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Can construction rise to the Project Speed challenge?

Can construction rise to the Project Speed challenge?

Credit: PA Images

Hannah Vickers, Chief Executive | Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE)

3 min read Partner content

The construction sector has the vision and expertise to meet Government ambitions for better delivery of projects.

In June 2020 the Prime Minister outlined his vision to deliver the Government’s public investment projects more efficiently.

Dubbed Project Speed, the concept was simple – we should apply principles inspired by our response to the pandemic, notably the Nightingale hospitals, to all public projects.

This shift in approach would deliver infrastructure and programmes “better, greener and faster” and ensure that this investment could act as a catalyst for a societal and economic post-pandemic recovery.

For the businesses I represent – those who design, deliver and manage our infrastructure and built environment – the Government has thrown down the gauntlet.

Not only must we “build back better” but we need to do this in a smarter and more strategic way. Given our impact on more than 30% or £570 billion a year of GVA, any change will have a huge impact.

Working towards a single goal

As is often the case with public policy there is no silver bullet. Not only will it require all areas of the construction industry to work towards a single goal, but it will also require joined up Government to do the same.

Since Project Speed’s launch, we’ve seen tangible improvements to planning policy and public procurement.

On the face of it perhaps not the most eye-catching of announcements, but in the real world these are vital steps if we are to realise swifter delivery of projects and programmes.

As the designers of the future, our industry is bursting at the seems with great ideas, as well as the technical know-how to turn them into reality.

This is why we are often a key partner for government and our reputation in design and engineering is sought after across the world. As such, it is also up to us to propose viable solutions.

Our industry has a vital role to play as a driver of economic recovery, as well as delivering ambitions on levelling-up, and aspirations for a Net Zero future

It was for this reason that ACE convened a number of thematic roundtables with Laing O’Rourke, Mace, Reds10, Network Rail and Thakeham joining our members to discuss tangible ways to speed up delivery around hospitals, schools, rail and homes.

The discussions, summarised in the Project Speed briefings we are sharing today, saw common themes emerge – better use of data, the digitising of previously paper-based processes such as planning consultations, a new approach to value-based decision making looking beyond the financial, and how good design will improve health, education, housing or transport outcomes.

Through the positive examples and case studies shared, we have outlined tangible steps that show we can work together to speed up school and hospital building programmes, maintain and improve our national rail infrastructure, and meet tough housebuilding targets.

However, the conclusions also offer lessons which can be applied across all areas of delivery.

Meeting Government ambitions

Our industry has a vital role to play as a driver of economic recovery, as well as delivering ambitions on levelling-up, and aspirations for a Net Zero future.

Frankly, this is a huge to-do list and anything that we can do to improve delivery has to be seen in this light.

More than this, we can use the lessons learnt to further enhance our reputation worldwide as the focus shifts towards a Global Britain.

The challenge was made clear. We have demonstrated that we have the technical knowledge, experience and creativity to rise to it.

It is now time for us to work together and make Project Speed a reality.

Download ACE’s Project Speed briefings on hospitals, schools, homes and rail here

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