|Project Reference||Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route / Balmedie – Tipperty|
|Details||Nationally significant infrastructure/road project|
|Client/Developer||Aberdeen City Council / Aberdeenshire Council / Transport Scotland|
|Lead Designers||Jacobs Engineering UK Ltd|
|Planning Authority||Aberdeen City Council|
|Planning Ref||Post Statutory Consent – Project PQQ Assessment Stage|
(This summarises project status and background information that was indicated to A&DS prior to the workshop or clarified by the parties during the workshop. In the event that any of the statements made in this introduction are considered incorrect A&DS should be advised and the report will be amended.)
1.01 The AWPR/B-T Project combines for procurement two schemes which were separately promoted by means of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 process. The AWPR is a 46km road scheme providing a new dual carriageway passing south, west and north of the city of Aberdeen. The project involves significant civil engineering works, and includes major river crossings of both the River Dee and the River Don. B-T is a 12km road scheme commencing at the northern extent of the AWPR, comprising some 3km of on-line improvements and some 9km of off-line construction of a new dual carriageway.
The Scottish Government has indicated that the individual schemes are to be combined for procurement under a single contract, which will make use of the Non-Profit Distributing private finance form of contract.
1.02 Project background and previous A&DS engagement
During development of the proposals for the AWPR the project team consulted with A&DS on a number of occasions between 2005 and 2007 in respect of the emerging design and the principles informing it. These consultations set out the proposal to develop a ‘Design Guide’ in respect of the scheme, in a two stage process. The first stage of this process was the development of an outline Design Guide, prepared prior to scheme promotion, and defining the strategic objectives for the aesthetic performance of the scheme, completed in 2007. Following authorisation of the scheme, the second stage involved preparation of a detailed Design Guide which is intended to set out the specific requirements for the scheme to achieve the strategic design objectives of the project. Prior to the workshop session copies of the Draft Design Guide were made available to A&DS for background information and to help form a basis for discussion.
1.03 Project Team update on current status of project
We were advised by the Project Team that work on the Detailed Design Guide is now largely complete, and individual specific requirements identified through this process have been incorporated into the New Works Requirements for the scheme as appropriate. Following the decision to include B-T as part of the overall contract, a review of the B-T proposals has been carried out by the Project Team to align these with the proposals developed in respect of the AWPR, as appropriate to the particular context.
1.04 The Project Team advised that the project was put out to OJEU for expression of interest in January earlier this year. A number of bidders have now come forward and the Team are currently are going through Pre-Qualification Questionnaire assessment. Contract documents are being prepared currently with the intention of going out to tender in early May this year. A site start is programmed for Autumn 2014.
2.00 Workshop Scope
(This section of the report sets out the intended purpose of the workshop as agreed prior to the workshop or as adjusted, by common consent, during the course of the workshop.)
2.01 This is the first time A&DS have had sight of the Design Guide document. Given the significance of the project and the extent of A&DS’s previous involvement it was agreed the workshop allowed:
- An opportunity to follow up on previous discussions, to conclude on our pre-application engagement process and consider the extent to which the document has developed relative to our previous comments, and to which it might provide a sufficiently robust brief for bidders on the aesthetic requirements of the scheme.
- The potential for A&DS to consider, based on the above, the project team’s request that they might have leave to call on A&DS in the future should they wish to refer more detailed proposals to us as the project develops.
2.02 Modification of A&DS processes from the previous “Design Review”, at the time of the previous engagements on the project to the “Design Forum” more recent format, results in the current workshop being deemed an “Appraisal”, but being restricted to the breadth of subject analysis contained within the previous engagements. The following report therefore does not contain the Design Forum Appraisal Summary sheet which would normally supplement the written report.
2.03 The project will be following an NPD form of contract (PFI style procurement) whereby contractors will be required to develop detailed design components based on specific requirements for the scheme to achieve strategic objectives. In some instances the guidance is more prescriptive than in others and Designers will be permitted to suggest alternative designs. The Project Team have requested that should these circumstances arise, further advice from A&DS might be obtained in order to assist in measuring the success of proposed “variant” designs. The Project Team were advised that any potential advice on individual proposals, or elements within proposals, might only be considered against the brief that has been set and that, in order to give any further advice beyond this meeting, A&DS must first be satisfied that the brief demonstrates our stated aspirations for the project.
2.04 The Project Team was also advised that our and our Panel’s time, and therefore opportunity for further engagement, is limited, however the workshop provided the opportunity for the panel members represented to become familiar with the design guide such that any later engagement is productive.
3.00 Workshop Outcomes
(This section of the report summarises the appraisal of A&DS arising from discussion at the workshop and subsequently consolidated in order to provide a clear statement of advice, pertinent to the stage in design development that the project has reached.)
A&DS are pleased to have the opportunity to continue our positive engagement with the Project Team on this significant infrastructure project for the North East of Scotland. The following issues were discussed based on an update from the Team on the current status of the project and presentation of the Draft Design Guide to the Panel, and advice given relative to the draft document and following on from comments made by A&DS at our last engagement with the Team in 2007.
3.01 Robustness of document in procurement route – The Project Team clarified the status of the Design Guide, which sits as a background document alongside other contract documentation to provide aesthetic justification for the scheme. Individual specific requirements from the Guide are incorporated into the New Works Requirements document, thereby ensuring that the overall aesthetic design objectives for the project described in the Design Guide are being encapsulated in the contractual documentation. The Panel welcomed the intent of the document, however given the shear volume of contract documentation, and focus of the workshop on the Design Guide, it is not possible for A&DS to determine whether the correct level of prescriptiveness is being achieved across the suite of contract documents. We therefore look to the Project Team to satisfy itself that this is being achieved.
