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New construction strategy calls for tougher stance on defects

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.

Bold package

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.

Profound change

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.

Readers' comments (2)

  • This is an improvement, but not enough. It also doesn't overcome the typical problem of whether a defect is a defect and not lack of maintenance, misuse or maloperation by the Client after Take Over!

    I did a project overseas over 30 years ago on a Lump Sum Design, Build and 2 Years Operation and Defects Period. This overcame many of these difficulties and could be a halfway house solution to overcome current criticisms of PFI projects. Remember PFI projects were originally sold on the basis that financing would be cheaper. Experience since has shown that this is not the case, if only because of not only higher finance charges but also the mass of additional charges added for lawyers, bankers, insurers, bondsmen etc. etc.

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  • "requiring those who design and construct buildings to prove their operational performance for a period of say three to five years”

    Hmm. I know for a fact that the consultancy company I work for has insurance that covers "reasonable skill and care" and most definitely does not cover "fit for purpose". I understand this to be industry standard.

    If we are required to "prove operational performance" I would see that as being required to sign up to "fit for purpose" which would mean spending a lot more on insurance, reducing margins which are already tight due to the economic climate.

    In an industry which effectively builds a prototype every time, it's no surprise that many projects fall short of "fit for purpose".

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