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Lessons for us all


While the saga now unfolding in the Technology & Construction Court makes great journalistic copy, Wembley Stadium is without doubt massively damaging for the construction industry and engineering profession.

To every football-following member of the public, it is a mess. When finished the stadium will no doubt be a stunning addition to the nation's sporting infrastructure. Until then the project simply continues to highlight all that is bad about the industry.

In this World Cup year, everything about the project simply reinforces the on-going negative impression. And as we prepare to host the London 2012 Olympic Games, there could be no worse advert for our services.

Which is a shame because, as a design, the new stadium is iconic. It really will be a fitting replacement for the much loved twin towers.

Yet for construction professionals the exchanges in court so far must seem to reinforce a feeling of having stepped back in time a few decades.

Back to an era before partnering, before supply chain management, before the industry realised that disputes cost too much.

We seem to have spent so much time and effort trying to re-educate ourselves towards more effective project management that Wembley comes as something of a reality check. A great design marred once again by project delivery.

Whatever the outcome and whoever shoulders the 'blame' for Wembley Stadium's problems and delays, none of the individuals will emerge unscathed.

At best we can only hope that it serves as another huge reminder of how not to run a construction project.

Yet as the British Construction Industry Awards show us each year, we can - and do - perform better. There is a massive number of very positive examples of how to run successful construction teams.

Looking at scale and quality of the entries this year, it is clear that 2006 will be no different.

Each of these successes reminds us that creative design talent really is to be appreciated and celebrated and that the results of this effort represent a much more effective driver for the nation's economy than the talents on show in the Technology & Construction Court.

With this in mind there could not be a better moment to launch the Emerging Engineering Design Awards (see P16).

These new awards are designed specifically to recognise and reward the very real individual talent working across the engineering profession to deliver well thought out design solutions to problems.

Led by Stephen Morley, whose outstanding arch concept crowns Wembley, we want to find the individuals who really contribute the talent that drives innovation into projects. So if your success merits wider recognition, let us know, whatever your field of expertise.

In an environment where team and project performance so often dominate, it is important to recognise the individual creative achievement; which can be overlooked.

We need to use these awards to help counter the nation's impression that engineers are incapable of producing and delivering outstanding civil engineering designs.

The industry needs a public relations boost certainly. It needs to recognise its talent.

But it also needs to ensure that Wembley really is the last of a dying breed of problem projects.

Antony Oliver is NCE's editor

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