IfM researchers win Telford Premium prize

A paper co-authored by IfM and Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) investigators has been awarded the Telford Premium prize from ICE Publishing.


The paper titled ‘Towards the future-proofing of UK infrastructure’ has received the prestigious Telford Premium prize, awarded for best paper in journal by the ICE Editorial Panel, the ICE Publishing Awards 2017.


The award-winning paper,which appeared in Infrastructure Asset Management; Volume 3 Issue 1, explores the  ‘what, why and how’ of infrastructure future-proofing – ensuring that a nation’s infrastructure is fit for the future in addition to satisfying current needs.


The paper draws upon lessons learnt from two industrial workshops hosted by CSIC, which brought together leading practitioners in the UK infrastructure and construction sectors and government policymakers, and proposes a framework for linking future-proofing into asset management considerations. Case studies of Dawlish railway and Heathrow airport are also featured.


The authors include IfM and CSIC Co-Investigators: Tariq Masood, Senior Research Associate, Distributed Information and Automation Laboratory, Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge; Duncan McFarlane, Professor and Head of DIAL, Distributed Information and Automation Laboratory, Institute for Manufacturing; Ajith Kumar Parlikad, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Head of DIAL, Distributed Information and Automation Laboratory, Institute for Manufacturing, and the Director of CSIC, Jennifer Schooling. John Dora, of John Dora Consulting, and Andrew Ellis, Asset Management Programme Manager at Heathrow Airport, London, also contributed.


Explaining the concept of future-proofing , the paper proposes the definition as: ‘the process of making provision for future developments, needs or events that impact on particular infrastructure through its current planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance processes’. Essentially, infrastructure future-proofing involves the consideration of future disruptions in the asset management systems of the organisations responsible for infrastructure management.


Two major dimensions of infrastructure future-proofing are considered: infrastructural resilience – resilience to unexpected/uncontrollable events and circumstances; and change management capability – capability to adapt or respond to changing needs, uses or capacities.


The paper identifies three key issues that motivate the need to future-proof infrastructure:

  • ageing infrastructure and long operational lifetimes
  • extreme weather events
  • capacity enhancements and changing uses of key infrastructure.

Other reasons for future-proofing include risk reduction and reduced effort in redesign, redevelopment, reconstruction or demolition with diminishing government budgets, reduced life cycle costs, changes in legislation – for example on carbon dioxide footprints and recognising opportunities for future exploitation. Wider social, economic and environmental benefits of future-proofing are also important for infrastructure with high vulnerability and lower capacity to respond to risks (Godfrey and Savage, 2012).


The UK’s ageing infrastructure provides context in which to consider the value of future-proofing. Infrastructure assets generally have long operational lifetimes. For instance, much of the UK’s existing infrastructure was originally built in the nineteenth century – for example London’s sewerage system and the Royal Albert Bridge over the River Tamar (Defra, 2011). The national infrastructure has recently been assessed (ICE, 2014) and was mostly found to be ‘in need of attention’ or‘at risk’, with the exception of strategic transport (e.g. rail) and water infrastructure, which were considered to be ‘adequate for now’. No major infrastructure category was graded as ‘fit for the future’


HM Treasury has recently identified planned investment needs in excess of £375 billion to replace ageing assets and those assets that do not comply with EU regulations, to help meet policy commitments (e.g. climate change targets) to support economic growth and to meet the future needs of a growing population(House of Commons 2014; Waller, 2014). To achieve the investment goals, the national infrastructure plan was first published in 2010 and is regularly updated every year since then (HM Treasury, 2010, 2013, 2014; Waller, 2014).


The proposed structured framework for considering infrastructure future-proofing brings focus to:

  • conducting requirements analysis
  • analysing current infrastructure management practice
  • identifying and analysing future-proofing considerations
  • identifying and analysing key issues related to a future-proofing strategy
  • developing a model for future-proofing-considered infrastructure management.

These elements represent a potential pathway to establishing future consideration as part of an overall infrastructure asset management plan.


The paper acknowledges challenges in the field and identifies issues including: recognising increased levels of investment in economic infrastructure and demands for value for money; developing and delivering best practice and innovation; identifying appropriate time horizons; identifying key stakeholders and decision-makers; balancing long-term risks against near-term need; identifying sponsors; capacity building; and making a business case.


In conclusion the paper outlines the value proposition of future-proofing finding that the most value of future-proofing is accrued in the maintaining/renewing/upgrading life cycle stage of the infrastructure, while other life cycle stages can support accrual of value during these stages. This highlights the importance of including long-term needs and disruptions when designing infrastructure assets, as the extra investment put in at the design stage may pay off later during usage, especially in cases where changes to the assets may become more costly and involve heavy user disruptions. Nevertheless, a good business case needs to be made to ensure that the right amount (and the right kind) of investment is made.


The paper recommends that future-proofing considerations must be included as part of the organisation’s asset management system. Future-proofing and asset management are not separate functions; there must be an integrated approach. The role of key stakeholders, including governments, regulators and standards organisations, is vital in addressing most of the challenges and integrating future-proofing in asset management practices.


The research for this paper won the Best Poster and Presentation prize at the Institute of Asset Management (IAM) Annual Conference 2015.

The ICE Publishing Awards acknowledges the best work published in its journals awarding the authors who have produced work judged by their peers to be of exceptional quality and of benefit to the civil engineering, construction and materials science community. An ICE Awards Ceremony will take place in London in October when the authors will receive their prize.


*This article was reproduced from the original article published on the CSIC website and features citations from the winning paper: Towards the future-proofing of UK infrastructure, Infrastructure Asset Management; Volume 3 Issue 1, March 2016, pp. 28-41, Masood, McFarlane, Parlikad et al.


The paper is available to read in full on the ICE Virtual Library here.


Further information on future-proofing, including the Infrastructure Future-proofing Assessment Tool which is based upon the criteria and framework proposed in the winning article, can be found here. Further reading on the future-proofing assessment of infrastructure assets can be found here.


Read more about the ICE Publishing Awards here.

Date published

11 October 2017

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