How do you get projects "shovel ready" quickly?

How do you get projects "shovel ready" quickly?

The New Zealand Government is working with the construction sector to identify large infrastructure ‘shovel ready’ projects to kick-start the economy. 

‘Shovel ready’ is defined as being ready for construction to commence within 180 days of the Lockdown being lifted. 

Tonkin + Taylor’s large infrastructure specialists, Peter Millar and Chris Perks, agree that the most efficient and effective way to approach the 180-day deadline is for the construction sector to focus on rescoping and reviewing existing projects rather than trying to get brand new projects up, starting from scratch. 

Peter Millar’s experience includes governance and leading project roles on many of New Zealand’s most significant infrastructure projects over the last three decades, including the Waterview Tunnel.  Peter is currently on the Board of Auckland’s $4 billion City Rail Link (CRL) and Piritahi – the alliance leading the largest urban development project in our history.  He is also on the Project Alliance Board, which provides guidance and leadership on some of this country’s largest roading contracts. 

Peter believes that there are two main areas the construction sector could be looking at in terms of existing projects – rescoping and reworking planned timelines.   

“We’re already looking to get some quick wins, extending the scope where we have identified opportunities to add value, and taking advantage of the environment we find ourselves in,” says Peter. “This approach also has the potential to employ more people, faster”.  

Reworking delivery timelines 

The COVID-19 restrictions are likely to mean that we will have people working from home for some time, fewer trips, less traffic and transiting.  

“Reduced traffic on transport infrastructure such as roads, railway, runways, and ports gives us an ideal opportunity to deliver more work faster”, says Peter. “There are multiple projects already underway in our inner cities and on our major arterial routes that have defined timelines and planned delivery dates that could be reviewed and expedited. With low traffic demand, there is an opportunity to completely close roads rather than partially close them and get a year’s worth of work done in just one or two months – that's the kind of things we are looking at”. 

T+T’s Transport Sector Director, Chris Perks, points out that there are major benefits to doing this.  “If you can have a worksite that’s less constrained by space, you can be more efficient and open more fronts and edges within the project to deliver more work, concurrently. You also have more room to move people, machinery and materials at a greater speed. 

“Basically, where you have roadworks and cones, you have a constrained space which means workers are at greater risk because of live traffic. But if you can completely close-off roads and sites and put workers inside a “construction bubble” (to coin a popular term), then not only are they safer, but you increase the rate of efficiency,” says Chris. 

Project rescope 

Rescoping existing projects has the advantage of quickly adding value to work that is already underway. It also has the potential to increase employment opportunities.  

“Most infrastructure projects, such as motorway extensions are done in stages and that means they have to end somewhere”, Chris explains. “Right now, there’s potential to rescope projects like this, by bringing forward the next, adjacent or transitional tranche of work and use the existing alliances to expedite procurement.”  

Getting shovel-ready 

Peter and Chris agree that now is the time to think outside of the box to get the economy moving as quickly as possible, once it’s safe to do so. 

“The key to ‘shovel ready’ construction is to speed up procurement and there’s a number of ways to do that while being mindful of delivering quality and value for the taxpayer”, says Chris. “In my view, the ideal way to deliver quality and value quickly is to create collaborative consortia that has constructors, engineers, planners, and the client all working together as one.  

“That way, you have the appropriate technical experts managing the risks that they have the mandate and experience to oversee. This holistic approach brings efficiencies, end-to-end risk mitigation and the best outcome for the users and community the infrastructure sits within. 

“We’re experiencing change at an accelerated pace and it will take us some time to really understand the implications and consequences of it. The upside of this, is that it plays right into the hands of engineers who never see a problem, only a solution they haven’t got the answer to yet,” Chris adds.