As a specialist communications consultancy that’s dedicated to infrastructure, we have a unique opportunity to become involved across the whole development lifecycle. We have a role from policy development, through planning, construction and eventual operation of everything from roads, to windfarms to schools and hospitals.
Despite the brief hiatus caused by Covid-19, we are enormously optimistic about the state of our sector. The UK has faced numerous challenges for decades, from imbalances in the economy, to low levels of productivity and poor connectivity, to the looming need to decarbonise energy generation and transport.
These problems have seemed insurmountable. But that may just be changing.
There has been an acceptance across all levels of government that things can and must change fundamentally if we are to establish a successful net zero economy. That change will be all pervasive, impacting our working, as well as domestic lives, and it is inspiring an infrastructure revolution.
The outcome is that the infrastructure sector is booming, and Copper is growing fast to help accommodate and support it. We have expanded substantially in recent years, increasing the number of projects we are working on, the sectors we support and the services we offer. We expect to continue that growth in years to come, and see that our partners across the infrastructure sectors are experiencing the same increase in opportunity.
The biggest single thing that we need to capitalize on that opportunity, and to enable the change to UK infrastructure that’s needed, is to boost the availability of great people.
We have worked enormously hard to attract people into Copper, but more broadly into the infrastructure sector. We recruit at all levels, from those beginning their working life, to experienced seasoned professionals, and we are continuing to do so.
But the whole industry needs to capitalize on our moment in the spotlight, not to achieve short term growth, but to revitalize our offering to the people we work with and ensure that we are able to attract the brightest and the best people, from all walks of life.
We can offer a career path that provides rapid development, but perhaps more importantly enables people to make a tangible difference to the country. We cant promise an easy life, as infrastructure projects are complex and frequently demanding, but we can promise a job with an enormous amount of satisfaction and sense of achievement.
But that must be matched with offering ways of working that are compatible with modern family life, that are flexible and that trust people to work how, when and where will deliver the best outcomes, rather than forcing people to comply with outdated office-bound structures.
In our own really small way we are trying to take a lead in this area, enabling a completely flexible working arrangement, and allowing our highly capable team to work in ways that are right for them. People at Copper can work from any of our three offices in Bristol, Birmingham and London as suits them, but also remotely, and to decide how they structure their working week.
We support a wide range of working arrangements, with a number of our team choosing to work part time to support family commitments or academic studies.
We also offer an increasingly flexible range of benefits, including a fitness fund to support wellbeing and a flexible training fund to support personal and career development, in addition to on the job training and support.
We are far from a perfect employer and we are continuously striving to do better, with our dedicated People and Culture Director helping to ensure that we do everything we can to attract the very best people from across our industry and beyond, and to demonstrate the wonderfully fulfilling career that infrastructure can offer.
Economic development aims to create stronger communities and sustainable economies – both objectives which most people support. So why do attempts to transform towns, cities and regions sometimes face apathy or even resistance from the very people they are intended to benefit?
In collaboration with the Association of Women in Property, Copper Consultancy’s Group Account Director, Fiona Woolston, will showcase our latest research into how the public view investment in places and how these findings can be used to improve project engagement and communications. The webinar will include a case study of Copper’s work on The London Resort, a world-class, sustainable, next generation entertainment resort.
The webinar will close with a Q&A session and an opportunity for attendees to share their good and bad experiences of public engagement and communications to promote best practice learning among the group.
Open to members and non-members, please register here.
The government’s recent adoption of a new target to reduce emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 put renewed focus on sectors such as international aviation and shipping which previously sat outside the UK’s Carbon Budget. But the adoption of recommendations from the Climate Change Committee also has major implications for an industry much closer to home. James Gore considers the decarbonisation challenge faced by the housing sector.
The UK has some of the most energy inefficient housing in Europe, a situation exacerbated by increased working from home during the pandemic. Many column inches have been devoted to the eye-watering cost of retrofitting existing housing stock, with the bill for the social housing sector alone estimated at more than £100bn. But, as the Climate Change Committee has pointed out, work is also needed to close the gap between design and actual performance of new homes when it comes to energy efficiency.
