Contractors and designers will be held responsible for the operational performance of the finished projects for up to five years under government plans to make the industry 20% more efficient.
The move to tackle post-handover defects through what is effectively a massively extended defects correction period is the boldest of a package of measures included in the government’s new construction strategy.
Other measures include the much-trailed roll-out of Building Information Modelling and the introduction of strict cost benchmarking across all public projects.
“Post-handover defects are a regular feature of construction projects, leading to the cost of remediation and frequently the higher cost of resolving disputes,” says the report.
“Even when there are no latent defects, it is still rare to find that a built asset performs exactly in accordance with its design criteria.
“Integration of the design and construction of an asset with the operation phase should lead to improved asset performance. This has been demonstrated in projects which have integrated design and construction with whole-life operation. “The same alignment can be created by requiring those who design and construct buildings to prove their operational performance for a period of say three to five years,” it says.
The strategy calls for a “profound change” in the relationship between public authorities and the construction industry. It says firms in the supply chain will have to replace adversarial cultures with collaborative ones and deliver “cost reduction and innovation” if they are to maintain market position.
But it also accepts that the public sector must become a better client.
New forms of procurement designed to encourage the integration of the supply chain will be introduced, and government will make less use of lump sum tendering on price.
This will include setting benchmarks for a job within a contractor framework, with the recourse to direct tendering if none of the framework contractors meets the price.
The programme of change will be overseen by a new government construction board chaired by construction adviser Paul Morrell.
The newly established body will also oversee the implementation of the Infrastructure Cost Implementation Plan and the government’s responses to the McNulty rail review.
Consultants and contractors cautiously welcomed the strategy.
But Association for Consultancy and Engineering chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin said the government would have to play its part.
“On reflection, there is a lot of work to be done in delivering on this strategy,” said Ogunshakin.
“To achieve the required culture changes will require a robust, coordinated approach across the public sector, which will need to be aligned with other important initiatives such as the Infrastructure UK Cost Review Implementation Plan.
“To turn this Strategy into successful and lasting outcomes will also require real partnership between government and industry,” he said.