Friday, 20 February 2015

Engineering the best environment for partnership

Giulia Civello - Senior Consultant & Carole Quinn - Consultant

Key to the delivery of a successful infrastructure project is an effective working partnership between engineers and environmental consultants. A successful relationship between these two parties provides benefits throughout the project lifecycle and ultimately results in the delivery of a better project for less cost.

Temple Group’s experience on major infrastructure projects has highlighted three key areas which are integral to a successful partnership between environmental consultants and engineers:

  • effective communication;
  • a bespoke team set up; and
  • clearly defined deliverables embedded within an integrated programme.

Combining these factors enables environmental consultants and engineers to form a productive partnership, striking a balance between finding an effective environmental outcome without entailing excessive cost or compromising design feasibility.

Benefits include the development of a more robust design which can withstand challenge, facilitate the gaining of consents, decrease development and capital costs and deliver a project with a reduced environmental impact.

Many of the key factors in realising these benefits have been learnt through Temple Group’s role on major infrastructure projects, including HS2 and the Norton Bridge Scheme, which was the subject of a Development Consent Order application.

Effective communication

Typically, tensions between engineers and environmental consultants result from physical working barriers. The need to react quickly to client demands can often result in a lack of consultation with the environmental team. Co-location breaks down these barriers, creating a cohesive, integrated team who understand each other’s working processes and decision making structure. It promotes clear and efficient communication, which enables a more rapid response to be provided to the client.

Close collaborative working between the two teams facilitates an iterative design process and prevents the development of design options which are not feasible from either an engineering or environmental perspective. A proactive rather than reactive working relationship enables the teams to work together to produce an optimal solution from the outset, rather than providing comment retrospectively which incurs additional time and cost.

Team set up

A dedicated engineering liaison team within the environmental team provides a clear point of contact for the project engineers and controls the flow of information. This also ensures that the engineering / environment interface is clearly visible to the client, something which can be lacking on projects where both engineering and environmental services are provided by a large multidisciplinary firm. This interface provides an important opportunity to critically review and challenge engineering designs ensuring a robust project in the event of challenge.

Multidisciplinary workshops are an important tool to facilitate an integrated approach to design, bringing together environmental and engineering expertise. Workshops are particularly important for the development of mitigation, ensuring that environmental measures are developed in the context of engineering constraints and requirements, and thereby preventing abortive work and additional costs.

“Differing perspectives, opinions and ways of doing things, don’t have to be seen as a negative; it can be the driver for improved performance, the push to go beyond the norm and can be the difference between a good and a great project.” Robert Slatcher, Temple Group

Clearly defining deliverables

It is critical to the success of a project that deliverables are fit for their intended purpose. For the environmental consultant, this is most likely the Environmental Impact Assessment. In order to ensure that deliverables are fit for purpose, they must be clearly defined and agreed by all key parties and the client at project inception. This shared understanding should include elements such as the delivery date, and also the deliverable format. A commonly encountered example which covers both these issues is GIS shapefiles versus engineering CAD files. While the engineering design is often held within a CAD model, the environmental topic teams are dependent on GIS shapefiles to complete their assessment. The conversion between CAD and GIS is not an instantaneous process and requires rigorous checking to ensure that the GIS outputs accurately align with the CAD model. Any agreed delivery dates of an engineering design to environmental assessment teams must therefore build in time for this conversion and quality checking to take place.

This example highlights the importance of mutual understanding between the engineering and environment teams as to the end use of their deliverables, something that is greatly improved through an integrated, co-located team.

The delivery of a robust design on time and on budget is ultimately dependent on inputs being received in good time ahead of a design freeze and the careful sequencing of workstreams across the engineering and environment teams. Therefore, an integrated programme which reflects the interaction between engineering and environment is fundamental to project delivery.

“There will always be a balance between engineering, cost, societal benefit / impact and environmental protection – that is in essence what sustainable development is all about! But as long as each of these factors is given due consideration and dealt in a constructive and professional way, then it will be for the good of the scheme.” Tom Smeeton, Temple Group

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

MIPIM 2015 - The ‘F’ Words

James While - Account Director

If you’re anything like me, by now you’ve told your colleagues that you’re one of the chosen few to represent your company's interests at MIPIM.

And, continuing the assumption, you’ll have had a mixed response from said colleagues, from the green eyed jealousy of the unchosen many to the cynicism of those that simply see it as a jolly, to the few that consider it an essential networking tool for the business planning cycle.

The success of your trip is down to YOU. Nobody else. Assuming it’s in your hands, then I reckon you can manage your own success. And here’s how:


There are three elements here. Agreeing what success looks like and plugging that vision into the key business drivers of your organisation.

  • Sit down with your colleagues. Ask THEM what, in their view, would aid their commercial imperatives? Which of their key accounts and projects are attending and what value (or potential damage) would a MIPIM hook-up have?
  • The key here is to get your colleagues to tell you what they and the business needs. Once you’ve expressed and defined those KPIs back, you have no excuse for not doing your damnest to deliver them.
  • Make sure you’ve trawled the databases to know which of your key targets are going. And, think about what you’re going to say that’s going to be memorable once you deliver that dreaded elevator pitch in CafĂ© Roma.


