Royal HaskoningDHVHow engineering consultancy Royal HaskoningDHV took EIA reporting to the next level
Before the government makes decisions, in certain cases an initiator needs to describe all environmental effects of the project in a public document. This document is called the environmental impact statement, abbreviated to EIS. This report also needs to describe the environmental effects of several alternative solutions. Engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV is a global leader in digital EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) reporting.
Traditional EIS reports fail to achieve their objectives
Drs. Ing. Paul Eijssen is Strategic Advisor Effect studies at Royal HaskoningDHV. The past 30 years he has been involved with many environmental impact statements. He realized that the traditional EIS often failed to achieve its objectives. Eijsen: “The EIS is meant to ensure that environmental aspects are fully taken into account in decision making. In the traditional form they can contain many hundreds, and sometimes thousands of pages with primarily text-based content. But when a report becomes so extensive, no one reads it anymore. That is why a few years ago I started thinking about an alternative way of reporting.”
More visual and interactive
Eijssen: “My initial approach in 2011 was to use more visual information in EIS reports e.g. by using much more GIS maps. An image says so much more than a thousand words. But in practice it did not generate enough result to what I had in mind. That is why from 2015 we started experimenting with digital forms of project reports, or iReports as we call them at RoyalHaskoningDHV. Online we offered EIS reports with clickable maps, and we included e.g. video and 3D animations. These interactive reports were highly appreciated by our users and made the reports much more accessible. The iReport was a success. However, this caused new challenges. The more digital reports, the more important became the technical management. We developed new insights with which we wanted to improve the user experience of end users and the productivity of creators. Therefore, we searched for a partner that could help us, and we found one in F19.”
The iReport 2.0
In close cooperation with Royal HaskoningDHV, F19 developed a digital project template based on F19 software. The template can be used for multiple purposes, for EIS reports but also for other project reports. In the the form of interactive web publications and in the form of downloadable PDF publications.
Eijssen: “In the meantime we realized a few hundred digital reports based on F19 software and we received very positive feedback from users. We used this feedback to further develop new features in close collaboration with F19."
IEMA sustainability Impact Award
Eijssen continues: "The digital EIS reports still contains the necessary information but it is increasingly presented visually (interactive) and where possible layered. Information is now easier to find and is made much more transparent. That hugely increases the involvement of stakeholders and improves the decision-making process. In 2019 our efforts even led to winning an IEMA sustainability Impact Award.”
To successfully report digital however, smart technology is not enough. Eijssen: “We learned that it is just as important to realize a behavioral change in the organization. Digital reporting truly asks for a different approach by the creators: you need to empathize much more in the wishes of users and think about how to use interactivity and images. That is not self-evident. At Royal HaskoningDHV we have already trained 150 employees worldwide to create iReports, and the number is growing every month.”
Also the technological developments are ongoing. The iReport platform of Royal HaskoningDHV is continuously being improved. Eijssen: “We keep a close eye on the market developments and we collect feedback from users. Based on that we conduct improvements together with F19. The iReport is increasingly used as a project website where all project information can be found, in an extra secure environment if necessary and of course with guidelines for web accessibility in mind. We also integrate more and more functionality for online participation. Stakeholders can provide feedback on plans online by voting for example or by sharing comments on maps. We notice that by reporting digitally, we are more capable to do what really matters, which is come to better decisions together.”