Government Construction Strategy – have we been here before?

The Government have recently published its Construction Strategy, aiming to address

… widespread acknowledgement across Government and within industry – backed by recent studies – that the UK does not get full value from public sector construction; and that it has failed to exploit the potential for public procurement of construction and infrastructure projects to drive growth.

This strategy changes that. It calls for a profound change in the relationship between public authorities and the construction industry to ensure the Government consistently gets a good deal and the country gets the social and economic infrastructure it needs for the long-term.

However, on a first few readings of the paper I find it un-inspiring and not representative of the current era for the built environment. With the possible exception of a luke warm, suck it and see approach to BIM there is very little in the strategy that we havent seen before in strategies, white papers and policy documents.  A wasted opportunity?

In an era of joined up thinking, collaborative and integrated working it would have been good to see this a built environment strategy, rather than continue the silo thinking of treating construction as a stand alone.

It is therefore disappointing to see that facilities management would appear to have been downgraded to asset management, and although the paper recognises the importance of a whole life thinking approach, it is a view from a building as an asset, a product,  rather than a facility that enables business.

Post-handover defects are a regular feature of construction projects, leading to the cost of remediation (and frequently the higher cost of resolving disputes). Even when there are no latent defects, it is still rare to find that a built asset performs exactly in accordance with its design criteria (and particularly in terms of energy efficiency, for example).

Integration of the design and construction of an asset with the operation phase should lead to improved asset performance. This has been demonstrated in projects which have integrated design and construction with whole-life operation. The same alignment can be created by requiring those who design and construct buildings to prove their operational performance for a period of say three to five years. Proposals for this will be developed with the Government Property Unit to ensure alignment with subsequent arrangements for facilities management.

The 3 – 5 year proving period has been suggested and trialed before – back as I recall in the mid 1990’s as part of the Building Down Barriers programme. And way way back in 1934 Alfred Bosom was saying the same thing (” our production costs are some 30% higher than they should be due to bad building layout”)

The strategy rightly sees procurement as a barrier, but the approach is

To develop a range of overarching procurement strategies appropriate to the whole programme.

Hmmm, havent we been doing that since Latham ? We now have PAS91 which the strategy calls to be better embedded, but to develop even more ….?

And on sustainability

To deliver future carbon reductions in the Government estate through the procurement of new construction, for example by developing approaches to appraising construction projects on a whole life carbon basis including embodied carbon, and working with departments and industry to deliver existing and emerging Strategy for Sustainable Construction targets.

but for the detail action plan and targets we have to wait for the governments response to the IGT Low Carbon Construction Report

Not sure if it is a mistake or not, but note the approach to reducing carbon is through  the procurement of new construction – not all construction – ie is it omitting refurbishment of existing property?

I didn’t expect the strategy to be explicit on social media, but I would have liked to seen communications addressed. Communication, or lack of, are at the root of most of construction problems. As we are seeing the increased use of ICT, Web Technology and yes, Social Media, in other Government sectors it would have been good to see it put on the radar for construction.

Also missing from a forward looking strategy is the need to address diversity – not only in gender, but in age, abilities, ethnicity etc. Without diverse views, opinions and approaches we will continue with our mono-centric approach.  The Government can act as a real role model and driver for construction here. As Einstein said – we cannot fix today’s problems with the same kind of thinking that created them! 

Read the paper here: Government-Construction-Strategy

1 thought on “Government Construction Strategy – have we been here before?

  1. Pingback: feedbackfeedforward for a FM led built environment sector. | fairsnape isite

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