CRITICAL MEETINGS will begin in October to explore whether a single institution for the built environment is a realistic or worthwhile goal, ICE Council heard this week.
The ICE is working to unite the built environment institutions after agreeing in June to step back from merger talks already under way between the Institutions of Electrical, Mechanical and Incorporated Engineers.
The Construction Industry Council has stepped in to facilitate a steering group to explore proposals to merge the built environment institutions after an approach by ICE senior vice president Doug Oakervee.
The steering group would decide whether or not it is practical to continue with plans, and if so how to progress them alongside the IMechE/IEE/IIE talks.
ICE members could be asked to vote on options as early as January 2005, with the creation of a single 'Institution of Engineers' possible five years after that.
'We would be looking at a 12 to 18 month process, ' said Oakervee, speaking ahead of this week's Council meeting.
'No one should underestimate the size of the task, but if you don't have a short timescale you risk losing momentum.
'In this case, 2005 is a possibility, but whatever happens will have to have approval from the ICE membership.'
Oakervee, along with ICE consultant Malcolm Day, has spent the summer meeting with the other institutions to gain support for the plan and to agree a way forward.
'There is clearly a very strong appetite for change among the institutions I have spoken to, ' said Oakervee. 'The CIC is equally supportive and has agreed to facilitate discussions.'
While the ICE will continue to take the lead role, Oakervee stressed that the steering group discussions would be a meeting between equals and that there was no agenda for the ICE to 'swallow up' or 'railroad' smaller institutions.
He added that the CIC's backing had secured the involvement of both the IStructE and Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers in talks.
The ICE has taken a place on the IMechE/IEE/IIE joint steering group. This will ensure that the two groups are compatible should plans to form a single body arise in the future.
'We must continue to look into what a single nucleus can achieve together, ' said Oakervee, stressing that achieving a single institution was still the ultimate goal.
'If we can achieve a multidisciplined, learned society that can elevate the profession, then that should surely be our goal.'