National Infrastructure Strategy to drive sustainability

The UK’s first National Infrastructure Strategy is due to be published this autumn and Syntegra is keen to see what will be included to help support and improve sustainable development.

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has published a series of topics members would like to see addressed when the Government unveils its recommendations.

Syntegra endorses their ideas and will actively champion positive measures to join up the UK’s core economic infrastructure sectors to replace the current dysfunctional disjointed projects which hamper sustainability efforts.

ICE describes the complexity of the UK’s infrastructure needs to 2050 as ‘unprecedented’ with the population set to reach 75m people with the demographics seeing dramatic levels of ageing.

‘The effects of climate change are likely to become more noticeable, with extreme weather expected to increase the number of flooding and water shortage events that occur,’ it states, adding that ‘each of these factors will place new and challenging demands on the UK’s infrastructure, from the way we travel, through to our energy generating capabilities and consumption habits, water provision and flood defence systems. The nature of the relationships between these networks will also change as a consequence, whilst achieving net-zero emissions by 20504 will also create a number of challenges that cut across the infrastructure sector’.

The ICE recommendations include:

1) Adopt the recommendations put forward by the National Infrastructure Assessment in full and demonstrate in detail how each will be delivered.

2) Set out support for new approaches to funding and financing infrastructure, including: • a pay as you go model for England’s strategic road network by 2030 • the need for a UK financial institution to provide infrastructure finance in the event that the UK loses access to the European Investment Bank as a consequence of Brexit

3) Mandate the development of regional infrastructure strategies across England to ensure effective integration of infrastructure planning at multiple geographic scales.

4) Set out support for the principles of Project 13 as a new model to improve the delivery of major infrastructure projects and programmes. (Project 13 is an industry-led response to infrastructure delivery models that fail not just clients and their suppliers, but also the operators and users of our infrastructure systems and networks. It seeks to develop a new business model – based on an enterprise, not on traditional transactional arrangements – to boost certainty and productivity in delivery, improve whole life outcomes in operation and support a more sustainable, innovative, highly skilled industry.)

5) Include a robust plan for driving up the use of digital technologies and innovative approaches to infrastructure delivery, including: offsite construction, standardisation and design for manufacture and assembly.

Climate change and resilience are also key infrastructure demand drivers, says their report.

The extreme weather associated with climate change, such as heavy rainfall and higher average temperatures, have the tendency to cause more flooding and seasonal water shortages.

Any new strategy needs to address appropriate changes to flood management infrastructure and more effective use of demand-side techniques to tackle water usage.

And it will be implemented against a backdrop of the UK striving to achieve its target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Smart meters and smart motorway programmes will provide data to improve the performance of existing and future infrastructure networks as user patterns can be analysed to predict and manage future behaviours.

But significant behavioural change from leaders and in organisational culture is required across the infrastructure sector to embrace digital transformation and the benefits it can bring to services and facilities.

‘The low margins which are commonplace amongst the largest contracting organisations have resulted in a risk averse approach to technology and innovation,’ notes the ICE report. ‘It is necessary to create a policy and regulatory environment that incentivises behaviour change right throughout the supply chain.’

Arwyn Norris, Director of Civils and Infrastructure at Syntegra, said: ‘This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to really make a difference to the country’s infrastructure.

‘We need development to focus on creating a sustainable environment which encourages projects and processes targeting climate change to flourish.

‘We  are now getting the public on board with environmental concerns and national plans should capitalise on that support and make bold decisions to put sustainability at the heart of new  development, to structure processes accordingly and certainly to encourage digitalisation and eco-friendly construction policies wherever possible.

‘The public are more aware of the effects of flooding and climate change impacts due to the trend in social and mainstream media and they are becoming far more interested in the way developments are constructed to meet with a sustainable future. This puts emphasis and responsibilities on all parties to do all we can to improve and enhance our environment as it is firmly under the spotlight now – and rightly so.

‘Synetgra will be delighted to help drive progress in line with any supportive sustainability initiatives when the Strategy is launched.’