The technology exists to bring together the government, businesses and the public on infrastructure schemes
With just under a year to go until the next general election, the construction industry has already found itself on the political agenda with David Cameron recently pledging to push forward with large infrastructure projects such as George Osborne’s plan to provide new housing zones across London or, more recently, his speech about building a third high-speed rail link to create a “Northern Powerhouse” to rival London and the South-east.
As we are all very well aware, large-scale projects, such as HS2, often spark debate and highlight conflicting viewpoints between the various interest groups. While the general public may be aware and fully supportive of the potential economic benefits of such projects, many tend to adopt the stance of “not in my back yard”. As a result it is easy to see why the government holds off on making necessary, but potentially unpopular, decisions.
The biggest call to action lies with the active promotion of a joint conversation between all stakeholders including the government, industry professionals and, of course, the general public
It is at this juncture where industry experts can play a vital role. Construction experts and companies have a wealth of experience and data from working on large-scale projects all over the world, and can use that knowledge and present it to inform the government, and educate the public. This professional backing also needs to be communicated far more vocally to the public. The public is often reluctant to simply accept what government tells them, so the whole professional community should take a more active role in promoting a “balanced” discussion to ensure the public are well informed and ultimately supportive.
We are seeing numerous examples of how large projects are being realised more efficiently. In the redevelopment of Denver International Airport, Building Information Modelling (BIM) not only helped to streamline the process through co-ordinated project timelines and collaboration around a central model, but also managed to minimise disruption to travellers and served as a critical communication tool at all stages of the process to keep interested parties informed.
So the technology is there to provide the tools to assist in the process. However, the biggest call to action lies with the active promotion of a joint conversation between all stakeholders including the government, industry professionals and, of course, the general public, either through open meetings or the regular sharing of information. If we can achieve this type of collaboration then we can take debates on infrastructure beyond arguments between the political parties to analytical input from the industry itself. The lessons learned from previous projects will add further weight and legitimacy to discussions, as well as providing invaluable advice and practical solutions. There is even an opportunity to engage the public through the use of technology, allowing them to view planned buildings in situ through the use of high-resolution render images and 3D models.
To help drive forward successful, innovative infrastructure projects in the UK it will take government vision, construction industry experience and the buy-in from the general public. The construction industry has a vital role to play, and must actively help drive forward UK infrastructure by engaging more openly with the government and citizens.
Pete Baxter is vice president for engineering, natural resources and infrastructure sales for Autodesk in EMEA