Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) firms have their work cut out for them. Between completing major infrastructure projects on short timelines and tight budgets and respecting the ever-growing list of regulations governing such projects, the climb to project success is steep and riddled with hurdles.
Add in the fight for useable land, which the Biden Administration’s recent tax incentives have fast-tracked, and problems are bound to arise.
Happily, those problems are surmountable. Today, let’s consider three of the main challenges EPC firms face and the solutions that can help alleviate them.
1. Tight Budgets and Timelines
Stringent budgets and timelines are familiar to EPC companies. What’s less run-of-the-mill are:
Tariffs, trade bans, and the global pandemic have impacted the industry in recent years, driving costs higher. Though the IRA aims to increase domestic manufacturing to lower costs, create jobs, and support our economy, we will only achieve primarily domestic production when these projects created by these incentives come to fruition. However, once these projects are live, we should see a gradual drop in manufacturing costs. Finding these incentives for a project, however, is a feat of its own.
Regarding rising land costs, it’s not just the land itself that’s expensive. It’s also that, given all the elbow-throwing happening in the land grab, companies feel more pressured than ever to make a move on promising parcels. But this has the downstream effect of causing companies, stressed at the prospect of missing out, to buy multiple sites before performing their due diligence.
Unfortunately, this causes significant project delays and leaves developers with land they might not need.
The good news? If development professionals had a quicker way to perform due diligence upfront and aid in project management, they could both acquire the most suitable land before their competitors do and avoid buying tracts that don’t meet the brief.
2. Regulatory Compliance
Regulations are crucial to proper project execution and sustainability goals. They help protect people and the environment, and they’re geared toward ensuring that our Earth is healthy for generations to come.
However, regulatory compliance drastically extends development timelines. It can take weeks to jump through regulatory and administrative hurdles, which are expensive to navigate. Additionally, they can be time-consuming, leading to cost overruns due to mitigation efforts.
They also stretch the project lifecycle via lengthy internal conversations discussing which of the many purchased sites will house the project based on the environmental information presented afterpurchase. This process is slow, essentially invented as a way of working around the stark fact that, until now, there’s simply been no rapid way to assess a site before buying it.
Happily, EPC professionals can now do just that. If they are concerned, for instance, about endangered species, they can generate desktop surveys using software that identify species of concern inhabiting a proposed land parcel and address it before purchase. More on that below.
3. The Fight for Usable Land
The land grab is real, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Recent tax initiatives combined with the widespread need for clean energy have kicked off a contest for appropriate development sites. It’s a contest that isn’t easy to win, causing project stakeholders to push for approvals on real estate transactions before it is viable.
Yet, as an EPC firm, the end goal is successful project delivery; it’s their responsibility to provide seamless project completion while protecting the bottom line. That means these teams need to work quickly when assessing a site for environmental, financial, and construction risks.
The good news is, there’s still plenty of land left – and plenty of solutions for making creative use of it. Agrivoltaics, for example, helps us make the most of farmland by placing solar panels between crops or turning grazing animals loose. Mitigation and development of brownfield sites can be a cheap and tax-effective way to save environmentally degraded properties. And so forth.
The goal, as EPC contractors, is to know where the opportunities lie and pass them on to clients for turnkey projects. But how can they rapidly figure out where the opportunities lie?
Automation: A Solution to All Three
The truth is current permitting and site assessment processes are majorly responsible for the lagging efficiency that’s causing all three of the above issues. Large-scale developments requiring a high-quality site can now identify land without preparing to rework their construction projects once they discover environmental risks later in development.
Automation is the key. Transect’s software can help EPC professionals compress the timelines for regulatory and prospecting tasks, shortening the overall development lifecycle as well as identifying low-risk investments for their clients that will protect their bottom line.
Using machine learning, Transect provides comprehensive site assessments in seconds, providing endangered species and protected waters information, transmission line and substation data. Transect accesses public databases for regulatory requirements, recent policy changes, and so forth.
These reports are a fraction of the cost of one traditional risk assessment, and they’re shareable to ensure everyone is updated with need-to-know information, from engineering design subcontractors to stakeholders alike. Now, the EPC industry can inform and collaborate like never before, making the best possible choices with minimal uncertainty.