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IN THE FIELD: Tim McMinn (left) and Garrett Bray will head off to Tanzania soon for some pro bono bridge building. Photo: Bohdan Warchomij

You too can be pro bono: engineers

THREE Perth-based engineers are going back to basics to deliver infrastructure solutions for farming communities in Africa.

Engineering may not be an industry with which the notion of pro bono work has a natural fit, but Tim McMinn, Garrett Bray and Benny Man from civil and structural engineering consultancy BG&E are hoping to change that.

The three young engineers will be travelling to Tanzania this month to oversee the construction of four bridges they designed for the farming communities in the towns of Mambo and Tema.

In 2011 these bridges were severely damaged by flooding and can no longer be used for the transport of goods and produce in and out of the villages.

They said it was an opportunity to deliver a product and service to people in need, but also to establish pro bono work as an achievable goal for the sector.

“A lot of engineers get into engineering because they like the idea of being able to build something, create something,” Mr Bray said.

“But you don’t really get the opportunity to display corporate citizenship”.

The men said while their work often involved the designing of bridges, they were the sort of bridges you would expect to drive across in metropolitan Perth, not in an isolated African village.

“We’ve had to think about a whole range of problems that we don’t normally even consider in our day-to-day jobs, which is probably the most interesting part of the project,” Mr McMinn told WA Business News.

The lack of technology available on site means the design of the bridges needs to be simple, while ensuring they are capable of withstanding future flooding.

The engineers opted to use reinforced concrete, but this presents further challenges as all the construction will be undertaken by hand.

No single piece of equipment or construction component can be heavier than 30 men can lift, and water to mix the concrete will be carried in buckets to and from the site.

The community will be directly involved with the construction of the bridge, comprising much of the labour.

While there are experienced builders and tradesmen throughout the villages, none of them has ever worked with reinforced concrete, Mr McMinn said.

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