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Balfour roads boss aims to beat group’s offsite target

More than a quarter of Balfour Beatty highways work could be carried out offsite by 2025, the group’s head of highways has said.

Balfour Beatty managing director of highways Phil Clifton told Construction News his division could beat the group-wide target to reduce onsite work by 25 per cent by 2025, saying the nature of highways work offered greater opportunity in this area.

Mr Clifton said: “The ‘25 by 2025’ [target] is across the group, but certainly from a highways perspective if you look at the products that could potentially be designed and built offsite, our operation could be significantly higher than that.

“With the pipeline of work coming in highways in the coming years, we are not going to be able to put four times the number of people on the roads, so we need to change the way we do things – and we see offsite as a key part of that.”

Balfour Betty’s highways division currently carries out 5-10 per cent of its work offsite, according to Mr Clifton.

The aim comes as part of highways division’s ‘design in a day, change in a minute and build in a week’ programme aimed at minimising disruption through roadworks for road users.

As part of the programme, the highways business aims to cut design time by 70 per cent through a more product-based approach.

Mr Clifton said: “Effectively this approach will see us design once, use many times.

“We have good experience of this on our M25 DBFO contract where we worked with Atkins and Skanska.

“This standardisation approach, where you can get a standard design and use it across the piece, should cut out a significant amount of design, and we have suggested an aspiration of 70 per cent.”

The highways MD added: “By having a product design approach, you can then create a much better plug-and-play environment that therefore will make work significantly quicker and reduce the impact of roadworks on the public.”

Last month, Highways England revealed that it would be procuring for a 10-year alliance for its smart motorways programme.

Mr Clifton said the longer-term approach to procurement from Highways England would facilitate an increase in the use of offsite and product design in the sector.

“I think we have learned from gas and water frameworks that those long-term frameworks that give you certainty in terms of forward pipeline allow you to invest in technology but also skills,” he said.

“When we talk about offsite manufacturing, we need to think about the changing skills that are needed in the future, and therefore that long-term pipeline gives you the opportunity to invest.”

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