on tranisition towns – community based fm in action

I read the recent Ecologist article on Transition Totnes with great interest and delved deeper into understanding the transition movement, an initiative that responds to the twin challenges of Peak Oil and Climate Change.

Best described from the Transition Wiki as:

A Transition Initiative is a community that is unleashing its own latent collective genius to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and to discover and implement ways to address this BIG question:

“for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?”

As the Ecologist article illustrates, and the initiative wiki demonstrates this movement could have a significant effect on the built assets and facilities within a community and how they are used, and ‘greened’ .

Yet more importantly Transition Towns can be seen as a great example of Community Based Facilities Management (CbFM) and community collaborative working  in action.

Incidentally the transition towns site lists some 25 towns or communities within the initiative to date – is yours there?

Integrated Project Delivery

ExtranetEvolution posted an in-depth review and commentary on the recently published Integrated Project Delivery guide, from the AIA in the US. Thinking this would be all IT and Technology I have given the guide a quick scan, but a few things caught my eye for a more in-depth read. As a Constructing Excellence‘s Collaborative Working Champion , I liked the opening…

Envision a new world where …

... facilities managers, end users, contractors and suppliers are all involved at the start of the design process
… processes are outcome-driven and decisions are not made solely on a first cost basis
… all communications throughout the process are clear, concise, open, transparent, and trusting
… designers fully understand the ramifications of their decisions at the time the decisions are made
… risk and reward are value-based and appropriately balanced among all team members over the life of a project
… the industry delivers a higher quality and sustainable built environment

Note the order of the first bullet point – facilities managers first. This resonates back to the early work between Constructing Excellence (then BE) and the Centre for Facilities Management, with a clever title of abecfm , where the future was envisaged as facilities managers as the process broker for the whole process, from user requirements to design to construction to building in use. This related to expressions such as the industry formerly known as construction (Richard Saxon) and the the industry formerly known as fm (yours truly)

Is this then the world of Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)…. (It will be interesting to see if the rest of the paper delivers a route or road map this new world – watch this space – or Pauls blog at ExtranetEvolution )

the Code …from denial to despair?

The cost of achieving carbon neutral or zero homes to the Code keeps raising its head, as Phil over at Sustainability Blog points out.

I didnt catch the UCT speakers name on the US Greenbuild365 live webcast testerday, I was listening rather than watching, but a sound bite delivered with typical American style caught my ear…“The building sector is over-estimating the cost and under-estimating the impact of climate change issues”

How true, when we think about the moaning around the cost of the new Code for Sustainable Housing, which will be seen as a smokescreen for reluctance in doing anything at all.

Jonathan Porrit writing in his blog and in BD… makes the point well… why put a price on the importance of carbon free homes?

Government policy is being applied to decarbonising both new and existing housing, with Building Regulations and the Code driving that transformation. An industry that has lived for far too long in a feather-bed world, where nobody gave a tinker’s cuss about energy and resource efficiency, is being incentivised to change, and is marketing to rapidly rising consumer expectations. So why would anybody suppose that the combined genius of architects, designers, engineers, builders, surveyors and planners isn’t going to be able to come up with the zero-carbon goods?

I live in weird world these days. Having spent most of my life described as a prophet of doom, I now find myself having to shake people out of a fatalistic “can’t be done” mind-set! We seem to have moved from denial to despair in one effortless leap. So let’s get our creative act together here. After all, we don’t have a choice about this. Either we rise to this challenge, or the mealy-mouthed, risk-averse mediocrity that dominates this particular industry will take us all down with it.

The costs arising from inefficiencies through waste, poor project management, incorrect procurement, lack of working together, poor design, legal fees to check contract documentation and all the well documented historical ills of our sector etc far far outweighs the cost of achieving the Code… surely?

Acheiving the code needs a different mindset, as Einstein said… we cannot solve todays issues with the same mind set that created them in the first place...

By rearranging the debate towards opportunity we can can move from despair to exciting.

MIT, Gehry and more questions

Blogs and the Media are awash with news and comments of MIT sueing Gehry for an ‘unbuildable design’ at the MIT Stata Center in Cambridge, Boston. (The Guardian, Building etc)
I find this fascinating and a reminder of the failures and flaws in the more traditional (or historical – traditional sounds too craft, and heritage-like), un-collaborative,  approach to construction.  The best reporting is in the Boston Globe,  which provides the contractors (Skanksa) view as well.  (Boston being an old home of mine, I try to keep informed through the Globe)  And its very illuminating.

“This is not a construction issue, never has been,” said Paul Hewins, executive vice president and area general manager of Skanska USA. He said Gehry rejected Skanska’s formal request to create a design that included soft joints and a drainage system in the amphitheater, and “we were told to proceed with the original design.”

After the amphitheater began cracking and flooding, Skanska spent “a few hundred thousand dollars” trying to resolve the problems, but, he said, “it was difficult to make the original design work.”

It also delves deeper, citing  former Boston University president John Silber, who said “It really is a disaster,” and sharply criticizes the Stata Center’s design in a new book, “Architecture of the Absurd: How ‘Genius’ Disfigured a Practical Art.”  A book that questions why the Guggenheim is always covered in scaffolding? Why the random slashes on the exterior of Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum, supposed to represent Berlin locations where pre-war Jews flourished, reappear, for no apparent reason, on his Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto? Or why Frank Gehry’s Strata Center, designed for MIT’s top-secret Cryptography Unit, has transparent glass walls? Not to mention why, for $442 per square foot, it doesn’t keep out the rain?


