“If there is one key characteristic for infrastructure in 2017, it is having an innovative and efficient spirit,” says Ferrovial Agroman UK and Ireland technical director Ignacio Navarro.
Keeping the cost and programme of UK projects contained and at the forefront of delivery can only really be achieved by approaching contracts with an open and innovative culture, he says.
Collaborative actions embracing this spirit will lead to a more efficient and safe methodology of delivering the final product. Clients and wider industry benefit from providing a leaner and more flexible approach.
Early contractor involvement (ECI) is proving successful in this respect but it requires a deep understanding by contractors of the technicalities of design as well as construction if the benefits are to be maximised, Navarro believes.
Ferrovial Agroman is currently working in joint venture on many of the UK’s major projects including Tideway’s central section of the Thames Tideway Tunnel; the central section of the enabling works contract for High Speed 2 as part of the Fusion joint venture; Crossrail and the Northern Line extension.
25% of Spanish high speed rail
The €500M (£428M) turnover company in the UK and Ireland is part of the £3.4bn Ferrovial Agroman organisation worldwide that constructed 25% of Spain’s High Speed Rail network and is building part of the California High Speed route. Ferrovial Agroman is a member of the €9bn (£7.7bn) Ferrovial Group that owns and operates assets including Heathrow Airport and the 407 ETR in Canada.
Navarro believes that one of the unique benefits of Ferrovial Agroman is its in-house design capability to supplement and support the expertise of external consultants, creating an environment to promote informed conversations.
Ferrovial Agroman has a strong central engineering services department with experts in most aspects of construction design, and also has technical directors at the heart of each country-based business.
“This is one of our most important differentiating factors,” he says. “We like to think that the quality of our alternative proposals along with our innovative spirit has been the key to our success.
“The industry must maintain a level of flexibility to innovate and provide that optimum environment for new ideas. For us, this level of flexibility is maintained by having the same skills in-house as our external designers, so we can have the same level of conversation.
“ We can help our designers develop optimised solutions and bring learning/best practice from across the globe to all our projects.”
“That is important because businesses that innovate create more efficient work processes, and have better productivity and performance.”
Eastern Bay Link Road
As an example he points to the Eastern Bay Link Road which extends the A4232 south round Cardiff and through Cardiff Docks. It is now a 1.2km elevated dual carriageway, but the conceptual design was based on the provision of two, piled approach embankments, contained over a large part by retaining walls along with a 180m long composite viaduct.
Poor ground conditions including areas of contamination, difficulties of working next to a live railway and the dock roads, along with the need for major service diversions were among major risks for the project.
“But our engineers and the contractor’s main project designer Capita used the ECI period to change the design to incorporate two approach viaducts and a transition structure to replace the filled retaining wall sections,” Navarro says.
“An incentivisation clause in the contract allowed proposals to reduce statutory diversions and meant a less risky option could be agreed, which saved money for our client, Welsh Government, and for us, the contractor.”
While efficiencies against cost and programme are a triumph for any project, Navarro points to the need for solutions that are of benefit to all parties involved, including wider stakeholders and those local communities impacted.
Contributions for technical solutions can be drawn from throughout the worldwide group, he says, with innovations producing positive benefits for sustainability and local employment along with cost and programme reductions.
Barcelona Line 9
For Barcelona’s Line 9 metro scheme, creating a precast facility next to the site was a positive for the environment because of reduced lorry movements and an opportunity to upskill the local community.
On-site precasting was an added bonus too on the Dallas, Texas LBJ expressway, a £2bn PFI scheme led by Ferrovial. This also features a clever construction solution that allowed the contractor to add six new lanes of traffic in existing land take by putting them in a depressed section with original lanes partly covering the new cut.
Current focus for civil engineer Navarro and his team in the UK is design of the new Northern Line Extension from Kennington to Battersea Power Station in London which a Ferrovial Agroman Laing O’Rourke joint venture is currently delivering.
“There hasn’t been such a complex project on an operating Tube for decades. It’s very exciting and is an engaging challenge for our innovative spirit!”
Tips for successful contractor design Innovation
- Pick your big wins. Don’t try and rethink everything but focus on the important elements which most affect time, cost and risk
- Engage early with the designer. Help them keep an open mind – be prepared to be surprised by a good idea
- Constructability and peers reviews are not the place to start. They come too late. You need to be involved much earlier to work out the best solution.
- Success depends on the whole team. So collaborate and engage with your designers. Don’t ask them to do something they are not comfortable with but highlight successful innovations on other projects.
In association with Ferrovial Agroman