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Does how we build matter as much as what we build?

18th, October 2023

At the UK Construction Week Birmingham event in October 2023, our sponsorship of the Infrastructure Hub meant we hosted an extensive range of discussions, presentations and debates with industry leaders around the complexities and progress of infrastructure and how to achieve ‘Innovation in Action’. Conquip led three sessions on the agenda. In this series of blogs we’re going to report on each session, along with our views on the infrastructure industry.

The final day in Birmingham involved a panel session, ‘Does how we build matter as much as what we build?’

Rob Law EUR ING MEng DIS CEng MICE, Head of Temporary Works at Conquip led a panel with guest speakers Jemma Quin BEng CEng MICE, Temporary Works Manager, Robertson Group & Director, Temporary Works Forum and Siu Mun Li, Head of Temporary Works Engineering, Multiplex & Director, Temporary Works Forum, to discuss:

How does better, early design and planning, as well as best practice implementation, lead to a more sustainable building process, as well as a better infrastructure project? Let’s find out, as this is a topic we’re passionate about….


Rob at Conquip started the session by asking the key question: Does how we build matter as much as what we build?

He said: “As engineers, our answer is going to be “of course”, but we wanted to use this session to give you some deeper insights into what can be done improve the process, some of the things that we find the most frustrating in our sector – especially on something as technically complex as major infrastructure projects. Often, we are focused on the sustainability of the final scheme and we don’t take into consideration the impact of the temporary works and the construction phase (which could span years). That impact may be environmental or cost-based through material choices, build methodology or general inefficiency, or it could be impact on the local community, through disruption or pollution.”

Jemma at Robertson Group said: “The earlier you can plan in a project, the faster and more efficiently the project will run – meaning that potential sequencing issues are flagged early. Thorough meticulous planning and collaboration at design stage, will always deliver better outcomes. In infrastructure projects there is often critical paths and schedules are tight.”

Siu at Multiplex added: “Absolutely, early engagement between of all parties is certainly very important… I always say the best temporary works is no temporary works.”

Rob at Conquip asked Siu to expand further about the differences of thinking of permanent works designers compared to temporary works designers. Siu at Multiplex said: “I tend to find that permanent designers don’t think about the temporary works. Sometimes just increasing the capacity of the permanent works we would remove a multitude of temporary works.”

The group agreed that if more attention was given to permanent works (with a view to how the temporary works on the project was going to be delivered), then less temporary works would be required and overall, there would be less wastage on the project (money, time, complexity).

The panel went onto discuss the role of a lead designer on complex infrastructure schemes.

Rob at Conquip started by saying: “One of the things that seems to be a big challenge in the industry is the collaboration across major schemes… one thing that we often wish we could see probably instated is the lead designer role. Project build programmes are becoming more condensed, people want their projects delivered faster for less money. Through lack of the lead design role, we see extreme wastage, as Siu said earlier, mistakes become expensive.”

Siu at Multiplex commented on skill sets required: “It’s crucial for permanent works designers to understand temporary works. Sometimes, a small tweak in permanent works can remove a multitude of temporary challenges.”

Jemma at Robertson Group responded that: “Proper planning with a lead designer in the room can lead to massive efficiencies being made a preconstruction phase, which can introduce big efficiency and sustainability gains. Early engagement allows a complex, technical project to be achieved in a short space of time.”

Rob at Conquip highlighted, “The lead designer role is vital for ensuring efficiency and productivity on projects, avoiding costly mistakes and wastage.”

The consensus? How we build is just as pivotal as what we build, especially when looking at the overall sustainability and impact on the community of infrastructure projects.

Want more information on Conquip’s infrastructure design engineering and build solutions? Contact us


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