Conceptual Models, or, Conceptual Site Models, are terms used to reflect how a site is understood at any point in time during the process of site characterisation and evaluation.
They are based on the information obtained to understand any one site as risk assessment is progressed, such as reviewing the sites history to understand how its past use has the potential for current issues to be present on site such as contamination and the presence of underground fuel tanks etc, understanding the regulatory history of the site, and, understanding how the site interacts with its surroundings based on the local geology and hydrogeology.
As more information is obtained for a site, then the Conceptual Model is updated and refined. The idea is that from having an initial understanding of a site, as more information is obtained the site understanding becomes better informed and becomes better understood, and at the same time risk and uncertainty is reduced.
It is particularly useful for understanding risks to the environment and human health from contaminated land, establishing and documenting a Conceptual Model is intrinsically linked with risk assessment, enabling a site to be de-risked properly so that development can proceed safely. Getting a Conceptual Model right also helps to minimise project costs, and to prevent delays from unforeseen surprises at the build stage.
Getting the Conceptual Model tight at the outset is key to good risk assessment, as the model becomes more refined as subsequent stages of work are undertaken, with the findings of the initial Conceptual Model directing how subsequent stages of work and resources are targeted.
Conceptual Models can be represented by tables within a report, or, as a “cartoon” style schematic drawing that highlights the main findings in an easy to digest format.
Getting the Conceptual Model right guarantees that your project does not hit problems further down the line, it supports planning application discharge if the site requires planning consent for a change of use, and ultimately it saves clients money.