Dimitris Linardatos

It seems that Dimitris was destined for a life working in the built environment. He was born into an engineering family, where his father and both grandfathers worked in construction and his uncle owned a building company. Despite his prowess as a young footballer that almost saw him pursue a career in the beautiful game in his native Greece, engineering beckoned, and he gravitated towards it.

Given his familial circumstances, it’s not difficult to imagine Dimitris at his father’s side as a boy, watching and absorbing the skills that would make him a leading civil engineer later in his life. ‘I was very interested as a kid, visiting my father’s and uncle’s projects and watching how they were delivered,’ he recalls. ‘From the age of about 15 I started working with both of them, out of school hours and on summer holidays. They gave me small tasks to start. I was very creative, breaking things apart and learning how to put them back together, learning how to make things by hand.’

Later, fourteen months mandatory military service in Greece saw him deployed to the engineering corps, where part of the exercises involved learning how to construct bridges. He recollects wrestling with bad weather through the night to build two temporary bridges to evacuate two villages that were at risk of flooding. ‘I suspect those two bridges are still there, 20 years later!’

It was all this that led Dimitris to a career in civil engineering, after relocating to the UK to complete his chartership with the Institution of Civil Engineers. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Dimitris is passionate about flood mitigation. He sees it as a first principle in the development of sustainable communities, and he knows with certainty that it takes more than just the right software to effectively deal with this ever-increasing risk. ‘When I started working in this field, we were still doing everything on spreadsheets. It was only in the early 2000s that flood maps started being produced,’ he explains. ‘Software now does some of that work for us, but you still need to understand how things work, and put your head down to effectively use the data that it provides.’

Dimitris is adept at negotiating the often-competing demands of masterplanning and construction as it relates to flood risk. ‘Urban areas developed near rivers for obvious reasons – access to water, transport, trade. And we want to continue to develop in urban areas to protect greenfield land, maximise infrastructure efficiency and social cohesion,’ he explains. ‘But policies have developed in contradictory ways, some of which encourage development on flood plains. As engineers, we have to assess the risks and explain them so they are clearly understood.’

There is a real, human cost to flooding that inspires Dimitris to deliver the best possible results on his projects. ‘Sometimes, people see the pictures on the news and think that it’s just a bit of water. But it’s so much more serious than the pictures. Beyond the actual risk to human life, flooding stays with people. It can cause nightmares and sleeplessness. It can disrupt relationships. It has long-term health, financial and economic implications for individuals and communities,’ he notes. ‘It can lead to legal issues, insurance disputes. And that’s before we even consider the embodied carbon used in the replacing and repairing everything that has been damaged by flooding.’ The human impact is clearly close to Dimitris’ heart when he talks about the value of the work he does. ‘Local Authorities are desperate to build new houses, often on flood plains. Planning is being used to prevent development, but we need to address and mitigate the challenge.’

Addressing the contradictions in policy and the need to clearly articulate flood risk strategy often leads Dimitris to exercise his political skills. ‘It can be very challenging, meeting with different stakeholder groups, different individuals and departments, public consultations – searching for common ground and compromise,’ he points out. ‘You need to be able to explain that what you are doing is the right way to do things. You have to be persuasive.’ He knows what is required to secure planning and to create places that benefit everyone involved in the process. Dimitris is expert at developing design responses that can serve multiple purposes – creating places that people can enjoy when they are outdoors, but also make a place for water when the weather turns sour.

Joining up engineering responses with policy contradictions sees Dimitris leading a team that has expanded into transport consultation as well. Starting with transport assessments and travel plans on new developments has led to a wealth of experience in roundabout and junction capacities, modelling and local impact studies, and a growing body of work in transforming existing cities to cater for sustainable modes of transport. ‘Between us and the structural engineering teams at Price & Myers, we can now cater for structural complexity below ground in buildings, combine SuDS (Sustainable Drainage Systems) with civil engineering projects, find a place for water alongside a place for cyclists and pedestrians, and create space where space simply was not available.’ It’s a suite of skills well developed for an ever-changing future.

Dimitris loves the challenges that civil engineering brings. His role helps join up the dots with masterplanning, architecture, structures, civils and landscape design, to the betterment of individuals and communities, and the natural environment. ‘I love civil engineering because it really lets me get involved with communities,’ he enthuses. ‘You learn how the world works and how people think, how they live now and how they are likely to live in the future. We help to transform places and make them better for all.’


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