Better planned and designed railway infrastructure will make a real difference
Today is National Clean Air Day. World Health Organisation studies have shown that air pollution is the world’s largest single environmental health risk. At SRC Infrastructure, we think better public transport infrastructure presents a unique opportunity to benefit air quality and our environment in general. Of course, better public transport means fewer car and airplane journeys. And yes, we can minimise the impact of our day-to-day operations. We ensure SRC Infrastructure workplaces are efficient, we recommend public transport and support our people working from home through collaboration technology. We must recognise, however, that there remains much more that we can do. SRC Infrastructure advises, delivers and partners on major transport infrastructure programmes. And as we do, we continue to learn and strive to do more for the world around us.
When advising our infrastructure clients and operators, SRC Infrastructure advocates the need for safe and sustainable construction methodologies which includes reducing carbon emission, using sustainable materials and being more energy efficient. We understand that this must be at the forefront of what we do as an industry. Therefore, we are not only committed to creating opportunities to improve environmental performance and mitigate any adverse impacts of our work, but we also extend these activities beyond our direct business operations to include our supply chain.
The transport industry has an incredible opportunity to make a significant difference to our environment. Based on measuring the impact of our actions over the last year, we believe that our environmental performance can make a difference. We can influence safe and efficient methods of working. We can consider our environmental impact better in our designs. SRC Infrastructure is really excited about the opportunity to help our industry to improve our overall environmental performance. Our industry uses a great deal of resources (power, fabricated materials etc). It is a very significant land owner and impacts millions of people every day. Together we must strive to leave a positive legacy for communities through our activities and continued sustainability efforts.
Over the last year, we’ve rolled out design review checklists and processes to more explicitly and demonstrably consider environmental issues such as biodiversity and ecological planning, water resources, waste management, emissions to air and air quality, noise, nuisance and disturbance, pollution to land and water, contaminated land, responsible sourcing, sustainable travel, carbon in capital and operational consumption and weather resilience / adaption.
Costs, performance and efficiency - It is generally acknowledged that designing in sustainability measures at the outset of a design can minimise any additional perceived costs. Therefore, SRC Infrastructure, as advisers, consultants and designers, play a pivotal role in setting out clear targets from the outset. A project that has had environmental and sustainability issues considered from the start minimises the use of resources, ensures the installation is resilient to climate change, reflects sensible waste management and provides for safe and healthy use throughout its lifecycle – from construction to decommissioning. Clearly, designs that do not do this cost more over the assets lifetime whether that be in capital expenditure due to inefficient resource use, ongoing maintenance to work-around climate damage or human and environmental impact. All these have “pounds and pence” costs.
At SRC Infrastructure, we’ve learnt that specifying, designing and building thoughtful and high-quality assets is good for the people involved. Sites that have good environmental performance are likely to have more engaged staff working there, producing better quality assets more effectively. Safe, environmentally-conscious sites and teams produce better products, better projects. We have had experience of this in our work for Transport for London where the approach to “Beacon” site inspections has notably increased well-being, schedule performance and construction quality. A key part of that has been considering the environmental impacts of our advice and what we deliver in design and in construction.
So how can we make a difference together? There are many ways we are working together to make an impact, here are just three that seem particularly relevant today.
When developing our strategies for major programmes we should identify the key contributors of energy usage and carbon emissions. To minimise energy usage, let’s all take a proactive approach by forecasting energy usage (much as we would forecast spend) and set challenging targets to monitor and manage during construction.
In our work, SRC Infrastructure has committed to instigate innovative energy reduction workstreams to consider alternative low carbon options in construction. Our processes have proven to work effectively. On previous projects we have been able to reduce carbon emissions by 80%.
Clean air – as early as possible in our infrastructure programmes, we should consider the type, nature and quantity of potential emissions to air and the monitoring arrangements that will be necessary.
Thinking about the environment we live in when we give advice, when we support our partners in delivery and when we design compels us to think more, to look at the wider implications of our work. We argue that considering the environment and social risks associated with innovating, designing, building and maintaining transport infrastructure helps to minimise costs for us and for all involved. We believe that keeping our environment at the forefront of our minds isn’t just ethical, nor just mandated but makes good economical sense for all of us.