In this sweltering heat, our national infrastructure is being put under new stresses. With headlines of railway tracks buckling and air cooling units working overtime what does infrastructure resilience mean to people on the high street?
Thumbing the pages of the dictionary we find varying definitions but a middle ground states ‘the quality of being able to return quickly to a previous good condition after problems.’
What is a reasonable level of resilience that the wider public accept? Should we be talking about failure at all and how can communications support?
It could be argued that resilience is a hidden aspect of all projects. Something that is taken for granted with every journey on a motorway, flicking of the kettle or watching the countryside drift past on a train. In the race to the bottom to bid, undertake and run infrastructure projects, would the service users be prepared to pay for added resilience?
With increasing stresses on our daily lives including changing climates and increasing volumes of passengers how do we know when enough is enough?
It is time for that debate.
The UK has a well-defined planning system, where consultation with communities and stakeholders takes place around a scheme’s environmental impact and benefit case. Applicants are encouraged to consult ‘enthusiastically’ and many assets have educational programmes.
However, much more must be done to raise the awareness of the identification, testing and enhancements to scheme design and delivery that ensure it performs when infrastructure is put under stress.
This starts with informing stakeholders (road users, train passengers and energy consumers), to build an understanding of the complex issues, the challenges that put business continuity at risk and the innovations implemented to protect these structures.
But mobilising support is crucial.
Think about the perception around the headline grabbing delays to Crossrail or when train tracks get too hot? What would public sentiment be saying if clearly signposted updates had been shared of the potential for delay and the cost increases in real time? Would the public be more understanding if they knew in advance that in hot weather trains need to travel more slowly?
At the local level, as a result of increasing awareness of climatic changes and promotion of issues by activist groups, communities are now starting seek more answers around what happens and how infrastructure located near to them will react under extremes of performance.
It is now time projects start building support for their resilience measures to ensure that when an issue strikes the public is familiar with the problem and can digest information around the issue. In turn reducing the management time required to manage reputational issues when infrastructure resilience is tested.
But what does this mean for commuters stuck on a stuffy train or those grounded by drones buzzing over our airspace? Clear communications to build an understanding of the issues and the challenges that the sector is facing is a start. In the words of the Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission – the pathway towards becoming net-zero by 2050 will involve the next generation of infrastructure to succeed. This is the equivalent to the challenge of putting a ‘man on the moon.’ But we need the end users of infrastructure services to understand that resilience is being thought about and built into their day to day lives. They may never experience when that resilience fails – understanding that it might is key in protecting reputation if it does come under strain.
Written by Andrew Turner, Senior Account Director at Madano
Madano is a leader in working with clients who communicate across the infrastructure, energy and environment sector in the UK and globally, to find out more about how we can support your projects please drop me a line here.
Even after a few weeks home, it still feels weird being sat at my desk in London after what I can only describe as one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences during my time at Madano and AVENIR GLOBAL.
Let’s rewind to April, where I was on my way from Coachella to spend a day at our San Francisco office which is now home to SHIFT, Padilla and FoodMinds. Upon arrival I was instantly made welcome and was even greeted by a small figurine of the Queen. I was home. Not only was it great to use the office as a post-holiday base to trawl through two weeks of emails, it was great to meet the teams and make connections that have already led to active cross-atlantic business discussions.
Shipping Up to Boston
I officially started the AVENIR GLOBAL mobility programme the following Monday in SHIFT Boston, overlooking the historic Copley Square at the heart of the city and a breezy walk from my digs on the other side of Boston Common. Thankfully Madano and SHIFT Boston already work on numerous international client programmes together and so it was easy to put names to faces and quickly skip past the too often awkward intros. SHIFT’s famous “embarrassing story” icebreaker for new joiners also quickly set the precedent for things to come.
After working on joint accounts for the last 18 months, it was great to meet teams that I’ve only ever emailed or spoken to on conference calls. In actual fact, it reinforced the value in speaking to people face-to-face. Of course, the internet has enabled us to better communicate, but I came away from my experience feeling stronger aligned on client programmes, and full of ideas to bring back to the UK (I hope SHIFT feels the same). It’s been invaluable to visit colleagues and spend the time to get to know each other, to understand our differences, to identify new opportunities, and to enhance what we can offer clients.
Trying to understand what baseball is
Alongside its position as one of the U.S.’s best tech PR agencies, one of SHIFT’s core areas of expertise is Marketing Technology, specifically in areas such as SEO, content marketing and paid social campaigns. Shadowing the team was a fascinating opportunity to expand my skills in these areas.
