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Clients should lead in change

CONSTRUCTION CLIENTS must take responsibility for driving the industry towards greater productivity and efficiency, Institution of Civil Engineers President Sir Alan Cockshaw said this week.

But he criticised proposals to cut construction time on major infrastructure projects by 10% a year as 'wholly unrealistic'. Sir Alan called for clients to adopt a 'fuller comprehension of the relationship between time, cost and quality'.

His comments came in response to the long awaited Construction Industry Task Force report Rethinking Construction, which demands that the industry dramatically increases its efficiency and quality by radically changing the way in which it works.

While agreeing with the thrust of the report - much of the language used by Task Force chairman Sir John Egan, said Cockshaw, had been the substance of his own Presidential Address last November - Sir Alan emphasised that any culture change in the industry would have to be driven by similar changes in culture by major clients.

'Fundamental to the process is the client,' he said. 'The client starts the process; the client finishes the process - and this client involvement is fundamental to every aspect of it.' Improvements achieved in the oil and gas industry, he added, had already shown what can be achieved when clients take a lead.

Sir Alan called on the whole of construction to accept that fundamental changes had to be made in the industry to raise productivity and reduce defects and accidents.

'The industry has got good designers, it has got good contractors, subcontractors and suppliers, but the process has not allowed each of them to contribute effectively to the total solution,' he said. 'But it is not only the construction industry - most clients need to change their culture too.'

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