The construction industry is going through rapid changes as it attempts to meet both regional and global sustainability targets. Bryan Harvey, Vice President of Global Programme Management, Jacobs, says that, when it comes to infrastructure, the industry has been focused on dealing with the impact of climate change and ageing infrastructure pollution, when instead the key focus should be resilience. Harvey says that society now expects infrastructure to include clean energy, clean transport, natural capital and biodiversity as well as reducing pollution. “Looking back two and a half years ago, it was absolutely crystal clear that we needed to address and find new ways of developing infrastructure to meet these needs. The need of society in terms of infrastructure growth, the population, and so on. But also the need of society getting cleaner and greener at all times,” he says.
Since then, Harvey says that as an industry we have been through the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit (the UK leaving the European Union) and serious supply chain challenges. The G20 economies have invested significant amounts of money into global infrastructure as a stimulus and as a response to the pandemic. Harvey continues, “We’ve more recently been impacted globally from the conflict in Ukraine and there is a continuity of lockdowns in some cities as a response to the pandemic. So, what has really happened over this last two-and-ahalf-year period?
“There has been a massive shock to the supply, demand and balance of the industry that in itself has created quite significant inflationary pressures in everything from material supply to plant and labour. “And when you analyse this shock, it is particularly those sectors which are fossil fuel or energy heavy carbon sectors which have had the biggest impact in the shortest term.”
Harvey stresses that construction needs to work out ways to reduce carbon emissions and build stronger resilience as well as much stronger social equity from infrastructure through digital and agile thinking, in addition to modular manufacturing.
Looking at the solutions to these challenges, Harvey says, “We are not just expecting new infrastructure – we are expecting so much more from the environment and much more for society.
“In the past, we tended to focus on minimising the impact of infrastructure, but now we need to take things a whole lot further and really look at multiple long-term positive impacts from the structure as we develop it. “Gone are the days when we just build a road. We need to build a whole new element of society along with that road. Therefore, our real intention is to focus on blended infrastructure solutions, things that impact other elements of society.”
Digital transformation is a crucial building block to moving forward. “If you get digital transformation, you get a different level of transparency and an increased level of trust as well as increased innovation,” he says. Digital delivery has become much more transparent and can help with the many challenges that are facing the industry, including sustainability. “It will bring together many parts of the industry because we can start to think with scale rather than in small component parts defined by our respective scopes,” comments Harvey.
“With increased digital delivery, we’ll also be able to start thinking much more about the demand for standardisation, modularisation and things that will again start to increase scale. And, by thinking more in a standardised way, we can then start to think about reducing waste and optimising the carbon impact.” iC