Could the Midlands be the place for innovative infrastructure? Taking on many forms as the industry grows infrastructure professionals are starting to look beyond road and rail. Therefore, ahead of the Mayoral elections this May, Ann Bentley FRICS, Global Chair of Rider Levett Bucknall shares her insights into what she sees as some of the biggest challenges and opportunities for the region.
The big issue
Productivity. This will come into even sharper focus, with the post-Brexit artisan skill shortage compounding the already ageing population of construction workers. Necessity being the mother of invention, will 2017 be the year when we address this as a joined-up, grown-up industry? I will play my park with the work I am doing on the Construction Leadership Council. Simply aligning the vested interest of all parties in a project will increase everyone’s productivity; so what’s stopping us?
The big challenge
Social infrastructure. The NHS, schools, social care, affordable housing, prisons; all are underfunded and oversubscribed. Our industry has the wherewithal to solve many of these issues. With digital information, greater levels of manufacturing and pre-assembly and a real emphasis on the long term-use of buildings we have the ability to model and address real needs and deliver cost-effective, long-term, people-focussed solutions.
The big opportunity
Place is the word of the moment in government circles; it appears to mean anywhere other than London! There is clear messaging about rebalancing prosperity across the country and the opportunity for our industry to facilitate this is immense. If the multiplier of almost three on every pound invested in our sector and the remarkably wide-range of roles and opportunities in the sector are catalysed with a little targeted investment this should the year construction becomes in vogue.
The big project
Mega-data centres. Over the next five years most organisations will stop managing their own data infrastructure and turn to the cloud. We are seeing a surge in the number, size and complexity of data centres around the world. With typical new-build projects running into the hundreds of millions of pounds, often in remote places with limited infrastructure and with expert clients from a different industry, this will be a really fast-moving and exiting area to work in.
The big story
All of the above, with a little Brexit, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping throw in. Political upheaval around the world and the global nature of businesses in the construction sector mean that many will be sailing in unchartered water. This could lead to some very positive, or very negative, headlines; depending on how good we are at reading the runes.
Ann Bentley FRICS will also be speaking at the RICS Infrastructure for Growth conference in Birmingham on 14 February 2017. Full details and further speaker information can be found here: http://www.rics.org/uk/training-events/conferences-seminars/infra-west-mids/west-midlands/