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Call for design panel on all big infrastructure projects

Colne Valley Viaduct

A national design panel for infrastructure could be brought in to ensure that new projects work towards good design objectives from the onset.

The idea for the panel is in the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC)’s interim National Infrastructure Assessment, a consultation document discussing the what the NIC thinks should be priorities over the coming three decades.

It says the public sector has a poor track record of designing infrastructure which not only looks good, but fits in with the environment, is user friendly and performs well over the long term. The NIC says fresh opinions need to be brought in to avoid any further failures in this area.

National Infrastructure Commission commissioner and architect Sadie Morgan said: “We’re hoping to get to a place where each major project has a panel that can help them, and the NIC has strategic overview and a strategic vision.”

Morgan, a partner with architecture firm dRMM, also leads the High Speed 2 (HS2) design panel, and says that bringing a design panel on board early, including making sure the procurement documents reflect the design vision, has already seen successes at HS2. She cited the 3.4km long Colne Valley viaduct, which will run across four lakes. The panel has put together some initial design views, which have been shared with the Align JV (Bouygues Construction, Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick), which is building the viaduct.

The proposed NIC panel would first set up “overarching design vision” which would set out core design principles.

The consultation document said: “Key aims of any such panel would be to advise on strategic design issues, help solve complex problems, anticipate future needs, share lessons learned, spot opportunities and highlight potential synergies between infrastructure investments in different sectors. Infrastructure can have significant social and environmental impacts, and a design panel would ensure that sensitivity to local communities, as well as to natural and urban landscapes, are at the heart of its design.”

“All of this is open to consultation,” said Morgan. “We need to make sure good design is embedded in our infrastructure.”

“There’s not definitive answer yet, it is a process of asking questions and looking at good precedent,” she added.

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