When it comes to major infrastructure projects, our role as design engineers covers the processes through which the project is delivered, as well as how the civil engineering supports the asset over its operational life. And it’s in these areas where we can have the biggest positive impact on project costs.
Some still perceive taking the time to undertake a thorough design process as a risk to programme timelines and budget but, in fact, the opposite is true in our experience.
Placing design, as defined above, firmly at the very centre of infrastructure projects doesn’t just save money – both in CapEx and whole life costs – it adds value, minimises risk and helps to create an asset which functions as intended long into the future.
WCS is committed to a range of practices intended to deliver value and prevent additional expense for a client during the procurement and operational life of an infrastructure project. Here we explore some of these practices.
Early involvement designs out problems from the outset
Inevitably, as projects proceed, any redesigns have an impact on project time and cost. The earlier our engagement in a project, the more thorough the briefing process can be, reducing the chances of potentially costly redesigns later due to unforeseen factors.
Our Tier 1 clients understand that by engaging and consulting with our design teams early we can fully understand what we’re working with from the outset, and use that knowledge and understanding to optimise the design, integrate best practices, and reflect on the methodology to the benefit of overall project delivery.
Agility and flexibility pays off
As a company, our culture and attitude means we have the flexibility and agility needed to engage in new ideas, and yield project benefits in terms of time, cost and resources. Our team looks to innovatively surpass the brief’s expectations, within budget.
This innovative thinking helps us choose alternative ways of approaching common problems. For example, when working on the Midland Mainline Rail Electrification Project, we collaborated on a plan to place a trackside substation by jacking it from the lorry rather than lifting it using a crane. This simple solution saved the client’s budget originally allocated to the crane, and the track remained operational throughout the procedure, minimising disruption and the costs associated with temporary track closures.
Our aim is also to solve an engineering challenge with as few physical resources as possible, which ensures the budget is optimised and can often also positively impact the sustainability of a project. Our skilled engineers have the experience and expertise to approach challenges using only the most appropriate resources to achieve a successful design.
Site visits positively impact project cost
The experience gained with alternative methodology proved once again useful when our team was adding a substation during an underground railway infrastructure project.
With limited space available for the new unit, the usual procedure would be to install temporary alternative switching and cabling to make room for the new unit to be built and commissioned. But, by visiting the site and surveying the location, our team identified a non-load bearing wall that, once demolished, provided the space to install the new substation without the need to provide any additional temporary cabling.
We estimate that, thanks to the solution we identified, there was a saving of around £0.5 million in overall project cost.
Technology brings savings
From out on site to back in the office, our team is always looking for ways to make projects more cost effective for clients. We are not interested in cost-cutting initiatives to the detriment of high quality though. On the contrary, our objective is to integrate cost efficiencies into the way we work to enhance the services we offer and meet the demands of the brief.
One way we bring efficiency and precision is through the use of technology. We increasingly employ innovative 3D and 4D modelling techniques to bring project benefits.
Our use of CAD 4D software allows us to show how design items can affect programme. Viewing these timelines allows us to animate design and construction sequences, enabling us to validate and optimise project plans before implementation, and identifying any potential risks or scheduling conflicts.
Synchro 4D adds value to our existing methods by creating an integrated visual aid to programme and activity changes, allowing us to deliver projects more accurately.
Collaborative relationships have a positive impact
As well as using technology to drive project efficiency, our team also works hard to achieve best value for the client through their soft skills. This includes working closely and collaboratively with other client and project teams, refining the brief to solve problems more successfully: at a lower cost, using fewer resources or finishing sooner.
How we interact with others on site is critical, as some projects have challenges such as competing for space in confined areas, like underground tunnels. Negotiating with all parties early on means we can plan when and where our engineers will attend, so avoiding potentially costly delays later in the project.