Improving the performance of new and existing homes requires a workforce skilled in low-carbon heating and ventilation and closing this low-carbon skills gap could provide opportunities for young people who have been hit hardest by the economic impact of Covid-19. But inspiring a generation to help make this happen requires a coordinated approach to communications from government and industry.
At the same time, the sector must do more to counter negativity around the potential cost to homeowners and landlords of meeting the decarbonisation challenge. Increasingly, organisations in the social housing sector are working together to procure services and develop the skills required to meet the decarbonisation challenge, and there is a strong case for this joined-up approach extending to the sector’s communications on this issue.
Copper’s research into public attitudes to net zero emissions in the UK suggests the public are willing to invest in new technologies if this is accompanied by some form of incentive from government. But negative media coverage about the effectiveness of replacement heating systems risks reducing people’s appetite for making the required changes. Without clearer articulation of the benefits for both individuals and society as a whole, the housing sector faces an uphill battle to convince the public the price is worth paying.
In the run up to COP26, the housing sector will have opportunities to shine a light on these challenges and showcase steps it is taking towards a low-carbon future. It is important that the sector speaks with one voice on this critical issue, making clear its ‘asks’ from government and communicating a positive message to the public about the opportunities that come from decarbonisation. By cutting through noise on this issue to communicate a clear and compelling message, the housing sector can emerge as a leader in the UK’s efforts to meet its net zero target.
In this blog Aliba Haque explores how cities in the UK and across the world are reimagining urban life and using their post-pandemic recovery plans to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis, in the third and final part of a blog series following on from our ‘Reshaping Towns and Cities in a post-COVID world’ webinar.
Many urban economists call cities the engines of economic growth. Cities are the social magnets behind globalisation as well as the epicentres of new ideas and advanced technologies, the pools of high-skilled labour and dynamic manufacturing and the networks of goods, services and opportunities.
When the COVID-19 crisis brought cities to a halt, thriving public spaces emptied overnight. The pandemic altered the fabric of urban life and brought cities to the frontline of the response to the pandemic, with many adopting ‘agile approaches’ to overcoming challenges and implementing measures that support advancing environmental objectives as part of their recovery plans.
According to Capgemini’s (2020) ‘Fast-forward to the future: Defining and winning the post-COVID new normal’ 2020 report, the pandemic has ‘cemented technology’s role at the heart of transformation, driving new ways of interaction, sharing, engaging, and decision making’. Technology has been crucial to cities and how they have responded to the pandemic, implementing tools to measure contagion risk, social distancing measures and the continuation of vital services such as deliveries. Undoubtedly the COVID-19 crisis has renewed interest in the ‘smart cities’ policy approach where cities collaborate with the private sector to design, implement and encourage the use of technology across public infrastructure to “diminish the shortcomings of urbanisation for citizens” (Smart City Index, 2020).
In the UK, Newcastle used smart city technologies and deep learning algorithms to measure whether social distancing measures were being followed by citizens and used such data to analyse mobility patterns following lockdown measures.
Seoul and Daegu used artificial intelligence and innovative technology to promptly develop a coronavirus testing kit and a smart quarantine information system where inbound passengers could be accurately tested for COVID-19 instantly. Passengers could then be isolated to stop the spread. Both cities also used geo-localised mobile technology for contact tracing. Mexico City partnered up with Google maps and Waze to monitor mobility throughout the city, whilst Budapest used smart city tools to control large gatherings and identify places where there were high concentrations of people.
Working from home and social infrastructure
For large parts of the population, the pandemic has normalised remote working, studying and shopping. Termed the ‘Zoomshock’ (University of Nottingham, 2021), productive activities are moving workers from high-density urban areas back to low-density residential neighbourhoods. Whilst the potential for remote work varies by occupation, sector and country, advanced economies such as the UK, France, Spain, the US and Germany have reported high levels of employee time spent working remotely (McKinsey, 2020). This is likely to become the ‘new normal’ where companies, businesses and institutions will make the most of agile working patterns due to lockdown and social distancing measures.
