Creativity with Systematic Implementation Adds Value to Infrastructure Projects
How do creative ideas become valuable ideas? That question is the crux of the difference between invention and innovation. In infrastructure projects particularly, any creative idea has to be backed by systematic implementation to ensure it can be delivered safely and efficiently.
As far as possible, all of our projects start with a blank sheet of paper. We start with the desired outcomes and work back to solutions. Actively reducing the disruption for passengers is always near the top of the list of priorities.
A bit of creative space, often working with specialist supply chain partners, allows us to imagine different ways of delivering the project, exploring beyond tried and trusted methods.
Innovation brings risks, particularly for projects that have to be carried out in live environments or within tightly controlled closures. In these situations, new methods rapidly have to become tried and trusted. This is where systematic implementation comes in.
Using offline mock ups to test ideas and refine the installation process is often necessary to ensure nothing will go wrong. This approach was used to test a novel approach of using temporary ramps during the replacement of movement joints on a motorway bridge to keep daytime traffic moving normally. Extensive offsite testing proved the method was safe and optimised the process to ensure the carriageway would be opened on time every morning.
Similarly, the installation of a prefabricated footbridge as part of an AfA scheme was fully tested offsite before being deployed during the Whitton Station upgrade. Prefabrication reduced the need for line closures and the need to work at height over the rail line. Testing the installation ensured that the bridge was lifted into place and secured exactly as envisaged.
Other innovations implemented at Whitton Station included constructing the new ticket office from structural insulated panels, which sliced several weeks out of the project. The implementation included merging M&E, Civils and Building design information into one ‘federated’ Level 2 BIM model to plan out conflicts and ensure there were no technical issues and delays.
The key to delivering value through innovation is achieving better integration of construction, installation and maintenance of assets so that nothing is left to chance. This is the most effective way to allow creativity to flourish while keeping risks firmly under control.