Every £1bn spent on infrastructure construction generates £2.842bn in overall economic activity.
“The combined effects of population growth and increased travel over the next two decades will be to increase passenger numbers on the roads by almost 30 percent, rail travel by 50 percent and the number of flights originating in the United Kingdom by as much as 75 percent.”
[Source: Keeping Britain Moving, McKinsey & Company (2011)
Slap bang in the middle of a huge, historic programme of public investment, the transport sector is dominated by civil engineers. They work to standardised designs, where the desirable focus is on functionality, safety and reliability. However, there is a recognised need for three of the value-adding skills and competencies that architects provide as well.
1. Their design proficiency in place-making and optimising the user experience is increasingly important for crystallising the concept and boosting the underlying business case.
2. Because of their overarching role in linking strategic purpose to design outcomes, architects are well positioned to take on the critical role of overseeing contract and programme management as well.
3. Architects are also highly valued for their expertise in tricky stakeholder consultations – often seen as the biggest impediment to success.
McKinsey & Company identified that building and maintaining the nation’s infrastructure is expensive and difficult. Planning processes are slow. Procurement is complex and costly. Productivity across the value chain is low, and pressure on costs is high. To engage successfully in the sector, clients want architects to recognise and roll with its challenges, and apply their creativity to improving matters.
Clients also need architects to respond to and accommodate long-term disruptive trends from converging digital technologies. Data-led behavioural changes in users, the impacts of increased automation, and the Internet of Things is likely to shape the physical environment in as yet unimagined ways.
As ever in complex infrastructure projects, the key to successful delivery is collaboration. Establishing good business relationships with engineering consultancies not only makes projects run more smoothly, it also improves architects’ chances of winning work in the sector.
Just as important, teaming up with other architect practices adds to your professional offer, mitigates risk and makes you more visible to the client.
Transport projects are often complex. The challenge for client is to coordinate both the development process and the design of the product. Beyond that, while optimising the buisness case might justify innovative design, it cannot be at the expense of safety and realiability where those qualities are critical.
Clients are looking for architects who can collaborate effectively and smoothly with other consultants on the design team, notably engineers, for the duration of a project. The aim is to question both the brief and engineering assumptions creatively and constructively, prioritising the client's strategic objectives. In this context, clients think that architects are ideally placed to control and coordinate the contract and programme.
Clients are challenged to oversee difficult projects with limited resources. It is easier and less risky to deal with a smaller number of large parties thn it is contract with and subsequently manage a large number of smaller parties. Although PI thresholds are typically too high for many architectural practices, their services and skills are nonetheless wanted.
This is an issue of scale. Architects can either form business relationships with engineering consultancies or they team up with other architects. Either way, the purpose is for different parties to complement each other in a way that more fully meets clients' needs.
Public and other stakeholder consultations in this sector can be tricky and take time. Needless to say, their outcome can make or break a development proposal, with the potential to put the client under severe pressure if their urgent needs are turned down.
Clients think architects have the skills and expertise to conduct formal statutory and stakeholder consultations successfully. More than that, they want architects to apply their creativity to securing genuine, enduring engagement for mutually beneficial outcomes. This not only leads to planning permission but also de-risks the project in the long-term, attractive for funders and investors alike.
Understand the client's business and improve processes
Transport clients face very serious future environmental, demongraphic, behavioural and technological challenges. On top of that, the processes by which they procure new or reconfigured assets to meet the challenges is difficult.
Architects are encouraged to help to resolve these challenges. Their problem-solving flair could be bent to devising new strategic responses and to rethinking the process inefficiencies for better outcomes. Leadership and vision are key qualities.
Priortise the user experience and placemaking
Transport clients need to develop their briefs for effective, efficient, long-lasting, sustainable results. Among the many challenges is the need to cater for increasing numbers of passengers demanding more and better travel experiences and to do so cost-effectively. They want to exploit the increase in footfall by mixing in other uses to their developments, notably retail for better viability.
Clients acknowledge architects' unique creative flair and aesthetic pizzazz, essential to appear to users, knit new assets in to the public realm, and reflect the client's brand. Architects with the right experience in making attractive, user-friendly, sustainable and commercially viable new places, especially if it integrates transport infrastructure with the public realm, are sought after.
Accommodate and respond to digital innovation
Future trends in transport - especially in the field of digital technology and automation - are important considerations for transport clients today. The physcial configuration of this converging technology is unknown but is likely to impact on the physcial configuration of new transport infrastructure during its lifespan.
Anticipating this near future in today's design decisions has clear strategic benefits. Adaptability and flexibility have obvious attractions, and architects who can demonstrate suitable experience or who can propose rational, cost-effective adaptive measures will have a competitive edge.
TOP TIPS FOR THE transport infrastructure MARKET
Collaborate across the whole value chain and develop busiess relationships with engineering consultancies.
Team up with other architects to bring scale and additional capabilities to your offer.
Expliot opportunities to lead the vision and oversee contract and programme management.
Engage stakeholders and consultees to both achieve the desired project outcomes and maimise opportunities for adding value.
Understand the client's business and mission objectives and apply creative thinking to improve the process challenges.
Prioritize the customer experience in your design approach.
Understand the disruptive trends from converging digital technologies - consider and, as far as possible, anticipate them in designs.