Breaking through the digital divide
Yet, one of the many inequalities exacerbated by COVID-19 is the digital divide, specifically internet access and lack of adequate digital equipment or infrastructure. In New York, approximately 300,000 students did not have access to digital devices to complete their studies whilst in Yokohama, Japan, where students did not have access to the internet, some lessons were made available to watch on local TV stations. Milan called for the launch of donation services for devices and internet connections whilst the City of Toronto partnered with IT companies to provide free, temporary internet access to low-income neighbourhoods.
To prevent the risk of digital exclusion, it is important for projects in the UK to take lessons from these international cities and combine digital engagement with traditional methods such as newsletters, telephone surgeries and advertising projects in local newspapers and public information points.
The future of urban mobility
Urban planners and developers have had to pause momentarily and rethink their approaches towards urban space, opening doors to conversations about alternative mobility measures. The 1000 Cities Adapt Now initiative, launched earlier this year by the Global Commission on Adaptation, has exemplified this, with 1,000 cities across the globe examining climate adaptability measures alongside post-pandemic recovery options that will have immediate benefits for the most vulnerable communities.
Already many cities are exploring transformational urban mobility plans by turning roads into open streets (as outlined in our blog on ‘Re-imagining city spaces in a post-Covid world’) and investing more in active mobility infrastructure.
Milan’s ambitious transport scheme places more of on an emphasis on public transport safety and accessibility, Southampton is promoting low emission transport options such as electric vehicles and scooter usage, Montreal plans to increase green space available to residents and Valencia has increased protections surrounding its green belt, as part of a climate resilience strategy.
Cities across the globe have played a crucial role to complement post-pandemic recovery responses, approaching the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis as opportunities to actively reinvent, innovate and sustain urban life.
As they seek to move from responding to emergency situations to long-term post-pandemic recovery strategies, decisionmakers for our cities will need to harness tools that can accelerate recovery, such as innovative technologies and widening digital access and participation.
Doing so will allow urban planners and policymakers to address and tackle the widening gap between building back better and infrastructure investment, to make urban centres better for our public health, economies and our environment.
For our cities to be part of a sustainable green recovery, the planning approaches and policy responses needed will have to demonstrate long-term innovation and future proof for resilience that goes far beyond temporary measures that merely ‘kickstart’ economies.
Recovery measures will need to systematically reassess how our cities function, how to tackle socioeconomic inequality and environmental damages caused by urban living and, most importantly, how to not only build back better but build back smarter.
To find out more about the importance of planning, regeneration and urban design in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery for our towns and cities, please contact Aliba Haque, Account Executive within Copper’s Economic Development practice at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week we received the terrific news that Vattenfall’s Norfolk Vanguard Offshore Windfarm has been granted consent by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.
Copper has been supporting Vattenfall with stakeholder engagement and project communications in the lead-up to this positive decision. This key milestone ensures we are a step closer to ensuring the local and national benefits of this nationally significant infrastructure project become a reality.
With an installed capacity of 1.8GW, when operational Norfolk Vanguard will provide the equivalent electricity needs of 1.95 million homes per year. The project will help to cement and maintain East Anglia as a UK powerhouse, and put the region at the heart of the national transition to a low-carbon economy. It will also support hundreds of local jobs directly and through the supply chain.
As they have evolved together as coordinated projects, we are now keeping our fingers crossed that its sister project Norfolk Boreas, which is currently in Examination, will also achieve this milestone. Copper led the statutory consultation on the Norfolk Boreas Offshore Windfarm and continues to provide ongoing support during Examination.
If both Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas were consented and constructed it would mean double the clean energy and double the emissions reductions. These projects would be delivered in a highly coordinated efficient and optimised way, and would deliver greater benefits and economic opportunities to the region.
We would like to congratulate the whole team at Vattenfall for this fantastic achievement. This positive decision shows that the Government is serious about its climate ambitions and about enabling a green recovery as we emerge from the from the Covid-19 crisis. Now and in the future, it is projects like these that will help us get one step closer to reaching the net zero target by 2050.
As part of Copper’s Attitudes series, we asked the public what their views are on the viability of the net zero target and what we need to do to reach it by 2050. You can read more about our results in our report here.