Latest news and eventsGo back to previous page

Autumn FHRG Highways Innovation Conference

28 October 2021

Proving Services hosted the autumn ADEPT Future Highways Research Group (FHRG) Highways Innovation Conference on 21st October 2021. Proving's Karen Farquharson describes the sessions.

Over 50 attendees participated virtually, representing local authorities, DfT, the private sector and industry bodies. The theme of the conference was ‘Decarbonising Highways’, with the objective of developing and implementing a collaborative and effective research programme that accelerated activity and improved outcomes in this area.

Carbon Reduction Activities
Key to measuring the impact of any carbon reduction initiatives is a consistent approach to measuring Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Simon Wilson, Director of the FHRG, described the planned route map for developing guidance to assist the highways sector in measuring, reporting and reducing carbon.

Figure 1: Zero Carbon Highways (Scope Route Map)

The objective is to have comprehensive guidance, policies, and standards for all scopes, available by June 2022. This is a sector-wide initiative, sponsored by the private sector, led by Proving and supported by subject-matter experts. Dr Helen Bailey and Emma Pye provided a progress update, highlighting the findings from literature reviews and sector interviews and then gave a tour of the draft guidance. Thoughts and feedback were sought from the audience. Overall, the direction and progress-to-date appeared well-received. The completed Scope 1 &2 guidance will be published on 26th November 2021.

As the development and integration of Scope 3 is more complex and challenging, Proving requested sector pledges to help ensure commitment and progress. These included:

  1. Agreement to take part in the research and to coordinate the activity through the FHRG. 
  2. To support the research project through the provision of data or taking part in the engagement.
  3. Through the research, to provide support for downstream activity (funding/time).
  4. Agreement to support the outcome of the research and associated proposals.

Feedback during and immediately following the conference suggests the sector is keen to pledge support for the Scope 1,2 & 3 emissions research project. The research project will also undertake a review of all known carbon calculators, using agreed criteria, providing the sector with recommended tools that will help ensure accuracy and consistency when benchmarking or demonstrating any progress of carbon reduction.

Figure 2: Carbon Calculators Route Map

Two industry carbon reducing case studies were presented to the conference.
Case Study #1: Wendover Bypass - Reducing Costs & Carbon
Paul Kidd, Technical Director, Eurovia Contracting

Paul described the £1.5M capital scheme, to resurface the Wendover Bypass, funded by HS2. This provided an opportunity for Eurovia to introduce new materials, processes and technologies realising significant tangible benefits to the customer and local area, including:

  • Noise Pollution - reduced by 5.2dB 
  • Financial Budget - 24% reduction, £361K
  • Carbon Savings - 95,874 KgCO2

Carbon Case Study #2: Designing Out Carbon
Jon Casey, Atkins
Jon described how the Atkins are now focused on producing low carbon designs for their clients. A number of examples where this has successfully been achieved were highlighted. He explained that a series of process changes and new thinking was now embedded within Atkins:

  1. Think on a Whole Life Cycle basis.
  2. Apply innovation and efficiency improvements.
  3. Assess carbon performance.
  4. Regularly report progress, achievements & next steps.
  5. Develop programme/ project processes to enable carbon reduction:
    - Integrate carbon reduction thinking into asset/ programme/ project processes.
    - Record design developments and decisions that improve carbon performance.
    - Engagement across the project team including client, designer, constructor, and materials suppliers to determine best options.
    - Develop a clear action plan.
    - Ensure that carbon reduction is addressed at all key decision-making points.

Finally, Simon Wilson closed the section on carbon reduction by informing the conference that Proving plans to curate a library of Carbon Reducing Options. This will be free to access, and the sector will be encouraged to put forward for inclusion, any ideas and innovations.

Human Capital Management
A further but important topic of discussion was Human Capital Management and the current skills gap and level of vacancies across the highways sector. Simon Wilson presented research data that highlighted the crisis and the cost to the sector of its reliance on agency staff. Proving plans to launch a major research project in December 2021 which will focus on identifying the required changes and options for addressing or mitigating the issues within the sector. Again, it was agreed by the conference participants that any solution will require collaboration and consensus across the sector. A research proposal will be issued to the sector for consideration during November 2021.

Political Engagement
Member engagement and management has become a key driver of VfM performance. Karen Farquharson informed the conference that Proving plans to host a roundtable discussion in January 2022 for FHRG members discuss the issues and to provide advice and guidance to each other as to these challenges may resolved.

Proposed Upcoming Meetings & Events

  1. Scope 1 & 2 Guidance Publishing- 26th November 2022 (Online Event)
  2. Human Capital Research Programme: Roundtable Launch Event - December 2021, To Be Scheduled (Method & Date Poll)
  3. Political Engagement: Roundtable Discussion - January 2022, To Be Scheduled (Method & Date Poll)
  4. FHRG Meeting (Members Only) - 24th February 2022? To Be Scheduled (Cranfield + Virtual, Date Poll)
  5. Scope 3: Sector Review Publishing - March 2022, To Be Scheduled (Online Event)
  6. ADEPT / FHRG: Spring Highways Innovation Conference - April 2022, To Be Scheduled (Cranfield + Virtual, Date Poll)
  7. Scope 3: Guidance Publishing - May 2022, To Be Scheduled (Cranfield + Virtual, Date Poll)