How UK infrastructure sector can save £3bn on earthworks every decade – New Civil Engineer

14 Jan, 2022 By Rob Horgan
Savings of up to £3bn each decade could be achieved on UK infrastructure projects by making changes to the way earthworks are conducted.
That is the conclusion of a new study led by HS2, Expedition Engineering, and the Infrastructure Industry Innovation Partnership (i3P), which has identified opportunities which will improve productivity in UK earthworks by an estimated 10-20%.
The study has identified 26 opportunities to unlock savings of up to £300M a year. They include:
Many of the opportunities presented have wider benefits, for example by reducing embodied carbon, improving environmental performance, and improving air quality. The savings referenced were calculated based on savings already achieved by HS2 Ltd and its contractors. The report reveals that HS2 Ltd has saved around 12% on phase 2 earthworks costs by focussing their efforts during the procurement stage. Further work done by HS2’s contractors shows a potential 27% saving on current earthworks benchmarks through the adoption of digital engineering techniques, the report adds.
Technologies and techniques identified as providing maximum benefits include using new surveying and testing techniques; implementing mobile or pop-up site labs to avoid delays in receiving lab results; utilising real-time KPI data through advanced testing technology; and conducting ground investigations in tandem to other early works to maximise efficiencies. Other recommendations include re-use of tunnel spoil; implementing a system-wide plant procurement and allocation system to keep costs down; and tailoring risk management protocols to individual projects to eliminate a high number of excessive or inappropriate risk management exercises being carried out.
The report also recommends the creation of a Skills Development Programme, to tackle a growing skills shortage within the industry and with the aim of ensuring that the sector develops and equips people with the necessary skills to support innovations in the earthworks sector, for example in digital engineering technology, low carbon design and error avoidance.
The research also outlines a delivery strategy and approach to mainstreaming innovation in earthworks based on three key principles: client leadership and active engagement; supply chain participation and collaboration; and programmatic focus, based on coherent themes.
i3P senior lead Will Reddaway said: “There is an opportunity to transform productivity in earthworks to deliver more projects on-time and under budget. This report has identified significant opportunities which can improve productivity of British earthworks by up to a fifth with the potential to save £300M per year and £3bn over the next decade.”
He added: “HS2 is leaving a positive legacy which will transform the way we carry out both large-scale engineering projects, and smaller construction and infrastructure projects in the future. Realising the opportunities presented in this study has the potential to put Britain at the forefront of Earthworks for global mega projects, and will deliver highly-prized export opportunities for British infrastructure expertise.”
In total 28 organisations have been involved in the research including the creators of some of Britain’s largest infrastructure projects including: HS2, the Environment Agency, National Highways, EDF, Sellafield, Thames Tideway, and the Northern Ireland Department of Infrastructure.
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