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The main players

Civils 2002 Keynote speeches

The Civils 2002 keynote speeches provide an opportunity to hear from two of the biggest names in the industry today speaking on subjects that are crucial to the future of the construction sector.

On Wednesday the speaker is Andrew Wolstenholme, the man responsible for constructing the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow. As BAA's construction director, Wolstenholme has been closely involved in a revolution in the way his organisation works with its contractors, designers and suppliers. Now, after successfully implementing new procurement methods, cutting costs and improving quality on a wide range of smaller projects, BAA is putting the philosophy to its toughest test - construction of the £2.5bn Heathrow Terminal 5.

Thursday's keynote speaker is Charles Secrett, executive director of environmental campaign organisation Friends of the Earth. He will argue that sustainability can only be delivered by dramatically improving efficiency, which will require a radical overhaul of UK attitudes to design, manufacturing and construction. Secrett is keen to engage engineers in an informed debate about what types of projects should be built and how.

Andrew Wolstenholme BAA changed its construction process in order to afford Terminal 5. Now construction director Andrew Wolstenholme has to prove its worth in building the £2.5bn scheme.

The airport operator tore up the construction rule book almost a decade ago and introduced partnering deals with framework suppliers to bring down the price of its construction work by 30%.

Major clients across the UK followed the same route as they saw the approach bear fruit. But BAA had more than cost savings in mind when it started its revolution.

The end game was always T5.

The company's planners had worked out that if they didn't bring down the price of construction and deliver projects on time and with no claims baggage, the terminal was unaffordable.

With Transport Secretary Stephen Byers' go ahead for T5 last November, aspects of the scheme still require planning permission, but BAA is hoping construction could start before the end of this year. BAA and its suppliers will have to demonstrate that the advances they have made on individual projects at the company's airports can be just as successful on an immense multifaceted scheme.

BAA is not just erecting a vast terminal structure. It is building a railway connection, digging tunnels, constructing airport roads, car parking, shopping facilities, waste treatment, aircraft stands and liaising with the Highways Agency and London Underground to construct motorway links and a tube extension.

'The complexity of the project is so interwoven that, should you get behind on one area, you impose a risk on the whole scheme, ' Wolstenholme says. The company cannot stand any increase in cost, and it needs the terminal open as soon as possible to relieve pressure on Heathrow's already overcrowded facilities.

Charles Secrett 'Only the most extreme environmentalist would claim that capital development and technological advance should be halted. For society to function you need power, transport, industrial infrastructure, housing. The argument isn't about whether construction and engineering are necessary, but what types of projects are realised and how.'

As executive director of the UK's most prominent green campaign group, Friends of the Earth (FoE), Charles Secrett has built his reputation in opposition to government policy on issues including water, nuclear energy and waste, road construction and waste incineration.

He stood against Turkey's proposed Ilisu Dam and Heathrow Terminal 5, and is protesting Associated British Ports' Dibden Bay port expansion and the government's planned overhaul of the planning regime.

In the eyes of many he is extreme environmentalism personified. But Secrett is vehemently high tech and in favour of progress.

One of his prime frustrations is that government and industry are not more active in adopting innovative technologies and practices.

FoE is pushing a tough sustainability agenda that can only be delivered by dramatically improving efficiency: it wants to see the depletion of environmental resources halted.

And Secrett insists that not only can this be achieved without halting economic growth, but it has the potential to stimulate growth.

Key sustainability targets, says Secrett, are to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 90% over the next 50 years; to recycle up to 80% of construction waste; and to recycle or compost 90% of domestic waste.

Meeting these targets calls for a radical overhaul of UK attitudes to design, manufacturing and construction, but the knowledge and techniques are available for industry to meet them.

And the evolution of technology dictates it will become increasingly possible to deliver them.

FoE is pushing hard for workable integrated transport and energy saving targets for new buildings. Its focus on environmental performance, from construction through operation to demolition, is comparable to government construction adviser Sir John Egan's emphasis on 'whole life cost'. The industry has had enough time to grasp the idea and must get on with delivering results, Secrett urges.

Northern Europe, Scandinavia, Japan and the US are waking up to the huge economic opportunities that environmentally sustainable development presents, Secrett warns. 'One of the greatest risks facing the UK is that of missed opportunities.'

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