He goes on … and asks all the questions that critics dare not. He challenges architects to derive creative satisfaction from meeting their clients’ practical needs. He appeals to the reasonable public to stop supporting overpriced architecture. And most of all, he calls for responsible clients to tell the emperors of our skylines that their pretensions cannot hide the naked absurdity of their designs

Time to order a copy !

Unravelling carbon footprints in supply chains

We hear allot about supply chain management within our industry, and until recently mainly in the context of improving value, relationships, reducing costs, waste and all the nice performance improvement stuuf.

What if we add reducing the carbon or ecological footprint into the supply chain management debate.

An excellent paper from the Centre for Integrated Sustainability Analysis – Unravelling the Impacts of Supply Chains – A new Triple Bottom Line accounting approach looks at just this issue.

It also raises the fundamental question on calculating carbon footprints – we are concerned in the main, at the moment, with direct or primary emissions – ie those we, or an organisation are directly responsible for,  How about those (secondary) emissions upstream, through the supply chain activities, raw material production etc, which in the context of a construction footprint surely must be taken into account.
We have seen this exercise start and stop within other sectors. for example the large supermarket organisation – but will it only be a matter of time before a wider view on the construction carbon emissions and contribution is expected within the built environment?

Is collaboration working? – your views sought …

The Strategic Forum, as apart of the Accelerating Change programme set the industry a target for 50% (by volume) of the UK construction industry to be undertaken in an integrated manner by the end of 2007. As we approach that milestone, the question is are we achieving that target

This target also appears as the centerpiece of the Defra / Strategic Forum Strategy for Sustainable Construction currently out for consultation.

Last year the Constructing Excellence Building Estates (formely Be) held an inetegrated workshop, comprising of the top 100 thinkers and practitioners of integrated working in the (built environment) industry and asked the question are we on track to this target. The conclusion was illuminating:

How are you doing as an organisation to (achieve this target):

Well Ahead 19%

On Course 19%

A Bit Behind 27%

Nowhere Near 35%

How are we doing as an industry to (achieve this target):

Well Ahead 0%

On Course 3%

A Bit Behind 38%

Nowhere Near 59%

Recently the Collaborative Working Champion group of CE, as part of their ongoing collabaoative state of the industry survey found that only 27% of the industry was fully collaborative, and 35% partly collaborative.

Now, throught the SF, I have been asked to publisice a further much wider survey that needs your input:

The Strategic Forum for Construction is seeking information from firms in the construction industry about their experiences of the barriers to project team integration and supply chain integration. This information will be used to develop a programme to further promote integration within the industry.

The Forum would like to hear from all interested parties – their questionnaire can be completed on line or downloaded here and http://www.strategicforum.org.uk/itgs.shtml All returned information will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Barriers so far identified include:

  • Industry Culture
  • Industry Capabilities and Capacity
  • Procurement, Contacts and Payments
  • Engagement with the Supply Chain
  • Understanding of Cost v Value v Risk

A detailed review of each of these barriers is also available on the Strategic Forum website.

View document on Barriers to Integration MS Word

At the same time, the Construction Clients’ Group (CCG) is launching a survey of its own members in November. Their aim is to establish how many CCG members are practising an integrated approach. This can be completed at


Martin Nielsen, who chairs the Forum’s Integration Task Group, said: “We want as much of the industry as possible to respond to this survey. The views of clients and companies from all parts of the supply side are welcomed. Their responses will help to shape the future work of the Strategic Forum.”

Mike Davies, Chairman of the Strategic Forum for Construction: “We are hoping that through these two surveys we will get a real feel for whether project team integration and supply chain integration are increasing across the industry. We are also hoping to learn from these surveys how some of the key barriers to integration can be overcome.”

Please take the time to respond. Comments also welcome here !

Post modern apathy in the built environment ?…

Jonathan Glancey, the Guardian architecture critic, writing in his Guardian column today, Extinction of Engineers, bemoans the lack of skilled workers in the uk, and sees our sector as a nation of call centre operatives and customer service facility managers, threatened by a glut of postmodern apathy.   Yes.  This backs up the findings of the recent Arup report for the ASC – that we dont have the skills in the UK to address the sustainability targets and visions being set down and proposed.

In another article in the same edition  Jonathan Glancey provides a profile of Edward Cullinan, who has been designing thoughtful and sometimes daring buildings for long enough to see a number of them listed

Two comments in this article caught my attention

Cullinan remains equally in thrall to the wayward genius of Frank Lloyd Wright. The great American architect was much influenced by Voysey, even if Wright went on to design such avant garde buildings as the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. Voysey’s individuality and craft and Wright’s originality and verve are forces that have inspired Cullinan throughout his 52-year career as a practising architect. “I cherish that word,” he says. “I’m always practising. And one day might even get there.”

and, in an attack on design build…

 “Good architecture does demand money. The buildings we did for the University of East London [alongside London City Airport], for example, look great from 50 metres away, but when you get up close you can see the effects of ‘design and build’ construction, meaning that the architect is not responsible for the building works. The details just aren’t good enough. The level of craftsmanship is far too low.”

Voysey and Wright were lucky that they did not have to practise their craft in a cheapskate world of “design and build”. None the less, Cullinan, more so than most contemporary British architects, has lived to shape some of the best-made, most cherished British buildings of the past 50 years, buildings that, if you could slice into them, would shine with Grade I gold.

Having spent a fair amount of time as both a project manager on architect led and design and build projects, I am not sure I entirely agree with this.  The low level of craftsmanship is a symptom of the industry’s lack of investment in skills and training over the last few decades, rather than architect-contractor forms of contract.   And, in both approaches the relationships just did not foster a spirit of collaborative working to the benefit of the building or facility, but a reinforcement of silos and hidden agendas.