Mr. Geoff French

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Mr. Geoff French is the President of FIDIC (International Federation of Consulting Engineers). Mr.French has a BSc(Eng) First Class Honours from Southampton University.

Geoff joined Scott Wilson after leaving University in 1968, initially as a Graduate Engineer. Over the next 17  years he worked in London, Gaborone (Botswana), Plymouth, Hong Kong, Basingstoke and Baghdad. He was seconded to Sir Robert McAlpine for his site experience and also spent some time on secondment to a Government Road Construction Unit in the UK.

In 1985 Geoff was made a Partner of Scott Wilson and ten years later he was made Managing Director of the firm’s UK business, becoming a Director of the Group Holding Company in 1998 and Executive Chairman of the Group from 2002 to 2008. From 2008 until Scott Wilson’s acquisition by URS in 2010 he was non-Executive Chairman. During those 42 years with Scott Wilson the firm grew from around 600 staff to 6000 staff and it was consistently placed in the top ten engineering firms based in the UK.

In addition, he oversaw the highly successful flotation of Scott Wilson in March 2006. In 2005 Geoff was elected to the Executive Committee of FIDIC, becoming Vice President in 2009 and President in 2011.

In November 2008 he became a Vice President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, UK.

Geoff has over 40 years experience providing transportation and development advice to governments, banks, major developers, local authorities and international funding agencies. Projects for which he has been responsible include the presentation of evidence at the Heathrow Terminal 5 Public Inquiry, the Lesotho National Transport Study, the Johannesburg LRT Study, the Mauritius Public Transport Study and the Baghdad Comprehensive Transportation Study, as well as numerous studies of major retail, office and leisure developments.

Construction Review had an interview with him and below is what he had to say.

When was the FIDIC formed, the reasons for forming it and its vision?

FIDIC was established by 3 countries in 1913 in response to a need for independent advice and expertise from technically qualified professionals.

FIDIC’s Vision is to enable the development of a sustainable world, as the recognised global voice for the consulting engineering industry

Our Mission is to work closely with stakeholders to improve the business climate in which members  operate and enable them to contribute to making the world a better place to live in now and in the future.

What have been the noteworthy milestones in the development of the Federation?

FIDIC now has 94 member countries representing 60,000 consulting firms, employing some 1.5 million professionals. The FIDIC suit of contract documents was first developed in 1955, and these documents are now recognised globally and are used in over 100 countries for both public and private clients.

How has it benefited members and the building and construction industry as a whole?

International practices have been developed and distributed to consultants and clients in the areas of quality management, integrity management, sustainability, and risk management. FIDIC offers one global voice for the industry at international fora when discussing investment in infrastructure, procurement policies and procedures, climate change, urbanisation, sustainability, corruption. FIDIC also supports and strengthens the voice of its member associations at the national level.

When did you become president of the Federation?

I was elected as FIDIC president in October 2011.

What are the challenges that you have encountered?

Each President works with the Secretariat of FIDIC in Geneva to further the development of the organisation, building on the foundations of FIDICs 100 year history and its more recent achievements. FIDIC’s core values are Sustainability, Integrity and Quality, and the importance of these attributes is being increasingly recognised by clients – as are the savings that can be made in the total cost of a project if the consulting engineer is retained at the earliest possible stage of a project.

What are the achievements accomplished during your tenure?

In the last three years FIDIC has produced its first ever State of the World Reports. The FIDIC Infrastructure Report 2009 provided an overview of the main infrastructure issues faced by the world. The State of the World 2012 Report “Sustainable Infrastructure” set out to make sense of sustainable development in the context of key infrastructure. This progress on Sustainability has been complemented by further developments in Integrity, a continued focus on Quality, and a steadily increasing membership, so that by FIDIC’s centenary in 2013 it is likely to have 100 countries as members.

What are the problems plaguing the industry/profession?

The important role of the consulting engineer is still poorly understood, resulting in selection processes dominated by price rather than quality. Corruption is also a major issue for the industry. Skill shortages and mobility issues also cause challenges for the industry.

What role has the federation played in alleviating these problems?

FIDIC produces guidelines and materials for members explaining the critical role of Consulting Engineers, and their ability to influence significantly the success of an investment.

Integrity management systems have been developed for the industry as a way to understand and minimise the risks of corrupt activities.

FIDIC facilitates comprehensive capacity building and training programmes to enhance skills. FIDIC also works closely with members to educate decision makers on the importance of a robust consulting engineering industry and the need to encourage more people to take up engineering as a profession. Governments are encouraged to reduce barriers to working in other countries, including recognition of qualifications, collaboration on projects, and involvement of local firms on international projects.

What needs to be done in the future to further improve the industry/profession?

The industry must continue to maintain the highest standards for Sustainability, Integrity and Quality. If it does, its clients will increasingly recognise the critical role of consulting engineers in providing the right infrastructure, in the right place, at the right time – and at the right cost.

What role must government play to alleviate the problems/challenges faced in the profession/building industry?

Governments need to recognise the global nature of challenges facing humanity – urbanisation, energy, water, transport, climate change, and the global solutions to such challenges, offered by consulting engineers. More resources will be required to meet these challenges. Hence the need for strong consulting engineering industries and more skilled people. Investments increasingly must meet strong demands from society, including economic, environmental and societal needs. Sustainability issues will drive investment decisions in infrastructure. Consulting Engineers can and should participate fully in helping governments address these issues.