Voices: “Future-proofing infrastructure in a fast-changing world”
The world faces an urgent need for effective, efficient infrastructure that is resilient to sweeping changes and stresses. This issue of Voices explores the topic of resilience from various angles, tackling questions such as: How can we defend built assets and cities against climate change and cyber threats? How can we use our resources more effectively while meeting maintenance demands? And how can we maintain economic and cultural resilience across our organizations and key institutions? Our goal is to surface a range of perspectives and prompt a dialogue about the long-term challenges, opportunities, and threats that our industry must address and account for.

Voices: “Major projects: Improving the odds of success”
Major projects account for an increasing share of construction. In 2005, major projects accounted for 4% of global construction spending; by 2014, that figure reached 21%. Yet their size and complexity also makes these projects particularly challenging to develop and execute, and many of them suffer from cost or schedule overruns. This issue of Voices explores levers that facilitate success on these ambitious projects: factors like collaborative contracting, digitization, culture and diversity, and new sources of capital. Our goal is to help spur dialogue and ideation about major project innovations and best practices, and how they can scale industry-wide.

Voices: “Harnessing the promise of digital”
Following a long legacy of reluctance to embrace new technology, the industry is in the midst of dramatic change. The articles in this issue of Voices explore the wide-ranging impacts of new technologies on how we plan, finance, build, and operate new and existing assets. From artificial intelligence to virtual reality to advanced analytics, these insights delve into what “digital” really means for our field and what leaders can do today to prepare for a transforming future.

Reinventing construction through a productivity revolution
Global construction productivity has averaged only 1 percent per year over the past two decades. We identify seven levers that can add $1.6 trillion of additional value and explore a new manufacturing-style system that could boost productivity by five to ten times.

Smart cities: Digital solutions for a more livable future
After a decade of experimentation, smart cities are entering a new phase. Although they are only one part of the full tool kit for making a city great, digital solutions are the most powerful and cost-effective additions to that tool kit in many years. This report analyzes dozens of current applications and finds that cities could use them to improve some quality-of-life indicators by 10–30 percent. It also finds that even the most cutting-edge smart cities on the planet are still at the beginning of their journey.

The art of project leadership: Delivering the world’s largest projects
The research pointed to a set of topics the authors defined as “the art of project leadership”—the capabilities, mindsets, practices, attitudes and behaviours required to deliver the largest and most complex projects. The report distils the findings to four mindsets and eight leadership practices across project setup and delivery phases that are critical to success and then provides actionable advice to capital project practitioners and those responsible more broadly for capital project delivery.

Improving the delivery of road infrastructure across the world
Many authoritative studies have underscored the growing gap between investment needs and the combined spending on road construction and upkeep. Less attention has been paid to the policies and mechanisms required to “stretch” available funds through better project selection, efficient procurement strategies, and effective delivery practices. This report focuses on what can be done to enhance the whole delivery system, ensuring that the spend results in the best possible road network. The results of this research provide transportation decision makers with a comparative study on the cost-effectiveness of these productivity enhancing practices.

Bridging global infrastructure gaps: Has the world made progress?
Global infrastructure systems are straining to meet demand—and if the current trajectory of underinvestment continues, the world will fall short by $350 billion a year. Yet there are solutions to unlock financing and make the sector more productive.

Capital projects: Creating digital-first organizations
A wave of digitization is sweeping through engineering and construction (E&C), with companies applying new tools in everything from design management to field productivity. However, few top leaders truly champion digital initiatives, and employees don’t get the training required to deploy new tools, troubleshoot problems, or oversee digital implementation. Countering these problems will require major shifts. The authors recommend investing in an “at scale” transformation approach—one in which companies display their full commitment to innovation by revising the organizational structure, talent management, and corporate culture.

Seizing opportunity in today’s construction technology ecosystem
This article explores three key topics based on recent McKinsey research into more than 2,400 technology solutions companies serving the entire asset life cycle.: It explores year-on-year landscape evolution—the emergence of constellations of technology, accelerated investment, and an expansion in the number of use cases. Based on observation of trajectory, it then discusses expected near-term changes including continued fragmentation of the industry moving to consolidation, as well as an intensifying fight for talent. The article concludes with recommendations for AEC firms, technology providers, and owners to accelerate the impact of technology.

Capital projects value improvement in the 21st century: Trillions of dollars in the offing
A holistic and practical approach can increase project value by making capital spending more efficient. It’s well-known in the industry that large, complex capital projects routinely run over budget and behind schedule. One study of 800 major projects (those of value over $1 billion) found that, on average, projects were one year behind schedule and 30 percent over budget.1 But what’s true for major projects is similarly true for projects of various sizes, even projects as small as $10-$20 million.

How innovation is reshaping Europe’s urban environment
The major global trend toward urban expansion shows no sign of slowing. Over half the world’s population now lives in cities, and European dwellers appear ahead of the curve, with the proportion of urban inhabitants reaching as high as 75 percent (from about 60 percent in the 1960s). At the same time, these cities are experiencing unprecedented levels of connectivity, the rise of the sharing economy, and demographic changes shrinking households or aging populations. All these urban trends are having profound consequences for players in the real-estate sector.