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Who should get involved

Clients, particularly those responsible for the delivery of large infrastructure projects, see their role as fundamental to encouraging innovation.  Crossrail was unusual in that it sought to provide a structure for the management of innovation.  This award winning Innovate 18 programme has now morphed into an industry wide model called IP3 for infrastructure project-based innovation.

The UK Government is working with industry to boost spending on R & D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. The Construction Sector Deal sets out how the construction industry will contribute to this, with a £420m joint investment from the sector and the government in new technology and techniques including Building on initiatives such as the Centre for Digital Built Britain.

CIRIA’s survey into Site Investigation and innovation showed the Site Investigation Industry is keen to embrace innovation and yet 80% of respondents to a question about first-hand knowledge of innovation application confirmed they had not applied any new or innovative site investigation techniques in the last 12 months. The same survey found that over 60% of Clients considered that site investigation was a cause of delay and a major issue on construction projects. Conversely, most Consultants think that that cost is the Client’s top priority whilst this didn’t make one of the top three Client issues.  

Clients can see the value of supporting innovation throughout the life of the project and this Innovative Site Investigation Hub includes clients as some of its supporters and Partners. 

And if you simply want to know more or how to get involved please contact Joanne Kwan

The purpose of any business is to make money and consultancy is no different. There is an increasing drive to improve efficiency and productivity within the world of consultancy.  As a consultant one of the key requirements of a site investigation is confidence in the accuracy and reliability of the data presented in the factual report and accompanying data.  When discrepancies become apparent these inevitably take time to resolve and can result in delays with delivery. Even where site investigation projects run well, in delivering advice on ground conditions, we are often pressured to find ways to reduce program, as so often our clients are looking for delivery in the shortest time possible. 

New technology is helping to reduce timescales by reducing the handling of data between collection on-site and delivery to the consultant in the office. This reduction in handling often equates to a reduction in the potential for errors to occur. However, data in site investigation are not just about the numbers it is about how the data have been collected. This is a key part of understanding how reliable data is, it doesn’t matter how good your data transfer system is, if you have collected the data in a flawed manner.  

We’ve developed new ways of transferring and interrogating site investigation data in the digital age, but are we training new members of the profession in both the fundamental understanding of data quality and acquisition while ensuring they are equipped to take full advantage of the latest 3-D modelling software?  Working with visually impactful innovative technological advances are often seen as more interesting and exciting than traditional data checking for patterns and anomalies.  This potentially becomes even more of an issue with respect to the use of ‘Big Data’ where trends could be misleading without understanding the quality and trends of the data.  Asbestos in soils is an area where the ability to detect asbestos in soils has improved immensely over recent years and conclusions drawn on the distribution of, all available GI data could be misleading. 

Ultimately consultants need to continue to drive standards of data collection, understand how their data has been collected and use more than one line of evidence to enable data to be challenged/accepted.  Without this, we are concerned that the benefits of technological advancements and innovation in data handling and assessment, may not be realised or at worst lead to flawed advice.

The biggest concern for the site investigation contracting industry is whether procurement is hampering innovation and whether we need to innovate our procurement processes.  Interestingly according to the  Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS) website the AGS/BDA 2017 survey ‘Spotlight on the industry’  identified that poor procurement of ground investigation was amongst the top three concerns of the responders. 

Site investigation by its very nature is a voyage of discovery and to achieve the best value is a phased operation, something that often conflicts with the programming of a development project.  Pressure to deliver a programme is often hampered by lengthy contract and cost negotiations where the procurer looks to benefit from both the surety of a lump sum, along with any cost savings that may be made during the works.  Such delays result in compounding pressures for the Contracting Industry to miraculously recover the time lost before work commences.  With contracts often awarded on the lowest cost basis and with tight short programmes, it is no wonder we may struggle to do anything but deliver in the perceived same old way. 

Effective ground investigation is essential for a successful construction project. Along with the rest of the society, the site investigation contracting industry continues to look to make equipment and technology improvements and innovation. 
Regulators (Local Authorities)

Local Authority planning departments routinely receive technical information relating to site investigations.  Less routinely, councils instruct their own site investigation work, either to investigate potential statutory contaminated land under Part 2a of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, or as landowners keen to understand their own property portfolio, in either case councils will expect good practice to be followed with data appropriately certified ,and interpreted data provided by suitably qualified persons. 

Site investigation does not involve applying a one-size-fits-all approach. On the contrary a good investigation should be conducted in stages, each directed by the findings of the last. Where site investigation is being organised to satisfy a condition of planning permission, it is strongly advised that the scope of the proposed investigation is discussed with the council’s contaminated land officer or technical officer where available.  Otherwise it is possible that when the report of the site investigation is submitted to the authority further data or alternative information is then requested that requires unplanned additional expense and delay to the commencement of development. 

Many Local Authorities state their requirements on their web pages and some provide detailed “developer’s guides” setting out what is expected to accompany a planning submission on potentially contaminated ground.