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Project 13 will help to rebuild a more sustainable construction industry

Adam Kirkup

Mark Hansford, ICE director of engineering knowledge, explains why Project 13 is central to efforts to rebuild a more productive, sustainable construction industry post-Covid-19.

Led by the Infrastructure Client Group and supported by ICE, the industry-wide change programme Project 13 is intended to improve outcomes for the public and infrastructure customers, deliver a more highly skilled, innovative workforce and create a more sustainable, productive construction industry.

The collaborative enterprise business model officially moved into its implementation phase in May 2018. Back then, in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of UK contracting giant Carillion, it was hard to argue that existing business models were not broken.

Fast forward two years and introduce the biggest shock to the construction industry in living memory – Covid-19 – and the call for change is deafening. Embedding more collaborative working between the industry and its clients, building on initiatives such as Project 13, is a key plank of the Construction Leadership Council’s recovery plan for the construction sector and it is easy to see why.

The reasons for embracing Project 13 are compelling. At its heart, it advocates delivering projects through enterprises – long-term relationships between owners, investors, integrators, advisers and suppliers – and aligning all involved around a set of agreed outcomes that they then work collaboratively towards achieving.

Delivery through enterprises

To be clear, these outcomes are customer outcomes. This, says ICG Project 13 Chair Dale Evans, ensures that the voice of the customer is clearly articulated and investment is focused on its needs.

“Outcomes provide the starting point for engagement and creating alignment between the owners of infrastructure and the deliverers,” he says.

The Project 13 philosophy is also based on earlier engagement between infrastructure owners and integrated supply chain teams. Evans places emphasis on the word 'integrated' here.

“These integrated teams can then support the application of innovative technology and more productive methods of delivery, such as manufactured solutions, thereby enabling continuous improvements in productivity,” he says.

Lastly, Project 13 promotes a more sustainable construction industry. It aims to change the business model, connecting infrastructure owners and their supply chains to one that jointly incentivises performance; aligns reward with delivery of outcomes, not on volume of work done; and promotes greater understanding of cost drivers and risk across all organisations in the enterprise, with commercial incentives for collaboration to jointly mitigate risk, not transfer it.

So how is Project 13 faring? It's doing well, according to early adopters of the philosophy at ICE's Strategy Session, Turning Theory into a Reality. There, adopters ranging from Network Rail in the UK to Sydney Water in Australia described how the Project 13 principles were being brought to bear on major infrastructure programmes.

Still, it is not as simple as going home on a Friday night in an old model and turning up at work on Monday and instantly converting to the Project 13 way of working.

Both Network Rail's and Sydney Water’s Project 13 enthusiasts make clear that real and bold leadership is required to move to these new delivery models and that all organisations – and all of us individually – have to be prepared to tackle some of the key blockers along the way.

It’s clear and obvious that moving to an enterprise approach requires owner commitment from the outset and that the approach has to be developed by working much more closely with partners. An environment must be created where all involved collectively pursue the clear benefits of greater integration and collaboration.

A focus on the cultural and behavioural aspects is an essential part of creating this environment – and in overcoming some of the behaviours embedded in our traditional thinking.

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