A look at AfPA 2021 Symposium

Roads going full circle is the theme selected by the Australian Flexible Pavement Association for the AfPA Symposium 2021. AfPA Chief Executive Officer Carlos Rial and Executive Directors Norbert Michel, Robert Vos and Anna D’Angelo share their insights on the program.

In August this year, AfPA Symposium 2021 will bring together speakers and attendees from around the world to the AfPA online event to share their views and experiences around a central theme of circular economy.

As AfPA Chief Executive Officer Carlos Rial explains, the title of the conference, ‘Roads going full circle refers to the need for the infrastructure sector to become circular and incentivise circular economy solutions to respond to the challenges of climate change, carbon emissions and reducing the use of virgin natural resources.

“We chose the theme of circular economy for the symposium to showcase what our industry is and can do to deliver our part in utilising renewable materials from waste to help address a growing national circular economy challenge.  This will contribute to reducing our carbon footprint and emissions, reducing energy usage and also utilising sustainable energy generation practices. We also will continue to promote the use and reuse of some of the planet’s most recyclable materials such as asphalt,” Rial explains.

In view of the COVID-19 uncertainties, this year AfPA replaced its biennial International Flexible Pavements Conference with an online Symposium as the risk of holding a face-to-face conference remained too high.

“A key element to this event,” Rial adds, “is to bring international best practice to Australia and share our expertise internationally. The only way to do this at the moment is to pivot to an online event – our Symposium. It is hoped that in the years to come we can return to holding our showcase international conference, however I do believe that the online element will now forever be included to further expand our outreach.”

As key takeaways from the Symposium, Rial says participants will learn about how the flexible pavements industry is doing its part to support Australia’s shift to circular economy practices.

“Our flexible pavements industry is continually improving its practices to ensure the health and safety of our people. We are leading in engineering research and development to ensure our largest asset by value – our roads – is safe, reliable, affordable and embracing of the transport needs of tomorrow.”

The Symposium is divided in three main streams: Health and Safety; Sustainability and Circular Economy; Engineering and Construction. Each day will focus on one of the core streams with the content being delivered through a combination of presentations and panel session.

Health and Safety stream

Norbert Michel, AfPA Executive Director for Victoria and Tasmania will be leading the Health and Safety stream.

He says the stream will focus on providing a solid foundation for engaging discussion.

“Safety and providing for a safe working environment across the industry is of paramount importance for AfPA and its members. The Symposium will explore these themes and will invite a number of high-profile plenary keynote speakers from Australia and overseas to outline the challenges facing the industry in terms of improving mental health and wellbeing, undertaking work under live traffic and promoting the closure of roads as a default for undertaking work,” says Michel.

Norbert Michel, AfPA Executive Director for Victoria and Tasmania
Norbert Michel, AfPA Executive Director for Victoria and Tasmania.

AfPA’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fulton Hogan Industries, Matthew MacMahon will open the Symposium and challenge attendees to embrace the philosophy that safety is not a role or a dedicated item of focus for select individuals assigned the task of managing this within an organisation, but rather that it a responsibility to be borne by all.

The plenary session led by Wayne Schwass will address several sensitive topic areas, including how normalising mental health and acknowledging emotional wellbeing have become paramount in today’s fast paced world. It will also outline how having these difficult conversations can and do positively change lives.

There are two parallel sessions focussed on exploring worker health and industry initiatives. Some of the key areas to be explored include embracing technology to improve worker safety, effecting change through mandating improved delivery practices, emerging challenges, and opportunities for adoption of overseas experiences to improve worker health and safety.

“The Health and Safety Day will set the right frame of context for everyone attending the Symposium to embrace the culture of safety in all that we do and challenge attendees to identify safety opportunities throughout the technical sessions being delivered across the Symposium,” says Michel.

Sustainability and Circular Economy stream

AfPA National Sustainability Director Robert Vos will be leading the second day’s program, focussed on sustainability and circular economy.

According to Vos, this session is well matched to Roads going full circle theme with plenary keynote speakers from the US and Europe sharing their progress on Embedding sustainability in procurement of roads.

Robert Vos, AfPA's National Sustainability Director.
Robert Vos, AfPA’s National Sustainability Director.

Plenary presentations in this stream cover US Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Sustainable Pavements Program with a particular focus on embedding circular economy principles in the tools and support material provided.

This is supported with updates on Australian systems to measure and deliver best sustainable practices for roads infrastructure. Europe and the US Asphalt Associations provide updates on how contractors are building resilience and sustainability into their flexible pavements. Additionally, the European Oil Refiner Association will share scenarios for refineries to meet climate goals for 2050.

There are three parallel sessions, named ‘change drivers’, ‘achievements to date’ and ‘solutions on offer.’

“All of these share an excellent overview of Australian and international achievements in driving change to thinking, understanding the advantages in circular economy thinking and recognising the well-established role of the road sector in delivering increasingly sustainable roads and road products,” Vos says.

Engineering and Construction stream

The third and last day of the Symposium will focus on Engineering and Construction. AfPA’s Executive Director of Technology and Leadership Anna D’Angelo will be leading this stream.

The theme of the day, according to D’Angelo, will be ‘Maximising performance and durability.’

Anna D’Angelo, AfPA’s Executive Director of Technology and Leadership.
Anna D’Angelo, AfPA’s Executive Director of Technology and Leadership.

“AfPA has 50-plus years of driving continual improvement through the sharing of best practice, in particular as it relates to the technical engineering and construction of road pavements. Within Australia we are seeing a rapid change in the expectations of purchasers seeking longer lasting roads,” says D’Angelo.

The stream will discuss the practises to support the implementation of circular economy and sustainable solutions and how the advancements in technologies related to pavement design and construction can improve durability and cost effectiveness.

Use of renewable materials from the waste stream into roads without compromising quality will also be key theme of discussion.

The Engineering and Construction Day will be presented in three parallel sessions: Materials and Engineering, Testing, Construction and Maintenance. During these technical sessions there will be time for questions and answers and opportunity to engage with the authors.

Director of National Centre Asphalt Technology (NCAT) Randy West, Leslie McCarthy from Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), NCAT Assistant Director Fan Yin and Carsten Karcher from the European Asphalt Pavement Association (EAPA) are the confirmed speakers for the day.

The AfPA Symposium 2021 follows the successful 18th AAPA International Flexible Pavements Conference and Exhibition 2019, which was themed ‘Our everlasting roads: Enabling future mobility.’

This year, in addition to the traditional knowledge sharing from the presentation of papers and addresses from keynote speakers, there will also be a series of workshops, panel sessions and online skills training opportunities.

To register to the Symposium, click here.

This article originally appeared in the July edition of our magazine. To read the full magazine, click here.

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