Meet the change agents

We are living in an era of major global challenges, from increasing urbanisation to climate change to the fourth industrial revolution. All will have impacts for existing communities and our planet, and all require innovation and big thinking to develop sustainable solutions.

Against this backdrop, four of our future leaders highlight some of the ideas and innovations they and others are promoting to help to drive that transformation.

Rachael Hamann, Project Manager, Europe

1. What trends are influencing client-thinking now?

COVID-19 has forced us to rethink the way we design and use spaces and how we interact with them. Flexibility of use can extend the life cycle of a space and help foster social interaction and a sense of community. Existing building stock can be adapted, reused and refurbished, which helps reduce consumption of virgin raw materials, while still delivering exciting projects.

The global focus on sustainability is pushing our clients to set their sights higher. One way to ensure they are meeting their sustainability targets and stakeholder obligations is through certification, especially in environmentally aware business practices.

2. How are green and net-zero challenges being addressed in your region?

Any new analysis of a building will include a green/net-zero assessment, which will inform the next steps. Energy efficiency certificates are just one key piece of information that can help develop strategies for the future of the building. At the end of 2020, Germany revamped its laws around energy efficiency in buildings. Net zero is the next step and we will continue to see it gain momentum.

3. Tell us what big changes or innovations you see coming?

Regulatory changes are going to be among the biggest drivers for innovation, whether to increase the efficiency of the current building stock or ensure new construction can stand the test of time.

We are likely to see increased flexibility and adaptability of designs with the use of modular buildings, and a decrease in demand for virgin raw materials as many shift towards a circular economy approach. We will see cities become greener - both in technologies and vegetation - to help mitigate some effects of climate change. We will be more connected and have a deeper understanding of our surroundings than ever before; from what we use to build our homes to how we connect with others within local communities.

Umah Ganeshalingam, Project Manager, Middle East

1. How is the built environment being transformed in your region?

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is preparing to host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 28 in 2023, with impressive visions emerging in all countries in the region to address net zero. The UAE Net Zero 2050 strategic initiative, which aligns with the Paris Agreement, requires the construction sector to have a multidisciplinary approach and collaborate with other key sectors, such as energy, manufacturing, logistics, waste and transport, to deliver efficient and sustainable solutions.

This will be particular important as the region embarks on an increasing number of mega-programmes, which are set to have broad socio-economic outcomes. These will be unprecedented in their complexity, with high cost, the region’s reputation at stake and stakeholders expecting more from the industry.

2. What trends are influencing client-thinking now?

Efficiency is a key driver for most clients. Technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are becoming more available and affordable and can enable quicker construction, site monitoring and planning. Automation in data collection, augmented reality to visualise design changes and 3D printing on site can also help drive efficiencies.

These efficiencies enable us to demonstrate to clients the potential to move away from task based approaches to become more performance and outcome based. If we can do that, projects and programmes will be better set for success and it will unlock a new way of working in the region, where quality has higher priority.

3. Tell us what big changes or innovations you see coming?

Net-zero targets present a real opportunity to make changes to the use of more traditional approaches. I recently gave a presentation on the effects of noise pollution from the construction industry on our workforce and biodiversity. We discussed solutions, such as taking a rigorous look at how the industry moves away from traditional materials and ways of working to ones that have less of an environmental impact. This makes me believe there is a great need for change management to be brought into these vital programmes early.

Jake Harry, Principal Consultant, Australia and New Zealand 

1. How is the built environment being transformed in your region?

We are working with the Infrastructure Australia (a department of the Australian federal government) to expand their Market Capacity Model. This body of work relies upon the collation and analysis of national project data to allow for resource demand forecasting. We are overlaying supply side data so that resource constraints can be identified during peak demand periods and providing advanced scenario outcomes, which illustrate how reusable materials can be utilised and current market sentiment towards them. The work has resulted in the reprioritisation of major infrastructure projects nationally.

2. How are digital tools and innovations helping to drive improvement in productivity and performance?

By working with our clients to transform their data and technology ecosystem we have been able to dramatically improve the performance of their capital investment portfolios. As a result of structured data management and automated analysis it has become possible to develop more meaningful performance reporting across all sectors and business types.

3. How can we ensure projects deliver social value and inclusion for local communities?

I believe the ability to effectively manage and utilise data will continue to drive society closer to the smart cities model, changing the way people interact with the built environment.

There will, in essence, be a large-scale city investment map which helps direct funding, based on information recovered from the built environment. For example, key metrics around mobility, crime and retail activity can all be correlated to identify what investment will help areas provide greater outcomes for all users. This will give governments a TOTEX view on what investment is required in each city. They will also be able to run the model based upon different scenarios, such as high growth, economic downturn or stable.

This type of functionality will also see the advancement of 6D technology, so that virtual tracking of projects becomes more live time and impact analysis can be performed in a way that helps drive improved investment decisions and societal outcomes.

Palesa Mabalane, Quantity Surveyor, Africa

1. What trends are influencing client-thinking now?

Technology helping to revolutionise the way we work; this is driving an increase in productivity and improving our collaborations. Another trend is data benchmarking – there’s an increased need for planning and reporting based on historic data to drive performance and support effective decision making.

Sustainability awareness is increasing across Africa. For instance, there’s an interest in tapping into renewables and alternative fuels, as the continent explores more sustainable ways to solve the energy crises.

2. How are digital tools and innovations helping to drive improvement in productivity and performance?

By adopting digital capabilities and solutions, we are changing the nature of how we work. Multi-disciplinary teams with geographically dispersed team members are increasingly using collaboration tools remotely, which helps the team work together more effectively and improve project delivery.

More recently, we were able to support our Canadian team who are managing an LNG fabrication facility in China through a tool that helps to manage planned vs actual progress on site, increasing efficiency before and during the claims process.

3. Tell us what big changes or innovations you see coming?

Innovations that will continue to enhance efficiency and improve productivity. For example, improved value chains will be unlocked to optimise efficiency and automated supply chains will enable faster close-out and better project tracking, for example, digitising design and automating the production of materials off site.