The second of our F words describes your doing mode once there. As with everything in life this is not a binary thing; I believe that a diary can be over managed and it’s worth thinking that a stable foundation needs intermittent, not continuous support.

It’s my belief that you should have 70% of your MIPIM activities as pre-arranged focal points. If you try to plan further than this then you will miss organic opportunities that may arise ‘out in the field’ and you will become frustrated that some of the ‘bankers’ you’d pre-arranged need to be moved and you’ve no space to move them to.

Free forming:

That 30% of free time is key. You will meet people you've not seen for years or you’ll meet new people that have something real and tangible to offer.

Leave space to accommodate these. It also allows a degree of mental peaking and troughing. You cannot, by definition, focus for 14  hours a day. Having pauses in your workload will allow a natural breathing space for relationships, that may not otherwise have happened, to blossom.


How many people have you seen come back from MIPIM with more cards than Paperchase littered across their desks and no clue as to how to manage them?

It’s an absolute truism to say MIPIM really starts once you’ve left. 

The reason for this is simple - this is when you start ‘doing stuff’- making contact, moving ideas, collaborations, developments forward.

When you get back there are two key stages to your follow-ups;

The Wash Up: Go back to the Foundation. Look at the KPIs you and your colleagues agreed and give them back each and every point with your activity and success therein related. Then, decide the strategy to deliver the outcome; a visit, a meeting, a presentation, a financial model.

Out There: As quickly as you can, seize the momentum you’ve created. Get on the phone, drive through your agreed meetings and your agreed initiatives.

Make sure it happens. Because the only person that can do that is YOU.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Don’t beat around the bush: why developer’s need to plan for ecology

John Newton - Managing Director, The Ecology Consultancy

Ecology is the relationship of living things to each other and to the environment in which they live. If carefully understood and properly assessed, ecological issues can greatly enhance the value of a development. On the other hand, it not managed well, ecological issues can cause developers significant problems.

In addition, if harm is caused to particular species, developers can incur substantial fines. Thus, it is critical to follow the legislation that protects wildlife. Luckily, with the correct advice this need not be as onerous as it sounds.  

Developments can impact on ecology in a number of ways. As well as the obvious direct loss of species and habitats from ground works, ecological features can be damaged by disturbance from noise, light, and air pollution. Another danger is the spread of so-called invasive species, such as Japanese knotweed, which can spread rapidly and damage infrastructure.

So what do we need to do?

Wildlife surveys are an established part of the pre-planning submission stage and take various forms. Normally a site is first assessed by undertaking a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) which incorporates a desk study, a Phase 1 Habitat Survey and a protected species assessment, these are not costly. Together these results indicate the site’s likely value for both species and habitats, and gives an idea of whether there are likely to be any issues that will affect the development.

Further surveys may be required if a PEA suggests that protected species are present on site. These may be species that are protected nationally or across Europe. Included in the latter category of European Protected Species are all 18 bat species in the UK, as well as the great crested newt, otter and dormouse.

Proposals for large developments require the assessment of ecological impacts to be included in planning applications, and to provide mitigation for any significant ecological impacts. As a result, surveys for European Protected Species and protected habitats are becoming part and parcel of applications for most large developments.


The timing of ecology surveys is an aspect of the development process that is often overlooked. Whilst badger surveys can be undertaken throughout the year, if bats or dormouse are presumed to be present on your development site, survey timings require much more consideration. Surveys for some forms of bat activity can only be undertaken from May to August; surveys for dormice can only be undertaken from April to November. Find our survey calendar here.

Avoidance isn’t the solution

Avoiding the problem will not make it go away. Developers have previously tried to avoid ecological issues by proposing mitigation in the absence of surveys; however, this is poor practice and is not accepted by the statutory agencies. Local authorities must have evidence that the proposed development will not be detrimental to protected species and the only way to prove that is through a survey.

In the case of a number of species poor planning of surveys can mean a wait of six months or more until the survey season comes round again. Thus it is important to plan surveys early in the project. That way, any ecological issues can be dealt with with minimal disruption and cost.

Case studies

The following are examples of major infrastructure projects that have benefited from the early planning of ecological surveys.

Beyond Green, Norfolk;

A large mixed-use residential development north of Norwich, to include two new schools, public open space and over 80 hectares of arable reversion to create a large country park, was proposed by Beyond Green. The Ecology Consultancy was engaged to work with them on the project. Surveys covered habitats, protected species, bryophytes and invertebrates. We carried out a strategic ecological assessment and technical reporting, along with the preparation of the ecology chapter for the environmental statement. Green infrastructure was designed to maximise both nature conservation and recreational value.

Outline planning permission was granted in September 2013 and, unusually for a development of this size, there were no objections on ecological grounds.

M25 widening programme;

The Ecology Consultancy, working alongside the contractor Skanska Balfour Beatty JV, has been protecting wildlife during a scheme to widen the M25 over a number of years. The Ecology Consultancy contributed the ecology and biodiversity chapter of an award-winning Assessment for Section 4a, a 5.3 mile stretch between Junctions 27 and 28.

Temple, working alongside The Ecology Consultancy, can now provide the whole range of environmental services including ecological survey and mitigation.