A masterplan is the true mastermind behind a manufacturing facility coming to life on time and within budget. Michael Warne, Principal Architect at Beca talks through the differences between a good masterplan and a great masterplan, and how to prepare ahead for future market impacts.
The world of masterplanning has evolved from hard copy 2D layouts and plans to online 3D images and representations, creating responsive and adaptable digital assets that can be accessed remotely by anyone in the project team. In bygone times, reviewing projects would require multiple people to be on site at one time, but digital tools like a HoloLens can bring a team together virtually, creating a more efficient and productive review process for everyone.

While masterplanning has traversed into the collaborative online, the environment that Beca and our clients operate in has also moved significantly. How does that affect project planning? The uncertain times that we continue to face present unique challenges to complex projects, from industrial manufacturing to transport and infrastructure.

A good masterplan provides an outline for project viability, encompassing costs, building demands, health and safety, storage, logistics and more. A great masterplan is a true visioning tool; creatively designed to flexibly withstand future tumultuous market conditions and to deftly pivot and adapt to macro and micro trends. 

How to create a resilient masterplan which can withstand market volatility?

The key to robust masterplanning is also its greatest challenge: always looking around the corner to what’s coming next.

Let’s think back to 2012; President Obama was re-elected and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games took place in London. Cloud computing hadn’t yet made its way into our offices and homes and yet now, following the global pandemic (also unimaginable in 2012), it is core to the way we work, play and communicate.

The world has changed significantly in the past 10 years, especially when it comes to technological advancement and the urgency of climate change.  

Masterplanning is about factoring in the state of how such future developments will impact human resourcing, supply chains and consumer demand in the coming decade, and building in the flexibility to adapt project requirements.

The global pandemic greatly impacted on our ability to get out and socialise, directly influencing the type of products manufactured for the home, such as packaged foods and beverages. The consequent reduction in volume supply to hospitality venues was severe. Flexible masterplanning can allow for the future adaption of sites and buildings to flex with the market. Organisations with such plans are best placed to adjust their businesses in this time of great change.

While we don’t have a crystal ball, it’s possible to make broad projections based on political and social trends.

The fabric of society itself is evolving and with that comes changing human behaviour. Product packaging, for example, has completely evolved in the past 10 years. Many of Beca’s clients in the food and beverage sector have had to overhaul their supply chain and manufacturing processes to accommodate the demands of the consumer: more natural ingredients, less plastic and more biodegradable materials.

We recently learned in the 2021 Australian census results that the population has doubled in size in the past 50 years and there are an equal number of Millennials to Baby Boomers, and as such, alternative living arrangements are on the rise. Population has a severe impact on climate change, so how do we build circular economy and environmental resilience into our masterplans?

The “future of work” arriving after the pandemic didn’t give us any other choice than to work flexibly, and hybrid home/office arrangements appear here to stay. Statistics show that regional Australia is thriving after the influx of new residents during the pandemic. While it’s a positive sign for investment into regional infrastructure, what does it mean for the future of cities. Furthermore, where is better to invest to support the “new normal”?

Considering how such changes impact infrastructure is key to future projections when planning a project.

Now to maybe the most crucial element of determining the viability of a project: financial forecasting. Of course, we wouldn’t reach the end of this article without mentioning costs, as we understand it is the backbone of any “go/no go” conversation when it comes to projects. 

Mapping out your costs across each project stage will lead to a more stable cost analysis and increased certainty for the future. At Beca, our integrated approach includes the progressive review and management of costs at each project stage, developing a clear cost book as the design progresses, from masterplanning through to concept and into the detail. This can mitigate the knock-on effect of huge price fluctuations of materials and product manufacturing we’ve seen in the past few years, and the overall effect this has on project viability.

The most important element of financial modelling is solid, reliable data and good data is also imperative to resilient masterplanning. Dependable data is required throughout the lifecycle of a project, and informs the products required, staffing levels, how equipment will feed into the layout and other operational elements. 

For example, Beca uses real estate intelligence from site locations and footprints to inform future cost plans. Live data coming from the construction of assets such as buildings, infrastructure, facilities, equipment and installation feeds into our data book of direct costs which then goes into cost plans. To look forward you must also look back, so historic data is retained to be combined with current data for a holistic understanding of the assets. The outcome is a consistent and reliable feedback loop of data.

However, don’t get caught out by one of the biggest causes of “budget creep” due to often being overlooked: indirect costs. Budget allocation for elements such as planning, development costs, commissioning, start-up costs and general contingency is crucial to creating a realistic cost forecast to support your project masterplanning. 

Great masterplanning can guide your path to a successful, flexible and resilient project design, reducing the possibility of costly facility reworks and updates in the future. Watch this space for an upcoming piece on the macro trends that our Beca architects, engineers and consultants predict will be the biggest disrupters in industrial infrastructure in the coming decade.

Need support visioning your next manufacturing project? Find out more about our Masterplanning capability and Food & Beverage services.

About the Author
Michael Warne

Principal - Architecture

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