Construction has “fallen considerably short” of the progress hoped for 12 years ago when the ground breaking Rethinking Construction report was published, a leading engineer and promoter of best practice said last week.
Author of the recent Constructing Excellence report Never waste a good crisis Andrew Wolstenholme told an audience of 200 built environment professionals assembled at the ICE that best practice had to be improved.
Wolstenholme , who is managing director of Balfour Beatty Management, led the Constructing Excellence taskforce, which last year reviewed the progress of efforts to improve construction best practice since 1998 (NCE 15 October 2009).
Former BAA chief executive Sir John Egan’s 1998 report Rethinking Construction set out a plan for radical change within the construction industry in an attempt to reduce the delays, cost overruns and disputes that have plagued projects.
But last year’s review concluded that there has been a lack of progress since. “Since Sir John Egan’s report in 1998, there has been some progress, but nowhere near enough,” said Wolstenholme.
“Few of the Egan targets have been met in full, while most have fallen considerably short. Where improvement has been achieved, too often the commitment to Egan’s principles has been skindeep.”
“Few targets have been met in full, while most have fallen short. Too often commitment is skin- deep”
Andrew Wolstenholme, Balfour Beatty
He added that standards in construction were often secondary to other considerations. “In some sectors, such as housing, construction simply does not matter, because there is such limited understanding of how value can be created through the construction process.”
The Constructing Excellence review team suggested that the industry has been largely sheltered from reform during the boom period of the last decade.
Wolstenholme branded the current economic crisis as the perfect environment in which innovation can flourish - “a crisis we cannot afford to waste”. During the lecture he explained his vision for the industry which the review team said would push the industry to change.
“The vision is based on a more holistic understanding of the built environment - how value is created through the lifecycle of an asset, rather than simply one aspect of the whole equation we call construction, and understanding how the relatively small upfront costs of design can have huge consequences for future users, whether expressed as business, social or environmental outcomes,” said Wolstenholme.
He also stressed that government and other key stakeholders must play a part in creating this environment. Government must provide incentives for innovation, and stakeholders must maintain an education and training system that equips professionals with an understanding of how better integration delivers value, he said.