Holistic approach needed to shape the decarbonisation agenda

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Tracey Ryan, managing director at Aurecon New Zealand, speaking at the FIDIC conference in Geneva.

Projects need to be procured for value and not cost to deliver the decarbonisation agenda.

Delegates at the FIDIC Global Infrastructure Conference being held in Geneva heard calls for a more holistic, value-based approach to procurement as a key component part of delivering the decarbonisation agenda.

“We need to consider projects in a more holistic way to deliver real value,” said Tracey Ryan, managing director for at Aurecon New Zealand, speaking at a conference session on Accelerating the decarbonisation challenge on 12 September 2022.

The session, which was chaired by FIDIC board member Mark Pehlig,  looked at what the engineering and construction industry can do to step up efforts to speed up decarbonisation, both of existing and legacy infrastructure already in place, as well as ensuring that new-build infrastructure is truly sustainable and in line with net zero targets.

Governments also needed to work more collaboratively with industry to deliver the decarbonisation agenda at a time when there was increasing interest in the issue at all levels of society, Ryan said. That would also require the industry to proactively engage effectively with politicians on key issues and not to be reticent in pointing out what was needed to deliver truly sustainable solutions, she said.

Addressing the effects of the current crisis of the rising cost of energy and building resources, Art Barrett, senior vice president of Gannett Fleming and chair of the American Council of Engineering Companies, said that this should be seen as an opportunity to decarbonise quicker and move to a more sustainable industry and society, but this would not be an automatic process and needed to be worked on.

Pierre Epars, CEO of BG Consulting Engineers, highlighted the importance of good communication with the public and opinion formers to bring them alongside the decarbonisation agenda. “We need politicians, investors and clients to push this agenda to make it happen,” said Epars, but this would also require the avtive early involvement of engineers in projects, he said.

Marc Steiner, a judge at the Swiss Federal Administrative Court, said that a total cost assessment of projects meant that the industry needed to move away once and for all from a lowest price approach to tendering. “Public procurement policy around the world needs to be changed to adopt a balanced quality-based selection approach,” said Steiner, as this was the only way to achieve best value.

Needless to say, Steiner’s call for a move away from cheapest price procurement went down well with the audience of engineers and other construction professionals, who were delighted to hear high-level support for an issue on which they have been campaigning hard for many years.