After leaving Cray Valley in 1962 I went to Queen Mary College, London University to study for a BSc in Civil Engineering. In hindsight that was a big mistake, wrong university and wrong course. Oh how I wish I had done a BEng at one of the Polytechnics. This undoubtedly resulted in the poor degree I obtained but it was enough for me to do what I wanted – build things like bridges and roads. I was lucky enough to get an indenture with Cementation Construction Ltd and became a Chartered Engineer and Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers at the age of 25.
In 1970 I was elected a Member of the Institution of Highways and Transportation, subsequently becoming a Fellow in 1987. I was also elected a Fellow of the Institute of Quarrying in 1987 and a Fellow of the Geological Society in 1991 and awarded the title of European Engineer (Eur Ing).
During my early career I progressed from Graduate Engineer to Project Manager on numerous road and bridge contracts including Sevenoaks Bypass, Glyn Neath Bypass, the A30 in Devon and several sections of the M5 motorway. I was Chief Engineer for the construction of the M26 motorway in Kent. I was then appointed Associate Director (Materials) with responsibility for the provision of an integrated service from tender to contract completion for the technical and commercial assessment of materials, their availability, procurement, testing, use and quality control. I was responsible for the Company’s laboratories and the technical management of in-house concrete plants and quarry operations. Contracts during that period included major motorways and roads throughout the UK; civil airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Glasgow, Manchester and Dublin; military airfields including Brawdy, St Mawgan and Yeovilton; Queen Elizabeth II Bridge; coal handling plants; waste transfer stations; Faslane submarine shiplift; river works; sea outfalls and water treatment plants.
Between 1989 and 1996 I was Associate Director, Kvaerner Construction Group with responsible for Research and Development funded by the European Community (now the EU). I was Project Manager for two EU funded multi-national research projects, ‘Ecopave’ and ‘Newpave’. I was also Technical Co-ordinator for Kvaerner Construction Group's Technical Development Forum and served on several National and International committees dealing with concrete and paving. I was responsible for the Group’s Technical Library and Information Service and for Technical Training.
In 1996 I was appointed Research and Development Director, Kvaerner Construction Group. In this position I led a team of highly qualified and experienced engineers, scientists and technologists developing new technologies, undertaking research into construction activities and processes involving contaminated land and the use of recycled materials and secondary aggregates, providing technical advice, information and training in support of all the companies in Kvaerner’s UK Construction Group. I was Project Director for an EU funded multi-national project developing systems for waterproofing brick-lined tunnels. I was also retained by the EU as a technical expert advising on road noise.
I was a visiting Industrial Tutor at London University’s Imperial College and was an Industrial Fellow at the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Nottingham from 1999 to 2002. I was a member of the Construction Industry Environmental Forum Management Committee and chairman of the Project Steering Group for the production of the CIRIA Construction Industry Guide and Training Pack ‘Working with Wildlife’.
Between 1998 and 2001 I was Project Environmental Manager for Skanska UK Civil Engineering on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link where I established and implemented the project’s Environmental Management System through a series of Specialist Environmental Plans. These covered such topics as agriculture, archaeology, air quality, ecology, landscape, geology, contaminated land, waste management, traffic, emergency response, surface and groundwater protection, noise & vibration and pollution prevention. The 15km long site passed through environmentally sensitive areas and I had responsibly for translocation of ancient woodland soils and protected species under licence from English Nature (now Natural England). I introduced new systems for waste minimisation, segregation and management that subsequently formed the basis of Skanska’s Sustainability Policy and Procedures.
Between 2001 and 2004 I was Company Environmental Manager and Sustainable Development Advisor for Skanska UK Civil Engineering & Skanska Networks, responsible for managing both companies’ ISO 14001 certified Environmental Management Systems. I delivered training on all environmental issues, co-ordinated the environmental audit programme and was responsible for maintaining ISO 14001 certification.
I formed my own company, Rod Dengate Ltd, in 2004 to provide advice on environmental management, waste management and sustainability within the construction industry, undertaking work for Whessoe-Volker Stevin JV on its Dragon LNG Import Terminal Project at Milford Haven and assisting Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Atkins, Egis JV with its successful bid for a 30 year DBFO contract for widening, maintaining and operating the M25 and associated motorways.
I took early retirement from full-time employment in 2004 and fully retired in 2009. Retirement presented new and exciting opportunities and I became a volunteer gardener for the RHS at Wisley and for several years help man the RHS information stands at the Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows. I spent five years as Groups’ Co-ordinator for Ash U3A and now work as a volunteer at The Rural Life Centre at Tilford. The job of CVTHS Historian keeps me busy too. Two daughters and five grandchildren place ever increasing demands on my time, especially when anything needs building.
Retirement has given me and my long-suffering wife, Sue, the chance to travel and we spend between two and three months a year away. The air-miles are clocking up with trips to North and South America, South Africa, Barbados, Australia, Europe, Iceland, Sri Lanka, Dubai, Singapore and Malaysia.