EFFORTS BY the Sir John Egan's Construction Task Force to promote best practice could be undermined by an over emphasis on large 'elitists' projects, it emerged this week.
There are fears that those not involved in the £500M worth of 'best practice' projects proposed by Egan last week will be discouraged from promoting industry reforms.
The initiative is the cornerstone of the long-awaited Construction Industry Task Force report published last week by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and task force chairman Sir John Egan.
Egan's report demands that the industry makes radical changes. 'The industry as a whole is under-achieving,' it says. 'It has low productivity and invests too little in capital, research and development and training. Too many of its clients are dissatisfied.'
The report proposes to convert the industry using model demonstration contracts put forward by Government and private sector clients. Lessons from these projects will be fed back into the industry via Movement for Change in Construction - a new organisation - and developed via research co-ordinated through an industry knowledge centre.
But concern about the size of the best practice projects has prompted the Construction Industry Council to launch a plan to support its own programme of smaller demonstration projects worth less than £500,000.
CIC chief executive Graham Watts said: 'The elitist potential of Egan's demonstration projects is a worry. That is why we have to look at smaller projects. We want to see bread and butter projects developing best practice techniques, not just the big projects.'
Already agreed demonstration projects include the M60 contract 3 extension, BAA's South Terminal at Gatwick and Railtrack's programme of station refurbishment. All are large and promoted by experienced clients.
But Watts believes that the best results will be achieved across the industry by learning from smaller projects and from less experienced clients and contractors - particularly as it would involve a bigger cross-section of the industry.
'Unless everybody in the industry plays its part it simply will not work,' said Watts. CIC intends to feed the results of its projects back into the MCC.
(See Commentary for details of Egan recommendations - page 12, and ICE News - page 53)