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How Balfour is going offsite to futureproof our armed forces

Dean Burgess

With financial belt-tightening taking place across Whitehall, how do we make sure the UK futureproofs its defence estate and remains ‘fighting fit’?

We need to make sure we’re taking significant strides to change the way that commissioning authorities and contractors work together.

In Balfour Beatty’s recent paper, Fighting Fit: Delivering Defence and Security Infrastructure for the Future, we explore the ways in which we can utilise our industry knowledge and experience to ensure the UK’s operational readiness.

We often talk about the importance of early contractor engagement and the wealth of benefits that it can provide. This very much remains the case, particularly in the short term. But we need to up the ante and begin moving towards a more true partnership-based approach, rather than purely transactional, if we want to drive real change.

Missed opportunities

This approach, however, requires contractors and commissioning bodies to align objectives in order to work together as a team and deliver the significant cost savings and efficiencies needed to futureproof the defence estate.

Collaboration is crucial. As it stands, we are missing opportunities to implement new innovations and technologies across the sector as our clients remain justifiably dubious of uncertainty and security risk.

“Balfour Beatty is also taking a new approach to offsite construction, committing to reducing activity on site by 25 per cent by 2025”

By working together as a partnership, we can provide commissioning bodies with a fuller understanding – not only of price, value and outcome, but of the ways in which we can utilise digital advances to our benefit.

We must break down the barriers that currently exist. Overly detailed specifications and the rejection of innovative ideas proposed during the design and tender process should be challenged, allowing the sector to develop with the times instead of lagging behind its counterparts.

External inspiration

As we move towards this new way of working, we will begin mapping out the digital features and products, such as data analytics and laser scanning, that will help us deliver a more reliable service and integrate these into our proposals.

It’s not just the obvious cost savings and efficiencies that a forward-thinking partnership can provide; we must not overlook the rewards we have reaped in other infrastructure sectors. New equipment and technologies will help improve accuracy and reduce human error, leading to a safer sites – something that cannot be disregarded while working on live operational bases.

To further support this, Balfour Beatty is also taking a new approach to offsite construction, committing to reducing activity on site by 25 per cent by 2025. Supporting the government’s 2025 strategy for lower cost, lower emissions and faster delivery, we will aim to remove all complex, difficult and repetitive activities from our sites to free up our people’s time to focus on delivery.

It will not be straightforward. But what is clear is that a new wave of innovation, coupled with a more efficient partnership model, will enable us to increase build efficiency and speed while driving down operational costs.

This can create a defence and security estate that is fit for the future and provides the infrastructure our armed services need and deserve.

Dean Burgess is managing director – build and defence – at Balfour Beatty

Readers' comments (1)

  • Keeping an open mind, embracing cross sector experience and investigation of new technologies together with challenging the norm will create soon interesting and worthwhile ways forward. A very encouraging and refreshing article

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