News Oct 25, 2021

Jacobs Launches Digital Environmental Impact Assessment Tool

Using our new Digital Environmental Assessment process, we created and submitted the first fully digital Environmental Scoping Report to the U.K. Planning Inspectorate on behalf of our client National Highways and Costain.

When undertaking Environmental Assessments, certain technical activities can traditionally be rather manual and repetitive. In addition to this, the reporting process often becomes increasingly complex, with a reliance on soft-copy or static PDF deliverables, and processes spanning months and years.

Rethinking the approach, Jacobs has developed an innovative and unique Digital Environmental Assessment tool, which delivers transparent, efficient and cost-effective assessments, supported by an interactive digital output in the form of a web-hosted Smart Report.

Working with National Highways and Costain, the first formal deliverable from Jacobs’ Digital Environmental Assessment was an Environmental Scoping Report for the M60/M62/M66 Simister Island Interchange project. The report was the first of its kind to be submitted to the U.K. Planning Inspectorate and can be viewed here. It also forms part of a key pilot project for the Planning Inspectorate, informing the U.K. Government’s broader strategic initiative, “Project Speed”, to develop digital processes and use data as a resource to accelerate and transform the delivery of infrastructure projects.

Up to this point, digital submissions in the U.K.’s Environmental Impact Assessment sector have generally been limited to a website, providing signposting and hyperlinks to the more traditional PDF chapters and appendices. Jacobs’ Digital Environmental Assessment process significantly advances this by providing a map-based overview of the environmental constraints and enabling readers to click on receptors to explore the information against them in greater detail. Each chapter is presented alongside interactive maps and tables, enabling the public and stakeholders to easily access and interrogate the assessment. This improves the ease of reviewing and understanding of the assessment outcomes.

At the core of our digital process remains our diverse team of technical specialists. The automated upfront process and collaborative platform allows the team to work together on deliverables, facilitating real-time working. The workflow supporting our Digital Environmental Assessment process aids consistent and collaborative assessment, accessed via our online tools. It provides a common data environment where all assessments are undertaken in a web-based application on a receptor-by receptor basis, providing a single source of truth for all baseline data and assessments. This information can then easily be shared as part of consultation or wider engagement. Digital Environmental Assessment also drives efficiency savings through subsequent stages of assessment.

Jacobs is continually challenging today to reinvent tomorrow, with Digital Environmental Assessment forming a core part of our shift into digital reporting, improving our deliverables and adding value for our clients.

Donald Morrison, Jacobs People & Places Solutions Senior Vice President for Europe and Digital Strategies said: “Our team took a traditional methodology and not only used technology to provide a more interactive and cohesive output for our clients, but also completely re-imagined how our assessments are done to digitally enable the entire process and significantly increase value.”

Nicola Eastwell, National Highways project manager for the M60/M62/M66 Simister Island scheme, said:“Jacobs has embraced the challenge of improving the way project information is presented in a varied stakeholder environment by providing a truly digital format for the Environmental Scoping Report. This tool provides an innovative resource that will no doubt influence the way complex information is presented in the future.”