10 simple ways to ensure a successful infrastructure project

Keith Howells | August 4, 2021 | 216 views

In amongst the chatter about how we can 'do' infrastructure better, there's now a growing consensus that we need to improve the way we design our interventions - 'design' in the broader sense of the word, rather than the narrow sense we tend to use as engineers.

My front-end principles for better infrastructure
Over the course of my career, the following front-end principles have served well to ensure we think through, before we rush in where angels fear to tread.
  • Be clear about the purpose and the expected outcomes, and engage communities in decision-making through an effective communication strategy.
  • Prioritise the user, aiming to offer services that are modern, effective and affordable.
  • Seek to improve people's quality of life and support the transition to a more sustainable future, while also facilitating the functioning of the economy, enhancing productivity and accommodating growth (to the extent possible, given other competing objectives).
  • Extract greatest value from existing infrastructure through timely maintenance, repurposing, renewal and upgrading. Seek to remove constraints and bottlenecks.
  • Aim to make best use of data, automation, innovation and technology (including for future asset management), recognising the complexity and risks this may introduce.
  • Recognise, analyse, mitigate and manage technical, environmental and climate risks, and complete any surveys necessary to support this.
  • Improve governance, with robust, timely and transparent decision-making, supported by strong evidence-based planning, clear prioritisation, and best practice technical design and delivery.
  • Seek an appropriate funding balance between 'user pays' and general taxation which incentivises behaviours in the best long-term social, economic and environmental interests.
  • Complete well-evidenced business cases and risk assessments of proposed initiatives before embarking on projects, including financing proposals. Aim to allocate the risks identified to those best able to carry them.
  • Facilitate collaboration between the government and business to promote delivery of the broader social, economic and environmental benefits.
  • Clearly, there are many other issues to consider as a project develops, and the above principles may seem obvious to some, and a counsel of perfection to others, but it's surprising how many are overlooked in the rush to build.

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