Pandemic has speeded up change and the industry needs to respond


Covid-19 has accelerated ongoing changes in the global construction and infrastructure sector.

It was important not to let the effects of the global pandemic hide the ongoing changes in mega-trends and to the way the industry needs to deliver its infrastructure, said a panel of global industry leaders speaking at the final session – “Sustainable investment for the long term and new way of working” – at FIDIC’s 2021 Global Infrastructure Conference taking place today (13.9.21).

“Infrastructure epidemiology are two words we are having to think about for the first time after the pandemic,” said Michael Haigh, executive chair of Mott MacDonald Group, illustrating the changing face of the challenges facing the industry in a post-Covid world. The pace of change would be different in different countries and we should expect some areas of the world to speed ahead of others over the coming years.

“Net zero and the sustainability agenda will have a key impact on the infrastructure industry and part of our challenge will be whether we have the right political approaches to cope,” he said.

Stephanie Hottenhuis, chair and CEO of KPMG in the Netherlands, said that the question of who was going to pay for sustainability was paramount. The right decisions on this could only be made by looking at the whole of the value chain and whole-life costs. David Beddell, head of strategy and growth for civil infrastructure for Europe at AECOM Group, agreed with her, making the point that the new infrastructure being developed around the world would have to last for at least one and probably two generations.

Speaker after speaker said that the acceleration of change that had been brought about by the pandemic should not be a surprise to anyone working in the industry. And issues like diversity, sustainability, net zero and social impact have been known challenges for industry to address for many years. “The pandemic has shunted together the long term and the short term and we know what to do about these challenges now,” said Michael Haigh.

Architectural Engineers Inc president Robin Greenleaf and ACE Nigeria president George Chukwulewa Okoroma both agreed with Haigh and added the issue of procurement needed to be addressed in a spirit of true collaboration and partnership.

Summing up the session and the whole conference, FIDIC president Bill Howard said that the range of issues and challenges facing the global infrastructure industry were many and varied but that engineers and scientists through their skills had the wherewithal to address them. “We can bring costs down, we can solve problems – if were allowed to innovate,” Howard said.