- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 15 Sep 2020
'Soft' infrastructure can also be include built assets, such as hospitals and schools, that are central to the operation of society. However, more commonly it refers to organisational mechanisms, such as government, legislation the emergency services and so on.
Civil engineers are the profession most commonly associated the provision of hard infrastructure. Civil engineers design, construct, maintain and improve the physical environment, including; bridges, tunnels, roads, railways, canals, dams, buildings, flood and coastal defences, airports and other large structures.
The UK's first National Infrastructure Plan was published in October 2010, developed by Infrastructure UK (now the Infrastructure and Projects Authority). The plan was created to tackle the UK's historically fragmented infrastructure development programmes which tend to be ineffective at prioritising need, instead only reacting to failures. The plan is intended to provide a clear, long-term strategy for maintaining and improving infrastructure, enabling the UK to remain competitive and to accommodate an increasing population.
Development consent orders (DCO) are a means of obtaining permission for developments categorised as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP). This includes energy, transport, water and waste projects. Development consent orders are required for designated Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects rather than other consents such as planning permission, listed building consent and compulsory purchase orders.
Section 206 of the Planning Act 2008 gives 'charging authorities' (generally the local planning authority) the power to charge the community infrastructure levy (CIL). It is a charge that local authorities can choose to impose on new developments to fund local infrastructure. This could include infrastructure such as:
A masterplan is a framework within which a location is encouraged to develop or change. Developing a masterplan is a collaborative process involving a wide range of disciplines, but underpinning its integrity is the creation of a sustainable infrastructure suitable for the future of the society it serves.
- The make-up of our societies is changing, and with this there is an ongoing shift in the cultural expectations and requirements of the urban realm.
- Land allocation and land use now follow different economic, civic and political structures. In the UK today we have a largely consensual politics and this affects what can be built at every scale; from national infrastructure to the layout of individual streets.
- The advancement of technology means that the way space is used is undergoing significant change.
- Population in many key countries and cities is increasing rapidly.
- Many major infrastructure programmes that are being undertaken today will continue to impact on the UK economy for the next 50 to 80 years, but few decisions will be made on this basis. In contrast, the timeframes of some hi-tech industries are measured in months or even weeks. A product may only have a shelf-life of 80 weeks before it becomes redundant and is superseded by a 'newer and better' solution.
There is an emerging consensus about how to approach masterplanning within this context, but it has not yet become a standard process with a common language, clearly understood objectives and known outcomes.
There is broad agreement that densely populated urban areas should be more sustainable than less concentrated rural settlements. However, whilst around 50% of the global population lives in cities, they account for more than 75% of the consumption of non-renewable resources, and create around three quarters of global pollution.
From urban regeneration projects to creating new cities, an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach is required to ensure that all aspects of civil engineering and environmental planning are covered. Design teams need to operate across the complete project lifecycle, from assessing physical opportunities and constraints and considering the viability of different development options, to working with planners and developers to achieve the best solution.
At present, many smart systems, or smart grids linked to infrastructure, operate in functional silos, with their own specific hardware and software, operated by companies with specialist knowledge of that particular field. Each system has its own dedicated controls and networks of sensors. Centralised 'smart', control systems not only avoid duplication – with significant cost savings – but also provide a far richer picture of what is happening; enabling more informed decision-making and more rapid deployment of measures to deal with emerging situations.
Smart cities not only optimise the use of technology in the design and operation of infrastructure and buildings, they require consideration of governance and growth, urban development and infrastructure, the environment and natural resources, society and community.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Brexit - The case for infrastructure.
- Civil engineer.
- Community infrastructure levy.
- Construction strategies for SE Asia.
- Covid 19 and the new normal for infrastructure systems.
- Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark GRESB.
- Government construction and infrastructure pipelines.
- Green infrastructure.
- Growth and Infrastructure Act.
- Infrastructure and Projects Authority.
- Infrastructure that allows humans to flourish.
- Infrastructure UK (IUK).
- Infrastructure nationalisation.
- Lessons for transport.
- Levelling up the infrastructure agenda.
- London infrastructure plan.
- National Infrastructure Pipeline.
- National Infrastructure Plan.
- Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects.
- New deal for infrastructure 2020.
- Planning the infrastructure transition to net-zero.
- Project 13 and World Economic Forum partnership.
- Railway engineering.
- Renovate, operate, transfer (ROT).
- Resilience of UK infrastructure and climate predictions.
- Smart cities.
- The future infrastructure of Scotland.
- Traffic and transport.
- Uncertainty in the civil engineering profession.
- Underground asset register for Britain.
- What makes good design?
Featured articles and news
Technology is making remote work a reality.
Carefully placed structures add drama to pastoral vistas.
Report provides actions required by 2030 to achieve a zero carbon economy.
What type of cool roof is most suitable?
Active Travel programme prioritises cyclists and pedestrians.
CIAT issues caution for use of new standard.
Industry leaders discuss climate change, the economy and other influences.
The building manager is key to operations.
The impact Scotland’s dynamic coast has on the historic environment.
IHBC announces role in new APPG.
How healthy pond ecosystems support biodiversity.
The architecture of the medieval anchorhold.