Transforming Infrastructure Performance: Roadmap to 2030 - data sharing and green delivery

Construction and Infrastructure must collect and share data on whole life asset performance. Collaboration around common standards is the key focus

04 November 2021

In order to meet the outcomes outlined within the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, a step change is required in infrastructure performance. To achieve these development goals and transition to NetZero by 2030, decision making at industry level must be rewired to embed respect for nature with better data sharing which will in turn lead to greater safety and security for society. Construction and Infrastructure businesses have a hugely impactful role to play and should be investing significantly.

TIP Roadmap to 2030 – endorsement of a Platform approach right across the sector

The Infrastructure & Projects Authority’s Transforming Infrastructure Performance: Roadmap to 2030 (the Roadmap) presents a vision for the future where we collectively prioritise societal outcomes and harness data and technology to improve delivery in the Built Environment, and aims to optimise productivity and efficiency through ‘whole of life’.

Alongside The Construction Playbook, the Roadmap seeks to develop outcome based specifications and new commercial industry models, drive innovation (including adoption of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)), and increase end-to-end delivery speed. Much of this will be familiar to those operating alongside UK Government approach to Social Value.

The five key focus areas of the Roadmap are:

1. Delivering new economic infrastructure to drive improved outcomes for people and nature

To address the a range of societal challenges (from changing patterns of use to climate change), assets should be both designed and monitored with ‘whole of life’ in mind to enable adaptations which improve resilience in the face of such challenges. However, to combat the existing siloed approach within the industry, whereby relationships are typically based on narrow scope with predefined output rather than freedom to produce innovative solutions, industry delivery partners must be incentivised.

The future of a digitally enabled and technology driven industry requires a fundamental shift in cultures (underpinned by an adaptable leadership rather than traditionally trained engineers). In order to establish a solid pipeline of sustainable developments, future skills needs in areas including digital, automation and sustainability should be anticipated and the industry into a more attractive career pathway for younger generations and emerging talent. MMC, particularly Design for Manufacture and Assembly can provide regular income and employment as well as reduced stress / mental health issues associated with traditional construction site working where extended periods of time spent away from family life.

2. Place-based regeneration and delivery

Strategic outcomes should be rooted in an understanding of local context but joined up cross-departmentally, nationally and regionally with data sharing, to increase the impact of interventions in the Built Environment. Not only could disproportionate investment exacerbate regional inquality, but failure to understand a locales unique features / needs could result in unintended adverse consequences for investments.

Infrastructure investment value will be maximised where funding is aligned with project outcomes and deployed in a timely and effective manner. Seeking greater impact from investment, the new UK Infrastructure Bank has pledged £12bn for strategic infrastructure projects that accelerate Net Zero objectives.

3. Addressing the need for social infrastructure using a platform approach

The way buildings are currently delivered is inefficient, fragmented and siloed with inconsistency of labour forces increasing cost and reducing quality of output. Investments could be put to better use where standardisation and interoperability are brought to the fore, for example with a platform approach to Design for Manufacture and Engineering (PDfMA), which would help create a more stable manufacturing industry that not only offers consistent quality output but also stable, consistent and inclusive employment, as well as creating opportunities to aggregate demand and build on economies of scale.

PDfMA identifies common asset metrics (such as building grid and floor to ceiling height) and components (such as staircases) that could be shared and connections harmonised with other components to create widely available ‘kits of parts’, manufactured at consistently high standards in high volumes by a range of suppliers for resilience. Greatest value would come from harmonisation of key components such as structural grids, beams, columns, connections and slabs across all sectors. However, collation and open sharing of real time quality data is critical for innovation and interoperability in this area. Interoperability of systems is the key commercial challenge here, but prize is huge and the pull factor of collaboration increasingly strong.

Transitioning to a platform approach would require a paradigm shift in culture to facilitate shared digital design catalogues, design rules and configuration tools.

4. Retrofitting existing buildings to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

The government plans to create a self-sustaining market for retrofitting existing buildings to address climate change requirements and create ‘green jobs’ that cater for varying regional need. and boosts public confidence in the development industry in all sectors including housing with consistent high quality output. The purpose of the scheme is to improve building energy performance, cost and comfort (in terms of temperature, air quality and noise protection). We have seen similar initiatives before of course. The fiscal structure needs to be stable to encourage investment. There is a lot of catching up to do, for example the EPC scoring system has perhaps not kept pace with policy development.

Measures must be designed to increase the lifespan of existing Built Environment will include ‘Fabric First’ thermal efficiency solutions for walls, roofs and windows etc, and ‘whole building approach’ which addresses Fabric First in conjunction with smart metering, energy efficient appliances, heating systems and controls, all of which operating to a set of minimum performance standards.

5. Optimising the performance of our existing Built Environment

The current preference for ‘adding new’ rather than ‘enhancing existing’ is not sustainable and must be departed from in view of the finite nature of our resources. Use of data to monitor the effectiveness of interventions in achieving the desired outcome will be paramount and stakeholders should be incentivised to provide innovative solutions for optimum outcomes. Here the Construction Playbook emphasis on taking the time at the front of a potential project to determine the outcome required and whether a Built Environment intervention is even the right approach, is key. What does not exist, is a long term (5-10 year) budgetary approach that allows some of those decisions to be made on good data and sufficiently ahead of need. Too often, political news value of announcements, annual budget round and even purdah around elections gets in the way of good project decision making.

Action Plan

Crucial to the success of the Roadmap is the implementation of the common themes of the Action Plan:

1. Data & Insight – collate, collect, analyse and store data in relation to performance, productivity, delivery and deliverables.

