Decisions made just days or weeks into an infrastructure project – assumptions of end user needs, commitments to a schedule, the shape and size of the proposed infrastructure asset – have the most significant impacts on design, feasibility and cost. This is particularly true for large infrastructure projects with complex procurement and construction processes.
As decisions are made later and later in the planning process, their influence decreases. Options to change direction are either closed or become more problematic. Consider road congestion and a decision to proceed with an expensive built infrastructure solution. Not considering demand management opportunities misses valuable benefits in being able to avoid or delay that built cost.
Some minor cost savings can still be realized through value engineering in the latter stages of design, but the biggest cost factors are embedded at the outset in a project’s DNA. Once locked in the project becomes the monster you planned.