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Jamye Harrison

Global Solutions Lead – Smart Cities, Arcadis

For years now digital tools have been embedded in the design of major infrastructure projects such as road and rail.

Increasingly they are making an impact in the design, engineering and development of precincts, and the benefit to new precincts from the improved visibility, collaboration and information management that digital engineering offers is plain to see.

But by focusing only on toolsets alone we risk missing 50% of the benefits of digital disruption in design and engineering. True digital disruption combines both the toolset and the mindset – openness to new ways of working – to deliver better outcomes through the lifecycle of precinct design, development and operation. And for the right mindset we could do worse than look to the systems engineering world, and the principle of DevOps specifically.

DevOps is a proven methodology for embedding consideration of a system’s operation and maintenance early in the design and development stage. In other words, designing a shiny new system that not only looks great, but is easy and efficient to operate well into the future. The goal is to improve maintenance outcomes (and costs) through improved, more targeted early-stage design choices.

Applying DevOps to the design and engineering of complex assets like precincts is not easy. It requires interdisciplinary teams that deliberately and carefully incorporate asset optimisation and asset management elements into the design and delivery lifecycle.

Supported by the right digital toolset, a DevOps mindset offers precinct developers and delivery authorities enormous benefits. Consider High Speed 2 (HS2), the high-speed rail network throughout the UK and one of the most complex infrastructure projects undertaken in the region in recent memory. HS2 may be a rail project at its heart, but its real value is in connecting and unlocking precincts, cities and towns along its route.

In our role advising on the design of parts of the HS2 Arcadis has taken a digital approach to mapping strategic project requirements to technical design elements all the way through to capex and opex implications. This way, HS2 Ltd – the company established by the British Government to deliver the network – and other advisers to the project had clear visibility over the impact that design decisions would have on future operations and asset management.

Too often the digital focus of early-stage project activity centres on design at the expense of downstream benefits of intelligent asset management. Rather than simply throw more (digital) tools at the problem, it’s time for technical advisors, delivery authorities and developers to emphasise mindset in their briefing of the project team.