Getting it right at the highest level

4 Oct 23

Project 13 is about getting it right at the highest level for the whole built environment and has many synergies with GIRI, said Melissa Zanocco at GIRI’s members’ meeting in September. “Our vision is for a built environment whose explicit purpose is to enable people and nature to flourish together for generations.”

Project 13 is one of the three core initiatives of the Infrastructure Client Group, with a community of 4,000 members, and is being adopted by some of the largest infrastructure owners. The focus is on moving from a transactional business model to more collaborative ways of building a sustainable future for the industry, creating infrastructure that delivers better value for all.  

Melissa explained that the initiative is based on the concept of the built environment as a ‘system of systems’ where the links between social and economic infrastructure and the natural world are understood, and the fact that infrastructure is not about building siloed projects, but about adding interventions to the overall system.

The emphasis is on delivering a service, rather than a facility. “We don’t want a hospital, we want healthcare; we don’t want a school, we want education. Project 13 believes getting it right at the highest level is about having better outcomes for people and nature. And nature is important because if you don’t have better outcomes for nature, you won’t have better outcomes for people.”

This extends to all levels. “There’s project outcomes, community-level outcomes, national outcomes, and even global outcomes, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Getting it right at the highest level is being able to see that link from how each project is helping to achieve the UN goals.”

An outcome-focused approach, Melissa explained, considers the system as whole and the best way to achieve the desired outcome. “Can you achieve it by optimising what is already there, or by modifying it? We don’t build something unless we have checked we can’t achieve the outcome in a different way. If we do build, it is understood as an intervention in the overall system rather than, as we have now, standalone, siloed projects.”

Ultimately, she said, getting it right at the highest level is about the performance of infrastructure – did we need to build it, did we build the right thing, and does it do what we want it to do? 

Project 13 creates the enabling environment through which this can be achieved. “If we want to get things right and reduce error, lots of things need to be in place. Project 13 sees part of that as exploiting digital to the full, and that could be across the portfolio, an organisation, or the whole life of assets. Equally, digital unlocks Project 13 because you need the information and data flowing through the enterprise, across organisations.

“Then there’s carbon. You can’t hit net-zero targets if you don’t exploit digital and deliver projects differently. And if you can get these things right, underpinned by people having the right tools, skills, and capabilities, then you will get improved productivity and improved performance of infrastructure.”

Project 13 is an industry change movement because it requires a new mindset and new behaviours. “The traditional transactional parent-child approach of the industry creates silos and makes it difficult for collaboration to occur. The Project 13 enterprise model, on the other hand, is set up for long-term collaborative relationships. We talk about Capable Owners rather than clients, because we want people to start thinking differently, and asset owners have an interest in the whole life of a project and getting those outcomes for people and nature.”

A Capable Owner should articulate the outcome and the value of the outcome that they want, which is different to just the cost. When they go to market, they procure the capability to achieve that outcome, with an emphasis on innovative solutions.

An example of this is the Anglian Water Strategic Pipeline Alliance. “They didn’t go to market to procure a pipeline, they procured the capability to move water from one area to another. In this way they were able to reduce the pipeline by 25% with corresponding reductions in carbon and cost.”

Project 13 is based on five pillars and their corresponding principles: organisation (creating a collaborative enterprise), governance (of that enterprise), integration (moving away from a transactional construction approach to more of a production system) and the capable owner and digital transformation. “How fast you can move depends on the maturity of the latter two,” she explained.

Melissa highlighted the many ways in which Project 13 aligns with and complements GIRI, including creating the culture and working environment to get it right from the start, sharing knowledge, and early stakeholder engagement. “That way there is collective planning that helps avoid waste and rework.”

There are also commercial advantages, she explained. “Project 13 is about making the pie bigger for all stakeholders rather than everyone fighting to make their slice bigger. Stakeholders are incentivised to achieve an outcome, which allows for flexibility in case circumstances change.” It also takes advantage of constantly evolving digital technologies to find better, more efficient ways of working that make that pie bigger.

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