CIRIA within UK construction and civil infrastructure asset management community

One of the many benefits to those involved with CIRIA’s work, is the variety of conferences, events, panels and steering groups which its staff and members are involved. Last week was a busy week for the CIRIA team, with representatives attending events including the Institution of Civil Engineers Infrastructure Asset Management Conference in London, The Bridges 2014 Exhibition in at Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham, Cabinet Office Infrastructure Security and Resilience Industry Forum and Modern Built Environment Knowledge Transfer Network (MBE KTN) Industry Steering Group meeting.

As part of these events there were common themes which kept emerging as being popular and current themes or schools of thought within the UK construction and Civil Infrastructure Asset management community. These included “TOTEX”, boom/ bust approach to infrastructure spending, the significance of BIM in the modern built environment and the increasing use of off-site fabrication (DFMA) as a method of achieving safe and sustainable building solutions.

The rise of the “TOTEX” cost model 

Over recent years, spending on UK infrastructure has been very much driven by the construction cost known as the capital expenditure or “CAPEX”, often at disregard to the operational expenditure or “OPEX”.
    CIRIA’s Philip Charles presents the upcoming C551 Scour manual to
the Bridges Exhibition in Birmingham

Clients in the UK have often worked by business models which have been driven by spending as little up front, often as a consequence to find that the cheapest to build is not always to run. This may not always be in terms of financial cost/ economic sustainability. As the pressures are on UK plc to be considerate of carbon, it can also be inconsiderate of environmental sustainability, as OPEX can impart a high level of carbon expenditure over the lifecycle of a project. It is therefore important as we lead towards a sustainable, low carbon and best value approach to UK infrastructure, it is vital that clients, designers, investors and all stakeholders consider the total expenditure or “TOTEX” of a project throughout its lifecycle, not just in terms of financial expenditure but also that of carbon expenditure and other socio-economic and environmental factors.
With many of those being key stakeholders in UK infrastructure such as utilities companies and rail companies, and subject to cyclical spending patterns (such as the water industries’ AMP cycles and the rail industries’ CP cycles) typically lasting 3-5 years, where organisations spend heavily at the beginning of these cycles, reign back spending, then dispose of any left over funds at the end of the cycles to justify budgets for the following cycles, it is important that the TOTEX is considered to avoid this boom/ bust approach to spending and to ensure best value to the bill paying customer and investor alike.
BIM in the development of UK infrastructure
The increasing use of BIM (or digitally engineered infrastructure as it is increasingly being referred to) will hopefully make this easier as the use of computer based modelling will make this increasingly easier for stakeholders to plan, design and manage and decisions based on financial risk management, sustainable development and health and safety. Furthermore, the move towards off site manufacture (build off site) is also helping to address all of these issues and is looking like it is going to play an increasing part in the development of UK infrastructure.
CIRIA is well placed to take forward this agenda and has a wide range of industry experts and cross sections of infrastructure groups with which it regularly engages, and as such is able to share this information with its members and collaboratively work with them to help manage risk and achieve best value decisions going forward.
Further information on CIRIA’s activities on civil infrastructure, and how to get involved, can be found at