Skip to content
Search

News & opinion

19 NOV 2019

Values-based lens brings efficiencies to mega projects

Alan Muse FRICS

Alan Muse FRICS

Director of Built Environment Professional Groups

London, UK

RICS

Significant productivity gains can be made across the whole construction sector with a relatively small change in approach and behaviour. From infrastructure to housebuilding, from design through construction to maintenance, repair and occupation using technology to optimize processes can improve outcomes on any project and deliver real value. This was the topic of one of the panels at the inaugural 2019 Construction Symposium hosted by RICS and Columbia University.

The panel examined how technology and talent are transforming mega projects – from project efficiencies and cost controls to sustainable operations and end-user experiences. Joining me on the panel was Alan Chaudhry, Senior VP and Chief Development Officer of AECOM, Debra Pothier, Senior Global Manager and Construction Strategist with Autodesk Education, Tim McManus, Associate Professor with Columbia University and James Murphy, VP of Government Services for Turner & Townsend.

Finding opportunities to deliver value

The current business model is highly transactional with little motivation for the hundreds of designers, contractors and suppliers to engage with each other at the early stages of a project or to stay attached to - and learn from - the asset once it's in use.

This leads to repetition of mistakes, failure to adopt best practice and often the delivery of a sub-optimal end-product, low margins and, ultimately, lack of industry investment.

For example, a study on the value of good design in the UK showed it could:

  • improve learning in schools by 10 percent
  • increase productivity in the workplace by 20 percent
  • speed up recovery in hospitals by 27 percent
  • help to reduce crime rates by 67 percent

This becomes even more significant in mega projects. Certainly, in infrastructure, the total cost of ownership is key. Innovation in project delivery, such as P3 and PFI help to focus decisions on these wider issues and have a good track record of capital delivery success.

blueprint-planning-plans-pexels
The outcome of mega projects can dramatically be improved by bringing people, process and technology together

How do we improve design to avoid these common downfalls? It's done by bringing people, process and technology together – particularly during the initial phase of a project when all stakeholders can come together to set expectations.

Everyone benefits when at the outset, the stakeholders meet to engage on the key expectations and requirements of the project. For example, assessing wider metrics for business cases across whole life outcomes, design quality, program, capital cost and social value at briefing will allow clarity for a value-based lens through which to make decisions.

Looking ahead and looking back

For stakeholders to apply a value-based lens on a project, we need standards to set benchmarks for comparison, process to weigh and apply learnings and technology to gather the required data according to the benchmarks (many of the measures already exist).

We also need to share best practices with clients to educate them on the benefits of change, robust professional standards that will support those embarking on new ways of determining value and talent equipped to take advantage of this opportunity.

How do we improve design to avoid these common downfalls? It's done by bringing people, process and technology together – particularly during the initial phase of a project when all stakeholders can come together to set expectations.

This focus on values would not end at the planning phase or even at the asset’s hand-off. It would lead on to procurement decisions, for both consultants, contractors and facility managers, to be made through the lens of wider value. This change is happening for mega projects that are publicly owned – stakeholders are looking at the lifecycle cost of the asset to put offset costs into perspective.

Most of the cost spend on the life of an asset occurs during the maintenance of an asset. The higher costs of green measures during construction are low in comparison to the savings they can bring throughout a lifetime of the asset’s use through energy use reduction, lower HVAC costs and improved productivity for occupants.

The construction sector is engaged in building assets of immense social value. In the planning phase, in the building phase and throughout the asset’s lifecycle, listening and learning to project stakeholders, experienced professionals and the public is an important way to ensure the asset is a positive addition to the built environment.

Alan Muse FRICS

Alan Muse FRICS

Director of Built Environment Professional Groups

London, UK

RICS

Alan has more than 30 years experience in construction (with 15 years as a director), specialising in the project and cost management of schemes up to £4 billion. Projects have been across all sectors, but particularly offices, industrial, mixed-use, urban regeneration, data centres and public sector schemes such as schools and rail and road infrastructure. Overseas experience includes spells in both the Middle East and Indonesia.

More from Alan