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CSIR Engineering Geologist Wins Esteemed JD Roberts Award

23 July 2008

Dr Phil Paige-Green, an acclaimed engineering geologist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has been named winner of the 2008 JD Roberts Award. The award was handed to him at a function held in Pretoria on Tuesday 22 July 2008. He received the award for outstanding research and innovation, with an international flavour, in the transport infrastructure field, resulting in the application of products, improved materials usage and specifications for sustainable road construction, which have had a great social impact.

Paige-Greene, a Fellow at CSIR Built Environment, is currently working on a project worth in excess of R5 million to develop a cost-effective way of using renewable sources, specifically waste materials, in road binding materials. Given oil shortages, environmental effects of fossil fuel usage and global climate change, various alternative binders needed to be investigated and developed by the CSIR. Consequently, a prototype binder based primarily on materials currently considered waste products has been developed. This material is being evaluated and improved to develop the necessary properties for use as a road binder.

His work encompasses the investigation of roads and transport technology and he has led various projects in 14 countries in Africa, including Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi and Uganda. His research has helped some countries upgrade their road design manuals, while he has also assisted with training guidelines and conducted road improvement investigations and technical audits.

The annual JD Roberts Award is sponsored by Murray & Roberts and held in partnership with the CSIR. Instituted by Murray & Roberts in the late 1970s in remembrance of one of the group's founding fathers, Dr JD ‘Douglas' Roberts, the award recognises and promotes competitive and environmentally-sustainable solutions to human dilemmas and encourages scientific research into technology that will enhance the quality of life of all South Africans.

Douglas Roberts was a doyen of the construction industry in South Africa, well known for his entrepreneurial flair and passion for seeking and trying new techniques and ways of doing things. It is in this spirit that the JD Roberts Award takes place annually, recognising talent and research within the CSIR.

Breakthroughs by Paige-Green include research on tillites (a type of rock), which saw him becoming a world authority on the topic. His later research centred on materials for the construction of unsealed roads, culminating in the development of innovative specifications, deterioration models and construction requirements. These have been implemented internationally. His work on unsealed roads evolved into the upgrading of such roads to low-cost sealed ones, again for which he received international recognition.

Paige-Green has won a number of awards for best papers at conferences and currently serves as the Vice-President (Africa) of the International Association of Engineering Geology. He has published more than 90 papers, and contributed two chapters to Engineering Geology of South Africa, Vol 3, the authoritative work on the engineering properties of South African natural materials. He has also authored and co-authored more than 300 contract, research and unpublished internal reports.

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