‘We have so much to contribute’

Based in Singapore, Sri Hernani Mohamed Affandi has always aspired to make a positive contribution towards addressing the environmental challenges that the country – not to mention the world – is “urgently facing”. To fulfil her lifelong goal, she studied environmental engineering at university and started her career at the National Environment Agency, before joining Binnies Singapore as an environmental engineer.

She has now taken on the role of process and hydraulic specialist at Binnies Singapore, continuing to work on addressing the environmental challenges of today’s world. “As a hydraulics engineer, one of my tasks is to perform hydraulic modelling and studies using computational hydraulic modelling software. This work is normally carried out for drainage-management studies that investigate the impact of extreme rainfall events and rising sea levels brought about by climate change.

“With hydraulic modelling, areas that are most at risk of flooding can be identified, and the benefits of any proposed mitigation measures can be determined and quantified. Such studies facilitate the implementation of preventative flood alleviation measures by the authorities, which will help to prevent loss of life and injury, damage to infrastructure, as well loss of productivity that may occur during flood events.”

In her role, Sri Hernani is primarily involved in the feasibility study or preliminary design stage of a project. “It is very rewarding to see a study that you have worked on previously on paper come to fruition years later with the recommendations that you have put forward in place.”

‘Innovative solutions needed’

With the impact of climate change being felt globally, Sri Hernani believes that creative thinking is necessary to tackle the challenges. “An interesting and innovative solution that has been proposed and studied is the development of a massive underground network of large tunnels and caverns across Singapore, which would not only contain excess stormwater from surface catchments during extreme rain events to prevent flooding, but also store the water for clean water supply and to generate electricity as part of a pumped storage hydropower system,” she explains.

“Managing the upcoming challenges due to climate change will certainly require innovative solutions,” she reiterates, “and it was impressive to see the authorities already evaluating one such possible solution and commissioning a study to determine its effectiveness. I’d be interested to see if the risk of climate change will be deemed grim enough to warrant this major investment in infrastructure to prevent flooding in Singapore.”

‘Various roles to suit individual preferences’

Speaking about her experience working in a male-dominated industry, Sri Hernani says that she has “nothing to worry about. I am fortunate to work in a company where female professionals are well represented in various roles, including office and team leaders, and where there is a culture of respect for all professionals regardless of gender, race or religion.”

She further mentions that her employer is “supportive and understanding about the challenges that many women face at work, like the taking of maternity and childcare leave, as well as the juggling of work and the care of our children on a daily basis. Binnies is open to flexible working arrangements should the need arise, and even provides a clean and secure room for nursing mothers within office premises.”

Sri Hernani encourages women to join the engineering and construction industry, “because we have so much to contribute and having a diverse pool of people in a workforce will lead to a greater contestation of ideas, perspectives and skills, which can only benefit the industry.”

“A variety of roles are available in the industry to suit individual preferences,” she adds. “In addition to working on the jobsite, there are also opportunities for engineering design work in an office-based setting.”

Her final advice to all aspiring female engineers is simply “work hard and let your results speak for themselves!”

Photos courtesy of Sri Hernani Mohamed Affandi