Catching up with some of the online construction trade press recently, I came across an article about megaprojects and whether the investment of time, money and resources really sees an adequate return in terms of value.

 

Based on a paper called ‘Big is Fragile’ published in the Oxford Handbook of Megaproject Management’, this article raised some interesting questions for Sika as a supplier of a wide range of  construction solutions, and the Sika Major Projects Team that specialises in projects with a  value of  £150+ million.

Steve Squire, Head of Major Projects Team

It talks about the concept of scalability; highlighting the fact that creating facilities significantly larger than required for current needs is seen to be an advantage of megaprojects because it futureproofs the scheme and builds in flexibility.

 

While scalability is important, it’s also worth noting that this does not have to be constructed in single phase. Futureproofing in the sense of understanding how a building can be adapted and extended (in terms of footprint, height or capacity) is an essential part of project planning, but building in excessive redundant capacity based on projections of future need may not optimise budgets or resources.  Certainly it could reduce future disruption and will provide capex certainty on development costs.

Developing a project with limited redundant capacity for future use and a clear plan of possible modifications and additions could prove to be effective in certain situations. It means that operational costs may be reduced, from energy to maintenance and security, while creating the possibility that building materials and construction techniques could improve and offer new opportunities for upscaling at a future date. After all, progressive suppliers like Sika are constantly investing in research and development to bring new innovations to market.

 

Technology also plays a part of course. For example, airlines and airport operators are looking at different ways in which passenger baggage is handled (you may not need to take your suitcase to the airport and check it in yourself in the not too distant future), the use of autonomous vehicles within the airport support functions and how passengers will use airport terminals, all of which may mean terminal buildings of the future are much smaller.

With the advent of BIM, all information relating to materials and specification is built into the model(s), providing all the data required for legacy management, including integration of new extensions or remodelling of schemes.

 

What’s more, the BIM process also supports early engagement and collaborative working, which means that delivery partners can leverage the advantages of working with suppliers like Sika, with its wide range of integrated solutions to rationalise the supply chain and achieve a complementary spec both at initial build and for any subsequent upscaling scheme.

 

The megaprojects referred to in the report focused on major infrastructure and energy investment. It is important, especially with larger infrastructure projects to consider the uses of the project, not just at the time of design, but at the time of completion and beyond. Perhaps if the M25 had been built as four lanes in the first place, it wouldn’t have been over-burdened almost from the day it opened.

 

With a growing population and changing social and economic demands, we need to consider the strains these will put on other sectors such as healthcare and education which present a strong case for ‘going large from the outset’.