  • Mechanisms for generating, recording and storing consistent and openly shared system level performance measurement / feedback loops must be developed. A future Digital Twin Mandate has been outlined with the purpose of improving understanding of the asset in question and the interplay between that asset and the wider infrastructure system as well as surrounding natural environment.
  • Data must be gathered and used to build evidence bases to develop commercial baselines (e.g. for cost modelling and/or carbon accounting), establish benchmarks for better performance and inform future policy. Construction metrics will be standardised and Project Outcome Profiles required for all public projects to drive outcome focussed decision making, supported by data.

2. Business & Delivery Models – governance and contracting models that support collaboration and innovation / use of technology for ‘whole of life’

  • Matrix working will break down procurement silos and may blur lines between traditional disciplines but collaboration agreements and model delivery partnerships with aligned outcomes could improve delivery models.
  • The future Construction Platform Mandate for certain asset classes such as prisons, hospitals and schools plans a shift towards manufacturing will lead to more fixed manufacturing facilities and more fixed location workers which is less disruptive to family life and therefore more conducive to better mental wellbeing.
  • Increased uptake of government funded research and development via organisations such as the Construction Innovation Hub must be encouraged.

3. Market Capacity & Productivity – continuous improvement in efficiencies and supply chain capabilities

  • Visibility on size, scale and nature of future projects must be maintained to facilitate appropriate and sufficient investment in the UK skills market to cater for future demand.
  • Construction technology has the ability to reduce design risk and delivery risk (particularly health and safety) and improve productivity in the market as a whole.

4. Environment & Sustainability – embed NetZero commitments, sustainability targets and environmental enhancements in an asset for ‘whole of life’

  • Asset performance data and sustainability metrics must be used to improve performance, resilience and adaptability having regard to climate change and changing societal needs. Carbon emissions must be reduced such that the development industry is eventually decarbonised using ‘whole of life’ methodologies.

5. Expertise & Capability – deploy and develop people with required skills, expertise and capability

  • Professional expertise in relation to digital and automation industries must be improved and resources appropriately allocated with regard to project requirements. New collaboration and capacity building models should be developed and project models revisited on longstanding projects.

Secret to Success

Collaboration is just as vital as understanding of the interlinked nature of infrastructure systems and their respective impacts on both environment and society. Priorities for decision making and design must be aligned and integrated from the outset, particularly where there are cultural barriers to overcome. Aligned outcomes and corresponding incentive schemes will lead to greater impact from investment at societal level.

The emphasis for implementation of the Roadmap is on not rushing to short term solutions. Built Environment is typically responsive to local context but does not sufficiently recognise changing societal needs - the role of data (and digital twins) is to establish frameworks and develop expertise / toolkits that enable flexible and adaptive modelling of long term solutions. However, before this can happen, major systematic change needs to take place and behaviours and cultures addressed.

‘Investor Stewardship’, i.e. encouragement and support of transition to adopt new ‘greener’ delivery strategies with allocation of capital and/or challenging and monitoring of strategic outcomes, will also be critical for continued growth. Requiring disclosure by lenders of EPC ratings across mortgage portfolios can incentivise the development of green finance products.

Approach to investments must therefore shift with greater impetus placed on 'whole of life' cost rather than initial capital cost. Using PDfMA as an example, done correctly it should in itself should not be costlier than traditional delivery strategies, but the payment profile inevitably becomes frontloading. Forthcoming public projects adopting PDfMA delivery models have potential to lay the foundations for consumer trust to drive private demand with scalable delivery models for commercial and consumer sectors, maximising the value of frontloaded capital investments.

Learning from the 'best in class'

Certain sectors including defence, justice, education, healthcare and leisure, are already driving the use of smarter construction methods such as PDfMA, in keeping with the UK Government presumption in-favour of off-site construction. With forecasted infrastructure spend of over £650bn in the next 10 years, there is great potential for success but the government must continue to lead the way.

The UK Government plans outlined in Greening Finance: A Roadmap to Sustainable Investing, to introduce Green Taxonomy requirements (TCSs) as part of the Sustainability Disclosure Requirements (SDRs), will apply further pressure for private corporations particularly in the financial sector to ensure they are better equipped to play their part in achieving NetZero. Under SDR, certain companies will be required to disclose the percentage of their capital expenditure, operational expenditure and turnover that relates to ‘Taxonomy aligned’ activities. Activities must meet certain criteria to be considered sustainable – aiming for consistent benchmarking in relation to (i) climate change mitigation / adaptation (ii) water usage and waterway protection (iii) circular economy (iv) pollution and (v) biodiversity. Proposed TSCs also capture and recognise ‘enabling activities’ which support transition to sustainability by facilitation but are currently not sustainable e.g. manufacturing of greener components such as turbines. Informed by reliable data from corporate disclosures, providers of investment products will then disclose the extent to which those products are ‘Taxonomy aligned’ based on their assets. This will enable investors to conduct ‘Investor Stewardship’ by identify products which are making a substantial contribution to environmental objectives.

Although it may currently feel somewhat 'the chicken or the egg', the more projects actively engaging with the principles and methodologies within the Roadmap and the more data / metrics available, the better informed decision making will be at all levels from adoption to design to investment.

We are immensely looking forward to working with our clients to push these important initiatives forward through all the sectors of UK infrastructure and Built Environment.

This article was written by Jen Glinos. If you have any questions about the topics discussed, please contact a member of the construction and engineering team or your usual Burges Salmon contact.

Key contact

Marcus Harling

Marcus Harling Partner

  • Construction and Engineering 
  • Transport and Regeneration
  • Modern Methods of Construction

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