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Emerging Trends in Infrastructure

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Transitioning to capital investment, participants were prompted to recall the 2000s, a time when Ireland excelled in drawing significant market interest, including overseas expertise, to support our capital programs.

“We were lauded in so many other jurisdictions for how well we developed our infrastructure” noted Paul O’Neill adding that “it is imperative for the government to assume a leadership role in this context as we currently lack depth in our contracting market”.

He added that capital programmes also need to be treated for what they are – “long term, multi project delivery programmes with funding certainty to match, spanning many years, rather than adhering to an annual budgetary cycle as is typically the case”. 

Addressing the contract dynamics for major projects across Ireland, participants advocated for greater contractor involvement at early stages, favouring collaborative over traditional fixed-price contracts.

“There is a lot of focus on costs and schedules, not on outcomes and longer-term benefits,” Freda Quinlan explained, “the delivery and contractual models in use are no longer fit for purpose for the scale of the projects we are planning”.

Freda elaborated that the experience internationally is that the front end of the process, primarily the planning and design stage is the most crucial in setting projects up for success. “It’s about thinking slow and acting fast. We need to focus on that.”

Mark McGreevy welcomed the increased granting of derogations by government to enable the use of Option E contracts which allow a more equitable sharing of risk and a more collaborative relationship between contractor and client, while still maintaining rigorous cost control. The successful use of this form of contract was exemplified in a €200 million modular housing project, carried out by Sisk.

Mark went on to explain “[there were] four modular builders involved. They competed on price, but all delivered within the same framework, and all shared the same certification. There was no reluctance to share and collaborate and that benefited the programme of delivery which was a priority for the client. There was an understanding that no one firm could do it on their own and that we can all learn from each other.”

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