EXTRAORDINARY, unparalleled, and unprecedented are a few of the words which have been used in the business world to describe 2020. The pandemic has certainly shaken things up, and while some businesses have done well, the majority have found the times challenging. Many businesses have stopped and thought about what they do, why and how. Most have altered and developed the way they work, to overcome the necessary impositions associated with operating during the pandemic and have found by changing simple things they can continue to perform efficiently and to a high standard.
We need to treat this as an opportunity to look to the future, use what we have learnt in the pandemic to question the ‘norm’ and find better ways to do what we do in our respective industries.
In 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union. As we go into 2021, we have Brexit to face and, undoubtedly, it will not all be plain sailing. Supply chains, employment and travel are some of the issues we will need to deal with. The pandemic has made us aware of the need to be agile, the need to cope with change. Brexit is simply another change.
So where does this leave us as consulting engineers? What changes do we expect? How will we deliver? And how will this fit with our client’s requirements?
The construction industry is changing more rapidly than it has for a very long time. As an Island, we need to understand the changes and how they can benefit us. We need to build housing, healthcare, education, sports and social facilities, consider the environmental impact and invest in and develop the infrastructure to facilitate all of this. As a local engineering practice, we look at the skills needed to provide the services which will best serve the Island.
Engineering consultants require staff who are highly trained, with specific skillsets. There is a constant demand for engineering graduates as engineers are required in many production and development industries as well as in our profession, which makes recruiting difficult.
In the UK, the large practices have easy access to the universities to market their businesses but this is more difficult for Island businesses. Understandably, the Island has controls on immigration and employment but this adds to the recruitment challenges.
At Hartigan, we know to meet the changing demands we must ensure our staff continue to develop their skills and achieve a high standard of professional qualifications. We have always supported the development of our staff, both the technical and administrative. Hartigan has an agreed training plan with the Institution of Civil Engineers which provides a career path from technician through to chartership.
We have worked on many significant projects with local and non-local teams. From our experience we know the Island is very well served by the local practices. We punch well above our weight not just in our profession but in the Island as a whole. The Island’s construction industry needs to, and is willing to, develop, to deliver projects and meet clients’ aspirations. Change is already happening. Professionals and contractors are using alternative forms of construction, which are being tested against traditional methods to find more efficient ways to build while maintaining quality, reaching high environmental standards and delivering on cost and time.
The design stage is becoming one of willingness to question, with openness in design and construction requirements and good collaboration between the whole team.
Traditional procurement, where the client is fully involved from start to finish is now seldom used, while variations in design and build contracts and novation are regularly used. The client is looking more and more for the design team and contractor to work collaboratively to deliver the project.
New technologies allow for collaboration in the design process, the sharing and working on a project model by different consultants in different locations is not uncommon. At Hartigan we have invested in the technology to work in this way, and we have worked successfully with several UK practices to deliver projects.
Technological advancements such as Building Information Modelling enable input of information from multiple disciplines in various locations simultaneously. With the move into modular and system build on the Island the use of technology to share information with companies in other jurisdictions for design and manufacturing will be necessary and is key in achieving efficiency.
Traditionally the engineering services on a project were limited to structural engineering and the building services. Now with the need to consider the environment the requirements for engineering sciences have grown. The environmental impact, energy consumption, air quality, renewable energy, materials, and carbon footprint are a few of the areas being considered in the design process.
In the drive to deliver buildings and infrastructure we must not lose sight of the Island’s heritage and natural environment. Jersey provides so many opportunities for us to enjoy our downtime and we need to realise the importance of the environment and care for it. Historic buildings and natural landscape can fit with the wider Island needs for development. The art is managing this, understanding what we have and how to look after it. In built-up areas, careful design allows integration and reuse of buildings, and there are many good examples of this in the Island. We need to look for the design which does not just maintain the character but by integrating this character, enhances the place or street.
I believe that, as an industry, we are very well placed to assist in the regeneration of the Island’s economy. Close engagement between the public sector and private sector in construction going forward can only be beneficial to the Island. There is significant skill and talent in the Island. If we use this talent and if we extend the principle of collaborative working, willingness and openness, from single projects in the private sector to Island projects, we can significantly contribute to the regeneration.