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Dwyer looks to repair building image

PUBLIC DISTRUST of the UK's 'cowboy building' industry is a major force behind the Chartered Institute of Building's proposed name change to 'construction', it emerged this week.

Wimpey chief executive Joe Dwyer, who was installed yesterday as CIOB president, admitted that the building name had gone downmarket and lost its original meaning. He plans to follow the well trodden path of other organisations that have distanced themselves from the image.

But Dwyer also explained that the definition of the 'building' profession had changed over the past few years and left the word building no longer strictly appropriate.

'People used to talk about building. But in recent times people talk, and write, about construction,' he said. 'Look at the trade associations. Now it's the Construction Confederation. It seems to be the vogue.'

Tackling the industry's 'cowboy builder' public image - spawned and perpetuated by the domestic repairs market - remains one of the industry's top priorities. Last April the Government published a consultation paper Combating cowboy builders which it hopes will initiate measures to help stamp out the problem.

Launching the initiative, construction minister Nick Raynsford said the problem was a top priority for the industry. 'The first object is to help householders distinguish between good and bad builders.' Figures for 1996 showed there were 93,000 complaints about the quality of domestic building works, compared to 85,000 against used car salesmen.

By distancing the CIOB and its members from this poor image, Dwyer said, the institute was simply following this lead and making a distinction between building and the perhaps less tarnished term 'construction'.

Entry to the institute now requires a construction-related degree and two years' industrial work followed by a written exam. Those joining with the equivalent of a Higher National or Diploma qualification have a longer haul to chartered status with more extensive exams.

But Dwyer, in line to take over as president of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 2002, calmly distances himself from the very suggestion that the name change could herald a move towards expanding the institute to absorb the interests of other professional institutions. 'There is no way CIOB is going to recruit civil engineers and take over the industry,' he says emphatically.

CIOB is 'much broader based' than architecture, engineering and quantity surveying, said Dwyer. The typical member is organising on-site work management in a range of firms from new build to refurbishment, along with specialities such as stonework. But CIOB also has a bias towards education with 'a lot of academic membership', often linked with construction management courses.

Dwyer is the man who revolutionised Wimpey through the asset swap with Tarmac that converted Wimpey to a pure housing construction and land development firm. But he says he is not planning any sweeping changes in his year as CIOB president.

'I hope to try and raise its profile and support changes within the organisation - nothing exciting,' he says. The changes have involved a major switch in emphasis to a regional staff organisation with some half dozen CIOB directors spread across the country.

Mike Winney

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