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Viewpoint: Riding the recession

Consultants are ready for volatility


Mark Naysmith

After four years of volatile market conditions I’ve all but given up making medium to long term predictions. The important thing is to have a robust strategy and to be selective, focusing on specific areas and reviewing progress on a regular basis with the ability and agility to change direction when necessary.

“Especially in infrastructure, I believe we will see a much closer focus on whole life system benefits”

Development in central London has remained reasonably buoyant throughout the recession and we see this continuing to be a stronghold across a number of our market sectors. Our development planning business is set to grow on the back of resumed housing growth and we’re well placed to take advantage of continued government commitment to the infrastructure agenda. One thing I can predict is the need to continually focus on project delivery and client care.

However there are some areas we’ll be watching closely, including the developing energy policy, the ramifications of which will have a direct impact on many areas of our business, and highways work which has had a tough couple of years due to public sector cuts.

What is likely to underpin this year though is not where the work lies but a different approach to how the work is done.

More for less is the mantra by which we are all now governed, and, especially in infrastructure, I believe we will see a much closer focus on whole life system benefits. If we want to see major infrastructure projects delivered in the new accelerated timetable set out by government it will be essential to work in this more collaborative and holistic way. Expect to see more consultants, contractors and financial advisors partnering to deliver infrastructure schemes.

London Bridge station development is an excellent model of the next generation of project delivery.

WSP is working in a colocated jv with Hyder to ensure communications are open and effective and the opportunities of our combined expertise maximised.

This approach reflects Network Rail’s vision for “one project team”, which is supported by a high level alliance between the three main contract leads, the “London Bridge Area Partnership”. It’s in our DNA as engineers to work together as multi-discipline teams to achieve innovation, but onerous commercial and contractual practices have prevented this becoming common practice in the past.

Equally, we will see more proactivity from the industry. In particular companies will be looking to prosper off the back of the success of London 2012, especially in the international market, before the reflected glory is transferred to Brazil.

Using our Olympic experience, WSP is involved with a number of projects associated with the pending 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Finally, the need to be pioneering and create efficiencies will drive further technological advancement.

BIM will continue to develop, with the next step being the ability to extract open and useable asset information for beneficial use in asset maintenance.

● Mark Naysmith is deputy director of WSP

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