FIDIC’s CEO stresses that the new normal is technological, environmental and social transition – not five days a week in the office.
Original interview between Dr Nelson Ogunshakin (NO), CEO of the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) with BG Magazine 2023, reported with permission.
What are FIDIC’s strategic priorities post-Covid?
NO: “The pandemic offers opportunities that our industry needs to embrace. When economies went into lockdown, FIDIC was ahead of the curve. We re-engineered our organisation and how we communicate and support our members. Our industry is going through structural changes regarding how we innovate, collaborate, communicate and design our projects. We’re experiencing a critical transition to a new normal.
“In parallel, the industry is also facing an increasing demand for sustainable infrastructures. The COP27 in 2022 moved ESG criteria to the next level. Now every government wants to ‘build back better,’ to move from hydrocarbons to green energy, to reach net zero and the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs). At FIDIC our ambition is to be the voice of the consultancy and engineering sector. We have increased our advocacy work, for example with our climate change charter that sets out a plan to decarbonise engineering, and our procurement contracts, which are now used by private firms, commercial lenders, energy suppliers and retailers when managing tenders. We have also built relationships with the World Bank and all the regional development banks, who before Covid spent $175bn a year on infrastructure.”
What challenges do you see regarding this ‘critical transition’ you mentioned?
NO: “The post-Covid shock is a technological and social transition. The way we worked has changed! We’re never going back to being in the office five days a week, and there are still lessons to be learned. Everything is digital and workers are adapting to new ways of collaborating. On the other hand, they are not just looking for a job, they want to contribute to companies and projects that match their values. Recruiting is, therefore, even more of a challenge now.”
How can consulting engineers contribute to developing more sustainable infrastructures?
NO: “Engineers have a major role to play to help project owners build more sustainably. With cutting-edge digital tools such as BIM (Building Information Modelling), digital twin, and artificial intelligence, they can design tailor-made solutions to meet the challenges of limited resources, decarbonisation, and encourage circularity within the construction sector.
“With today’s geopolitical challenges and threats to supply chains, the world is in-sourcing, not outsourcing! This means that the construction industry must know what materials are available where and produced to what standards. Governments want to be compliant with the United Nations’ SDG criteria and we can encourage a more circular use of limited materials, for example by sourcing recycled steel or timber closer to construction projects and designing better use of fresh water and renewable energies. That may have a short-term cost but it will become increasingly cost-effective as the use of recycled products rises.
“FIDIC is working to encourage this, because the transition is a journey, not a destination. We must be agile and develop a holistic thinking about how we get to a sustainable future, whether that’s about energy, or sourcing recycled materials closer to home. In the end, our members have little room for action beyond the national level, and this is where FIDIC as their voice can play an important advocacy role. As we look to ‘build back better’ we can help with the interaction between the worlds of finance and policy. We can help to put across our industry’s perspectives on practice and regulation at the international level.”