As the age-old proverb suggests, necessity is indeed the ‘mother of invention’ and within a construction and engineering context particularly, we have seen time and time again that the primary driving force for innovation is indeed the need to resolve a real and immediate problem. This was certainly the case for the Swords Watermain Rehabilitation Scheme. The specific problem in this instance centred on an old troublesome watermain that ran through the very heart of the Swords Town Centre. Having erupted and caused extensive and widespread damage to the town centre on more than one occasion (more than 30 times since 2011), urgent action was required to prevent any similar future occurrences.
The detrimental impact that this problem was having on local businesses and more specifically, the local community, was both significant and indeed well documented across regional and national media platforms. Daily disruptions to the lives of those in the Swords Urban Area were becoming all too familiar. These disruptions were in the form of prolonged road closures, necessitated for large watermain repairs and sometimes with large sections of the road being damaged, property flooding issues and loss of water services to large numbers of water consumers. On an economic level, this issue was even beginning to effect the reputation of Swords, a gateway for international travellers heading to and from Dublin Airport, as being a good place to do business. Quite simply put, immediate and urgent action was required to secure a long term solution to this problem.
To avoid bringing the economic activity of the town to a daily standstill and disrupting the weekly activities of some 45,000 people, we needed to deliver a real solution for a real problem, not something speculative, academically focused, or indeed something seen as ‘one to watch’ for the future. Irish Water and Fingal County Council were aware that there was an impending crisis looming if a critical water asset was not replaced. From the outset, the direction taken from Irish Water was very clear stating that ‘every effort will be made to avoid unplanned interruptions to the water supply’ adding that ‘the project team will also work to ensure that the impact on other local services such as transportation and emergency services is also minimised.’ By using the engineering answer to keyhole surgery, ‘trenchless technology’, we were able to keep routes open right through the centre of Swords.
Notably, this was the first undertaking of its scale and indeed of its kind here in Ireland. Furthermore, it was also one of the most important projects of its kind for Irish Water as the rehabilitation was a test case. Its benefit is of great strategic value not only for the future of Swords but also for feeding water to other urban areas such as Malahide. The Irish Water target was to save approximately 166 million litres of water per day. This was achieved, ahead of programme and within project budget. The innovative approach to completing the Swords Watermain Rehabilitation Project demonstrates construction excellence as the approach taken to solve a complex problem ultimately benefited all the stakeholders involved.