Article | July 7, 2021
Experts from the construction industry predict a bright future for precast elements: the average annual growth rate of the global precast concrete industry is expected to be 5.3% between 2021 and 2028. In 2020, the precast concrete market was valued at around USD 92.14 billion and is anticipated to grow to over USD 139.33 billion in 2028. However, the average growth rate of the construction industry as a whole is expected to be just 3.2% annually according to the Global Construction Report. Why industrialized construction in particular is growing faster than the rest of the construction industry can be explained by the numerous advantages of this technology.
Article | July 13, 2021
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in its latest Fiscal Risks Report has forecast the cost to the UK public finances from climate change (physical risks) and the transition to net-zero (transition risks) across a range of different scenarios.
Describing the challenge, the OBR states:
There are many other policy challenges to overcome, so the path to net zero can be expected to involve many policy levers on top of carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes, including bans and other regulations, and public subsidies and investment. These will all have economic and fiscal implications of one sort or another – either directly (via taxes and spending) or indirectly (via wider economic outcomes).
Taking early action to achieve net zero would add 21% of GDP to public sector net debt by 2050, a smaller amount than that added by the Covid-19 pandemic. This amount comes from increased spending on net-zero investment, the loss of tax revenues (such as fuel duty), revenues from tax on carbon and other costs such as increased debt interest payments.
Article | May 18, 2021
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has published a new assessment of how behaviour change brought by Covid-19 will impact infrastructure networks as part of its prep work ahead of the second National Infrastructure Assessment.
The NIC’s findings are that it's too early to assume that Covid-19 behaviour change will lead to completely different patterns of infrastructure use, even if these changes remain in place. The commission recommends using realistic scenarios and planning responses to the range of possibilities these scenarios present to manage uncertainty. They also suggest a more ‘adaptive’ approach to longer-term project commitments and using data to understand how changes are unfolding.
Article | August 4, 2021
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.