out of 10 when it is applied to land transactions it is read as shorthand for top price.

In recent years, many public bodies have had their government funding drastically reduced or cut altogether, and pressure has been placed on those with significant landholdings to look long and hard at how they can be monetised.

In many cases, the best solution may be to retain the land and redevelop it, providing a long-term revenue stream.

However, this is often not viable as they don’t have the capital funding or in-house expertise to undertake the redevelopment, and while some may partner with the private sector to do this, others look to sell the land instead.

Financial & non-financial downsides

The downsides to this are twofold. Firstly, it encourages over-development of sites. Potential purchasers will look to squeeze as much out of the sites as possible in order to realise the highest financial returns.

Secondly, it often means that social value is ignored. The non-monetary benefits of land for wider society cannot be easily measured. It also means that there is little encouragement for public agencies to work together - the development industry is well aware of the ‘marriage value’ of sites, and often brings sites forward in the knowledge that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

However, there are examples of where one public body tries to buy land from another, but is outbid by a private developer. This may mean that a wider regeneration project’s ambitions are compromised or benefits reduced.

One solution would be to have a clear definition of best value - particularly when applied to land transactions - that emphasises that very often the ‘best-value’ scheme will not be the one that delivers only high monetary returns.

Only once we are able to recognise the importance of these non-monetary benefits will we truly be able to deliver best value from our public land assets.


This article was originally published in Property Week.

UK & Europe ,

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The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) wished to commission collaborative research for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) into the relationship between people and cyber/ information assurance. Particular focus was required on the human and cultural issues relevant to risk and friction points associated with the design of policy and procedure.

Atkins collaborated with University College London (UCL), bringing together industry, commercial and academic expertise to undertake this research.

A set of customised assessments were developed to be undertaken by MOD staff using a specialised tool. This helped to identify an individual’s security understanding within their working environment, to highlight skills and knowledge gaps and focus on behaviours that may pose a risk to security compliance.

Through this research it was identified that current security practice reduces productivity by introducing rules that often create a conflict with the individual’s primary task and are consequently circumvented.

The work conducted represented new and innovative thinking leading to a number of achievable recommendations across the MOD. These would ultimately lead to a new paradigm in the way systems, policies and procedures were developed and implemented.

Research outcomes of the identification of friction, and understanding of what is causing it, can also form the basis for a potentially lower friction solution that operators can comply with.

UK ,

Richmond Education and Enterprise Campus is a 20,000sqm development featuring a new, state-of-the-art further education college, as well as a new free school, a special educational needs (SEN) school and a Technology Hub run by Haymarket Publishing. The regeneration of the existing site at Richmond-upon-Thames College will deliver an integrated, innovative education campus that brings together the best of industry with the best of teaching and learning.

The first phase of building will make a strong, contemporary statement befitting its landmark position on an important gateway into London. It will deliver a variety of core curriculum spaces for business, creative and lifestyle disciplines, including e-enabled spaces for business incubation, innovation and collaboration with local businesses.

Our design proposals reflect the College’s vision for a high quality, contemporary and professional college; the central atrium design provides open, flexible and transparent learning environments to promote inclusivity and encourage collaboration and information exchange. The atrium contains a variety of flexible activity spaces that encourage self-directed and group learning styles, which in turn stimulate learner motivation and improve student performance.

The second phase, a ‘hands-on’ STEM centre, will be available to 3,000 full-time students, providing digital technology, science, engineering and construction labs in addition to a dedicated sporting and fitness suite. Phased demolition of the existing college has begun on site to make way for the development. Our ‘decant and phasing’ strategy ensures the College remains open for business with minimal disruption to teachers and students throughout construction.

Architecture hub



UK ,

TfL invited Atkins to tender for the Deep Tubes Programme Aerial Survey. The specification requested as close to 2cm resolution imagery and survey accuracy as could be achieved, 2cm being a resolution which up until that point had not been possible from a fixed wing aircraft.

Atkins developed the methodology that would deliver 2cm aerial imagery and +/-2cm survey accuracy. The Geomatics team won the contract and successfully captured aerial imagery for the Bakerloo Line, Central Line and parts of the Piccadilly Line at 2cm GSD (Ground Sampled Distance).

UK ,

Limehouse Viaduct is an early stock brick Grade II listed structure originally built to support the London to Blackwall Railway, serving the old docks of East London, and now carrying Docklands Light Railway system.

The viaduct is punctuated by a number of flat metal deck spans which cross a network of public highways and watercourses.

Due to the length of the viaduct structure and differing forms of construction, the project was divided into four packages. Package 1 was completed on time enabling the client to implement the tender process for the site works within the project time scales. Packages 2, 3 & 4 are due to commence following completion of the Package 1 site works.

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