How the UK infrastructure sector can save £3billion on earthworks every decade

Savings of up to £3billion a decade could be made on UK infrastructure projects by changing the way earthworks are carried out.

That’s the conclusion of a new study by HS2, Expedition Engineering and the Infrastructure Industry Innovation Partnership (i3P), which has identified opportunities that will improve UK earthworks productivity by around 10-20% .

The study identified 26 opportunities for savings of up to £300 million per year. They include:

  • Accelerate the use and development of the Connected and Autonomous Plant (CAP) which has the potential to dramatically increase the productivity, accuracy and safety of earthworks
  • Use advanced geotechnical testing technologies and real-time performance indicators to improve the quality of earthworks and reduce program delays
  • Embrace digital technology to improve communication, accuracy, control and predictability of earthmoving processes
  • Encourage and support the development of bespoke procedures and specifications for the engineering and processing of site won materials where such materials fall outside the standard specification categories with the primary benefit of reducing the amount of material exported from site .
  • Encourage the use of alternative plant fuel types (e.g. electrified, hydrogen and hybrid technologies), which have the potential to reduce CO2 emissions, improve air quality and extend operating hours. operational work

Many of the opportunities presented have broader benefits, such as reducing embodied carbon, improving environmental performance and improving air quality. The savings referenced have been calculated on the basis of savings already achieved by HS2 Ltd and its contractors. The report reveals that HS2 Ltd saved around 12% on phase 2 earthworks costs by focusing their efforts on the procurement phase. Other work carried out by HS2 contractors shows a potential saving of 27% on current earthworks benchmarks through the adoption of digital engineering techniques, the report adds.

Technologies and techniques identified as providing the maximum benefit include the use of new surveying and testing techniques; setting up mobile labs or pop-up sites to avoid delays in receiving lab results; use real-time KPI data through advanced testing technology; and conducting ground surveys alongside other preliminary work to maximize efficiency. Other recommendations include reusing tunnel spoil; implementing a system-wide factory procurement and allocation system to reduce costs; and tailoring risk management protocols to individual projects to eliminate a high number of excessive or inappropriate risk management exercises.

The report also recommends the creation of a skills development programme, to address a growing skills shortage within the industry and with the aim of ensuring that the sector develops and equips people with the skills needed to support innovations in the earthworks sector, for example in digital technology. engineering technology, low carbon design and error prevention.

The research also outlines a delivery strategy and approach for embedding innovation in earthworks based on three key principles: customer leadership and active engagement; supply chain participation and collaboration; and programmatic orientation, based on coherent themes.

i3P Senior Manager Will Reddaway said, “There is an opportunity to transform earthmoving productivity to deliver more projects on time and under budget. This report has identified significant opportunities that can improve UK earthmoving productivity by up to a fifth with the potential to save £300m a year and £3bn over the next decade.

He added, “HS2 leaves a positive legacy that will transform the way we deliver both large-scale engineering projects and smaller construction and infrastructure projects in the future. Realization of the opportunities presented in this study has the potential to put Britain at the forefront of earthworks for global megaprojects, and will provide much sought-after export opportunities for UK earthmoving expertise. infrastructure.

A total of 28 organizations were involved in the research, including the creators of some of Britain’s biggest infrastructure projects including: HS2, the Environment Agency, National Highways, EDF, Sellafield, Thames Tideway and the Northern Ireland Department of Infrastructure.

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