Recovery should be driven by environment and digital connectivity, claims ICE report

A strategic post-Covid-19 recovery should be driven by environment and digital connectivity, claims Institution of Civil Engineers.

An infrastructure-led recovery from Covid-19 will require a long-term, green strategy, starting with investment in fibre, 5G, cycling and walking, an Infrastructure Client Group and Institution of Civil Engineers' report has concluded.

Following a comprehensive consultation with infrastructure professionals, the Covid-19 and the new normal for infrastructure systems – next steps white paper recommends a series of steps to maximise the value of infrastructure investment and ensure challenges such as decarbonisation, regional inequalities and economy-wide productivity are tackled.

Population growth, the 2050 net-zero emissions target and the UN Sustainable Development Goals also feature prominently as key issues. 

The report concludes that to deliver these interventions better, faster and greener will require better alignment of construction initiatives, with four key enablers highlighted within the recommendations to support this shift towards more strategic reinvention in how infrastructure is delivered:

  • Investing in digitalisation;
  • Embedding client-led enterprise-based delivery models based on Project 13 principles;
  • Shifting to intelligent and outcome-based procurement models;
  • Fostering new leadership based on a systems integration skillset.

Paul Sheffield, president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, said: “Thanks to the strong response to our call for evidence, we’ve been able to highlight an expectation that there will be no drastic shift as a result of Covid-19. Instead it has merely shone a light on priorities we have always known about; regional inequalities, the pressing challenge of decarbonisation and the need to improve productivity particularly through digital adoption.

“There are real opportunities to become more intelligent and outcomes-focused in how we deliver infrastructure, in order to unlock better value for money and reduce carbon. We will be driving forward the four strategic enablers identified by this work to capitalise on the unique opportunity to reshape how infrastructure is delivered in the public's name.”

Due to the major rise in homeworking and subsequent reductions in public transport usage, a focus on accelerating the roll-out of both full-fibre and 5G communications infrastructure, as well as greater active travel provision for cycling and walking, were also recommended.

The report was carried out by the Institution on behalf of the Infrastructure Client Group (ICG).  Around 100 organisations and stakeholders respond to the call for submissions.

Nirmal Kotecha, chair of the Infrastructure Client Group Management Board, said: “It was imperative we conduct this project, to ensure we start off on the correct footing as we plan the recovery. As infrastructure owners and operators, we have a duty to ensure the infrastructure system is managed and developed with clear societal outcomes in mind. These recommendations provide a framework to ensure that happens in a way that is focused, aligned across supply chains and strategic in the end goal.”

Recommendations outlined in the paper will be taken forward by the ICG and the Institution through their relevant workstreams. Action on delivery will be primarily driven through the Construction Leadership Council’s Infrastructure Working Group, which will be chaired by Paul Sheffield.

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