An Eye-Opening Experience
Culturally, this was a nice shock to the system. I joined Madano straight out of university, still baby faced, and having never worked for another consultancy. Working out of SHIFT Boston was my first time in another office, and my first time in the USA. Beyond the jaywalking, large portion sizes and having to say soccer instead of football, the integration was made easier by my colleagues. Happy-hours, karaoke sessions, misunderstood games of baseball and trips to Provincetown mean I’ve hopefully made friends for life, rather than colleagues for LinkedIn likes (but hopefully that too!).
Madano and SHIFT take on Provincetown, MA
It was also nice to see familiar faces. I managed to spend a long weekend in New York City and caught up with colleagues from both Madano and AXON UK. It shows how the reach of AVENIR GLOBAL and how the Firm enables its employees to travel and work across the world, but also the different specialist skill sets we have within the company. On my one day in Padilla NYC, for example, it was fascinating to hear how different some of their work in the food and beverage industries differs to what some of the network does.
Madano reunite in New York City
I can’t endorse the mobility programme at AVENIR GLOBAL strongly enough. I feel very privileged to have travelled across the USA, meeting and shadowing some of my colleagues and gaining invaluable skills, experiences and contacts. Now I’m back in London, it’s time to put them to good use!
The Firm’s mobility programme allows AVENIR GLOBAL employees to knowledge share and collaborate side by side (or in person) with colleagues in any of its locations.
Recently the UK government announced a pledge to reach ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050, making Britain one of the first G7 nations to bring forward the legislation. This new commitment follows a recommendation from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) released in May, which recommended the ‘net zero’ target and provided insight into what the future could look like. It is said that the UK’s ‘net zero’ target could potentially cost £1 trillion and bring cuts to public services such as the police, NHS, schools and hospitals. It’s evident that some sacrifices will need to be made in order to reach our ultimate end goal. In the long term we’ll see significant benefits such as improved quality of life due to better air quality, which will inevitably lead to cost savings for the NHS.
More recently, all across the UK we’ve seen young climate change activists taking part in school strikes and Extinction Rebellion protesters calling for action and even proposing a shorter ‘net zero’ target of 2025. It’s this rise in activism, although not always welcomed with open arms, that’s helped to bring wider awareness to the climate crisis, forcing politicians to pay attention to the UK’s contribution to global warming. Ambitious targets have been set by the government – so how will the UK achieve this and what role does technology play in this?
Digital technologies are key to decarbonising the world and digital will help the UK to become a zero carbon economy. The SMARTer2030 report states that ICT has the potential to enable a 20 per cent reduction in global carbon emissions by 2030, keeping emissions at 2015 levels.
According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), carbon capture and storage (CCS) will play a crucial role in making a ‘net zero’ UK a reality. Progress in bringing this technology to life has been slow in the UK, with the government famously cancelling its £1 billion competition to build a large-scale model of CCS in 2015. However, earlier this year Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry, announced a new Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) Advisory Group, with the aim of bringing together experts to help develop the CCUS market in the UK.
Decarbonising our vehicle and transport fleets, and becoming electrified, will be essential if we are to achieve our long-term target. As highlighted in a previous blog, between January 2018 and January 2019 we saw a 110 per cent increase in electric vehicle (EV) registrations. If we are to increase EV take up we need to improve the EV charging infrastructure in the UK, making it easier for people to charge their vehicles at home, work or on the go.
Another area worth noting in the UK’s road to ‘net zero’ is buildings – in April the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) launched a framework definition for ‘net zero’ carbon buildings to encourage greater implementation and to help the construction and property industry transition to ‘net zero’ by 2050. As we envisage the intelligent buildings of the future, we’ll see an increase in smart sensors for anything that is using energy where we can analyse our usage, increase efficiency and predict future consumption. An IHS Markit study found that LED bulbs helped to cut 570 million tonnes of carbon emissions in 2017. It’s clear that technology has helped and will continue to play a key role in the UK achieving its ‘net zero’ target, however a collaborative effort is still required across all industries.
While for some it may seem as though a ‘net zero’ target is both unrealistic and too ambitious for the UK, I believe that with the right steps in place, a more collaborative effort across all industries and greater cross-party support, we can achieve our ‘net zero’ target by 2050. From my experience of working with companies in the low-carbon space at Madano, it’s clear that there are innovative technologies that can help us turn this ambitious goal into a reality.
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