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Sink or swim: The secret to successful flood defence

Over the past few years Britain’s coastal maintenance programme has started to erode.

So when the government announced that it would be investing £170m of funding in flood defence and resilience measures, many thought we could finally wave goodbye to the problem.

It’s not quite as simple as all that though.

We need to make sure we’re utilising this major cash injection for lasting benefit. In our recent paper, 10 Steps to efficiency in Flood and Coastal Risk Management, we explore the things we can do as infrastructure specialists to drive efficiencies in the effective delivery and maintenance of flood defences.

Get what you give

I’d like to touch on just one of the key outputs: collaboration.

As an industry, we’re renowned for not always taking the most collaborative approach. It is not uncommon to hear that contractors have walked away from a project after failing to agree terms.

“It pays to invest time in building these relationships and maintaining them over the long term”

To remedy this, we need to ensure our voices are heard and that we’re engaging with clients from an early stage. If we showcase our in-depth knowledge and expertise, we will be able to deliver the efficiencies our clients need and drive down longer-term maintenance costs.

This approach, however, requires strong relationships, not only between the customer and the contractor but between the project design and supply chain. It therefore pays to invest time in building these relationships and maintaining them over the long term.

Early customer engagement has allowed us to implement innovative technologies and solutions to standardise specifications and undertake schemes simultaneously, allowing for shared resources across projects and ensuring effective reuse of materials.

Long-term transparency

While we welcome the government pledging to sustain maintenance spending and are thankful for the additional funding last year, to implement these solutions effectively we need to have full sight of the government’s longer-term strategy.

Contracts that are delivered over the longer term allow for real innovation and cost savings to take place. We need to see beyond the current six-year term, so that we can begin to work with authorities to properly plan and gain maximum efficiencies.

Alongside our partners, we’re confident we can build a strategy that will enable us to deliver consistently high-quality flood and coastal defences that exceed the customers’ requirements and deliver savings without compromising on quality or safety.

Jim Hutchison is business development director – flood and coastal risk management – at Balfour Beatty

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