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The Quality Challenge at Futurebuild 2019

07 Jan 2019

The Quality Challenge at Futurebuild 2019

Robin Nicholson, Partner at the Cullinan Studio
The Quality Challenge at Futurebuild 2019

It is twenty years since we have had such a conjunction of interrelated reports and initiatives to transform the construction industry into a performance and value-based industry. However good some parts are both at the high end of global offices and at the local domestic end, generally our industry works in a lowest first cost fragmented way without any performance verification, a situation no other industry could tolerate. 

This moment has arisen due to the scandal of the Scottish PFI School scandal as documented by Professor John Cole (Feb 2017) and the Grenfell Tower fire (June 2017) on which Dame Judith Hackitt reported (May 2018).  Government have undertaken to implement in full Hackitt’s recommendations, including “putting residents at the heart of the new system of building safety.”

Twenty years ago, Sir Michael Latham’s comprehensive ‘Constructing the Team’ (1994) introduced us to ‘Balancing Price and Quality’ selection and partnering; it led to the establishment of the Construction Industry Board (1995) that brought the 5 umbrella bodies together with Government.  In his report ‘Rethinking construction’ (1998) Sir John Egan introduced Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), but as a manufacturer Egan was more focussed on the construction phase and less interested in design (and briefing) or the building in use.  In response the Construction Industry Council led the development of the Design Quality Indicator (DQI) to establish a more inclusive brief and a monitoring process over the life of the project.

Last year Hackitt introduced us to the ‘Golden Thread’, a phrase that caught our collective imagination – “There needs to be a golden thread for all complex and high-risk building projects so that the original design intent is preserved and recorded, and any changes go through a formal review process involving people who are competent and who understand the key features of design.”  This radical and most welcome directive overturns most current procurement and delivery practices, but our challenge is how to transform our industrial culture into something much more collaborative than what we have today or had in those mythical golden days of yesteryear.

The conjunction arises as pressure builds up from the Climate Change Act (IPCC’s just ‘12 years to go’), continuing poor public procurement despite some good practice, the near universal performance gap, the woeful management and upgrading of our existing building stock, widespread over-heating on new housing and the progressive deskilling of our workforce. But it has taken the 72 lives lost at Grenfell to concentrate our minds.

Fortunately, there are a number of initiatives running in parallel:

  • Design for Performance (DfP) pilot programme coordinated by the Better Buildings Partnership to customise the Australian Nabers project for the UK
  • The DQI is about to start a new and expanded programme
  • The RIBA, CIOB and RICS have collaborated to develop a golden thread tool, ‘Building in Quality’, currently being trialled
  • Ann Bentley’s report ‘Procuring for (whole life) value’ is being developed with the Construction Leadership Council
  • The NHBC continues to develop their insurance-backed inspection regimes to deal with over-heating, fire-stopping and other potential failures

The distinguished panel taking part in this conference session will explore how we can now ‘build better buildings’ and the audience will be invited to be partners in this so that at the end of the session we have three recommendations on how to bring about the necessary change of mind and spirit.

The Quality Challenge session will take place at 12noon on 07 March 2019 in the ecobuild Conference Arena at Futurebuild. Register for your place here.

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