In a week’s time – at 21.24pm to be precise – the Northern Hemisphere marches into spring.
What has this got to do with engineering?
Well, spring – characteristically associated with new beginnings, opportunity, and life – presents us with the perfect opportunity to look ahead and get excited for projects on the horizon. To quote Langston Hughes:
“In time of silver rain
The earth puts forth new life again,
Green grasses grow
And flowers lift their heads,
And over all the plain
The wonder spreads
Wondrous life-improving endeavors are in progress all around us. For example, close to our HQ in Leeds comes the £210m ‘Cultural Heart development’ – a complete regeneration of Huddersfield’s town centre Piazza, designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios.[ii] The project proposals have now been approved by the Local Planning Authority and include a new glass-fronted library featuring a top-floor terrace and events space onlooking the landmark public square.[iii] The library will be housed within part of the historic Grade II Listed Queensgate Market, with the remaining space transformed into several food stalls boasting ample shared seating space for families and friends to relax and enjoy. Preparation works are set to begin this year, with early construction to start in Spring 2024, and the completion of Phase One’s envisioned for spring 2026.[iv] After Phase One’s competition, works will begin to build an urban park, museum, art gallery and 2,200-capacity multi-use entertainment venue featuring a 350-space car park.
Elsewhere, momentous projects are continuing to shape the country’s infrastructure this year. Notably:
Sizewell C nuclear plant, located in Suffolk, the power station is French developer EDF’s sequel to Somerset’s Hinkley Point C.
The Lower Thames Crossing, where the Roads North contract of approx. 10 miles has been awarded by National Highways to Balfour Beatty.[v]
High Speed 2 phase 2a, this runs between the West Midlands and Crewe, bringing HS2 up north.
These three multibillion-pound projects represent some of the UK’s most prestigious ongoing schemes. Each pivotal advancement offers massive opportunity for the industry to advance. For instance, designers, developers and clients can progress from lessons learnt. How? By innovating successfully for the future and creating more efficient ways to match resources with demand.
For example, on projects comprising highways elements, why not utilise common components throughout each job? These elements can be honed and then replicated and rolled out at scale across numerous locations or stages of the megaprojects.
ICE suggest that clients collaborate to deliver with efficiency, avoiding the dreaded “frequent slipping of procurement dates.”[vi]
Collaboration and communication throughout the industry will likewise foster a more assured workforce, conducive to productivity.
Wondering how it will achieve this? By breaking the vicious cycle of dampened confidence (a result of uncertainty often caused by external events) which presently leads clients to delay jobs and drives up prices.[vii]
A successful case study of the scope for efficiency and cooperation outlined above is Network Rail and Keltbray’s overhead railway wiring renewal. The project was selected as a pilot scheme for the SPEED (Swift, Pragmatic and Efficient Enhancement Delivery) initiative co-created by Network Rail and the Department for Transport. In this instance, standardisation and boosted productivity (Keltbray used multiple teams to work in parallel) helped to cut 45 weeks from the programme and save £18m.[viii]
So… Good riddance to winter, bring on 2023’s most productive season, we are more than ready!
[ii] Aaron Morby, “Go-ahead for Huddersfield town centre £210m regeneration,” Construction Enquirer, https://www.constructionenquirer.com/2023/03/03/go-ahead-for-210m-huddersfield-town-centre-regeneration/ 03 March 2023
[iii] “Green light for £210m town centre regeneration,” The Business Desk, https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/yorkshire/news/2105935-green-light-for-210m-town-centre-regeneration
[iv] Aaron Morby, “Go-ahead for Huddersfield town centre £210m regeneration,” Construction Enquirer, https://www.constructionenquirer.com/2023/03/03/go-ahead-for-210m-huddersfield-town-centre-regeneration/ 03 March 2023
[v] National Highways, https://nationalhighways.co.uk/our-roads/lower-thames-crossing/news-and-media/news/balfour-beatty-awarded-roads-north-of-the-thames-contract/ 23 January 2023.
[vi] Robin Latchem and Greg Pitcher, “Infrastructure in 2023: A horizon scan of the year ahead for civil engineering” ICE, https://www.ice.org.uk/media/jrunxecc/2022-12-07-ice-infrastructure-in-2023.pdf December 2022.