How to streamline utility connections for construction projects

Ensuring the smooth supply of utilities for new developments is crucial—not just for the completed project, but for the construction process itself. It is often cited as the biggest cause of delay during construction; especially on larger projects where multiple connections are required, or where the existing infrastructure needs to be altered. So, where do these delays creep in—and how can you avoid them?

Understanding the process

The infrastructure for supplying utilities may be provided by the network operator or, increasingly, by an independent provider (with an agreed design that is then ‘adopted’ by the network operator). These organisations should therefore be considered stakeholders in the project and identified as third party dependencies.

At the start of the process, it is the developer’s responsibility to obtain the existing site information. This is so that surveys can be carried out to determine the position, extent, and capacity of any existing services. They will need to agree on a design with the provider for any new infrastructure that is required, as well as determining who will provide it, which network operator will adopt it, and the charges—plus appropriate testing, inspection, certification, connection, and installation of meters.

How to avoid delays

Delays can be caused by both the developer and the provider. But there are things you can do to avoid these delays:

  • Initiate discussions with providers ASAP, ideally using a single point of contact.
  • Use a specialist intermediary to streamline these discussions.
  • Exchange necessary info early on, especially to confirm feasibility and supply.
  • Communicate dates, locations, procedures for access, and other key details.
  • Ensure adequate notification from developers to intermediaries and suppliers.
  • Provide access and ensure that the necessary personnel are on site/available.
  • Determine routes for utilities and identify any obstacles.
  • Don’t overestimate load, as this can lead to unnecessary reinforcement of the existing infrastructure (though it is important that the developer be aware of the thresholds at which reinforcement is required).
  • Request/submit designs in a timely fashion.

How to mitigate costs

The costs associated with utilities can be significant, both in terms of the up-front cost of installation (especially where there is no existing supply, or if the existing supply needs to be altered) and ongoing bills. So it is important to secure the best possible deal from providers, and to seek alternative quotes if necessary.

How to follow the rules

Back in December 2014, the government published ‘Better Connected’—a practical guide for home builders on all things utilities. It sets out what developers and utility companies should expect from each other when providing utilities to future developments. The government describes the guide as:

‘…a clear code of practice setting out how utility companies and developers should work together when building a new housing development. This is a significant step in speeding up the process of getting new developments connected to gas, water and electricity, as part of push to help hard-working people get into their new homes sooner…It will also drive up performance of utilities companies across the board by providing a clear set of standards and making it crystal clear how developers and companies should be working together to make sure more developments are completed on time and on budget’.

How we can help

Facilitating utility connections whilst mitigating delays and managing costs is easier said than done—but that’s where we come in. With 25 years of experience working with developers across the UK, the Boxfish team can help you cut through the red tape and ensure everything runs smoothly. Give us a call on 0141 226 8525 or fill in our online contact form below.


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