Professor of Concrete Engineering
UTS Director – UTS-Boral Centre for Sustainable Building
School of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Faculty of Engineering & Information Technology
University of Technology Sydney
Where is your hometown? Where do you live now?
I was born and grew up in Bangkok – Venice of the East, Thailand and studied engineering in Australia. After an early academic career in Thailand and 4 years of building work in Singapore, I returned and established my family and career in Sydney.
Where did you go to university and your field of study and most importantly why did you choose that field?
I loved watching various tradesmen doing their work from a very young age and was fortunate to be able to pursue my passion in engineering under the Colombo Plan scholarship to study Civil Engineering at the University of Tasmania in Hobart. I went on to complete my PhD in Concrete Technology at the University of New South Wales under the supervision of Dr David Cook and Dr Rusty Morgan.
Who do you work for now? What has been a highlight of your career?
I have learn’t the art of concrete production while working as a project engineer in Singapore, and the science of concrete engineering as a scientist with CSIRO Division of Building Construction and Engineering in Sydney. From the challenges I faced in my work in Singapore, I found Professor Adam Neville’s 1987 inaugural concrete lecture in Singapore most encouraging when he highlighted the ‘advent of chemical admixtures’ and the ‘recognition of the importance of concrete cover’ as the two most important advances in concrete technology over the past decades. These highlights totally agree with what I had personally experienced in my working life in Singapore.
Tell us why and how you first got involved with Concrete?
While my natural inclination was in structural engineering, I was given an opportunity by Professor Ian Lee to develop premix polymer-cement concrete in my PhD research at the University of New South Wales. Concrete has since consumed my interest and my desire for people to make the correct use of its immense potential as a “liquid rock”.
What do you find most challenging about working in the industry?
The focus on sustainability in concrete construction began in the late 1970s with tremendous public-good research and innovation conducted and derived by both the private and public sectors. In Australia, we have found the innovative and economic use of a range of industrial by-products in tailoring the properties of high-performance concrete (HPC). Engineers are able to use HPC in a whole range of durable structures to meet the required design life. The challenge to our industry is to instill the current and future know-how to the various levels of professionals working in the industry from the designers to the concrete workforce, and in particular to the owners in both the private and public infrastructures. Professional bodies such as Engineers Australia (EA), Concrete Institute of Australia (CIA), the Australian Society of Concrete Pavement (ASCP) and Cement Concrete and Aggregates Australia (CCAA) have played an important role in technology transfer and training. Greater participation and leadership by the public sector is necessary to accelerate the uptake of advanced concrete technology.
If there was one thing you could bring to life to help shape the future of infrastructure, what would it be?
I would like to see the return to genuine Quality systems in construction with systematic quality control (QC) and quality audit (QA). The integrity of such quality system lies in the independence of quality auditing. However, the pressure of modern life has diluted such quality system by the introduction of the so called “Quality Assurance” which relies on self-assessment which is a complete contradiction to the principle of ‘independent quality auditing”. We have seen significant problems in buildings arising from lack of inspection by qualified engineers during construction and the use of private certification. If this fundamental and genuine quality control and auditing are not reinstated, we cannot expect to see the integrity and longevity for our infrastructure.
SmartCrete’s objective is to help guarantee the long-term viability of crucial concrete infrastructure in Australia, what are your thoughts on this?
Innovation in building materials and construction technologies can certainly contribute to the long-term sustainability and viability of concrete infrastructure, however they can only be fully realised with genuine quality systems.
Anything else you would like to add?
Much effort is put into the development of new, innovative and smart concrete. However, it is the smart way of using concrete which is crucial to the success of concrete infrastructure in Australia. Thus considerable emphasis must be put into our training and developing the next generation of smart concrete users.