3.02 Clarity of intent –We suggest the document would benefit from an overarching statement at the beginning – distilling down the different aesthetic design objectives for the project into one main objective, to help bring clarity to the overall design intent and avoid the essence of the design potentially being lost. In particular we suggest this should include:
- a reinforcement of the primary design aspirations for a ‘family of structures’ to be achieved across the scheme
- an overarching description of the broader landscape character intended to make clear to contractors the fundamental issues that have informed the design requirements and recommendations
3.03 Ambition – The Team’s passion and aspiration that led to the current designs, does not come through in the draft document – it was mooted that this was perhaps as a result of enthusiasm having been dampened down by the lengthy hiatus of the project. The Team’s passion and commitment for the project should be matched by a powerful description in the document, to reinforce the imperatives and significance of the scheme.
3.04 Landscape strategy – At the moment the Guide seems to move too quickly into the descriptions of specific junctions. As noted above it would be useful to include an overview of the landscape and geology experienced along the route, to help in referring back to the general landscape objectives whilst going through the specifics.
Over and above the proposed focal points identified in the Design Guide it would also be useful to highlight to contractors where any key ‘momentary views’ along the route exist so that these might be protected from potential change in the designs coming forward, for example in the vertical alignment of the road and / or important views potentially being blocked by new signage.
3.05 Structures – We support the Team in their objective to have a “family of structures” design approach to new structures along the road in order to achieve a homogenous design language. We understand that there will be occasions where a more bespoke structural solution is required, for instance at the Milltimber Overbridge, however should too many bespoke solutions be considered there is the potential for the totality of the scheme to be compromised. A standard should be applied for variations to stem from where necessary. The High Speed 1 link was suggested as a potential exemplar of how a consistent approach is applied to varying structures along the route in order to achieve a unified vision for the project, specifically in the detailing of the parapet edges. The Team agreed that they would review the Design Guide to ensure that the desire to maintain a “family of structures” was strengthened and made explicit.
Notwithstanding procurement constraints the Team are encouraged to set their design aspirations for the appearance of more peripheral components of the project, eg. central reservation barriers. Subtleties in the design of these simple elements will have a significant cumulative impact on the overall appearance and sense of the road.
3.06 Road furniture – The Team are encouraged to set overall strategies for the coordination of other design elements necessary for operation, such as lighting, signage and noise barriers in order to minimise visual clutter. Wherever possible lighting structures should be coordinated with main road structures, for example on major crossing, junctions and other focal points. A good standard of lighting should be sought so as not to undermine the efforts that have gone into the design quality of the structures themselves. An ‘anti clutter’ approach should be stated as a requirement to bidding contractors generally and for those areas of the route where the guidance is less specific.
3.07 Artwork – Previously we had suggested that artists might beneficially be employed on the Team to contribute towards unlocking the potential that existed in the project, and suggested that a coherent arts strategy be commissioned as soon as possible. We understand from the Project Team that the potential to incorporate an artwork strategy into the scheme was discussed at some length following our last report, but that due to the difficulties in the procurement method and scrutiny of costs the decision was taken to exclude this aspect from the contract.
We still firmly believe there is fantastic potential for artwork to be incorporated into the project and are concerned that the absence of an artwork strategy has the potential to undermine the project in terms of delivering on the place making objectives of the scheme. A suitable framework in place at this stage of the project could help control and capitalise on the potential for using art in a positive and creative way as part the design development and bidding process. If the shortlisted contractors could be encouraged to appoint a Public Art Consultant to their team this could form a great asset in a number of ways by:
- Adding value through the effective integration of artwork into the project
- Developing an artwork strategy and scoping opportunities artwork
- Engaging positively with communities and education
- Raising the profile of the project as a potential flagship for its type in Scotland
- Working with the two Local Authorities on developing the project in line with their own public art / cultural policies and initiatives
The Team agreed to explore potential avenues discussed at the workshop for developing a mechanism that would allow an artwork strategy to be incorporated into the project, and opportunities that might thereby be seized accordingly.
4.00 Next Stage
(This section of the report indicates further A&DS involvement proposed or discussed at the workshop.)
4.01 Following staff assessment of the Design Guide it was felt that the draft document generally responds well to comments made by A&DS over the course of our previous engagement, with the exception of issues pertaining to the development of an arts strategy – however this was subsequently discussed with the Team (see 3.07 above).
Going forward, A&DS recognise that there is a limited amount that can be changed at this time due to the stage in the process of the project, but we would very much like to see our comments above taken on board over the next few weeks to add strength to the document and potentially provide us with a locus for further engagement should this subsequently be requested by the Team.
Thereafter, we are keen to understand how the ambitions outlined in the Guide and described by the Team will develop into producing a high quality infrastructure project. Further support could potentially be provided to help the Team in the outworking of an artwork strategy – and we believe there is the potential for further engagement, although necessarily limited by our resources, as the design proposals develop.
The Project Team advised that they would be meeting their Project Board on 3rd May to report on the outcomes of the workshop with A&DS. Thereafter the Team advised there would be the potential for a further session to update A&DS on the progress of the project. We look forward to hearing from the Team again and assisting in the development of this important project in due course.