While perhaps not one of the most well known venues in London, the atrium of the Department of Environment, Transport and the Region's Eland House building in Victoria hosted an important exhibition last week.
On view were 17 of the first 85 demonstration projects to flow from Sir John Egan's Rethinking construction report last year. The exhibition signalled progress for the new Movement for Innovation.
M4I was set up to help implement the changes and innovations set out in the Egan report. Demonstration projects are the backbone of its information sharing process.
There is no doubt that since its launch last November, M4I has suffered all the scepticism that usually accompanies initiatives with ambitions to change traditional practice for the better.
There are so many projects and so much enthusiasm - but what has always been slightly less clear is exactly what and how results would actually be achieved.
Last week's display of demonstration projects was intended to clear this doubt and show the initiative was up and running.
'The demonstration project idea was a bit woolly at the beginning,' said one Eland House exhibitor. 'But being here makes me realise things are coming together. We've been able to see what some of the other companies are, see where we stand and what innovations are the most helpful.'
The schemes on show ranged from Thames Water's South London Clean Water distribution network to construction of the M60 (see page 18). Innovations demonstrated included broad brush partnering and practical gadgets (see boxes below).
Having all these projects in the same room showed clearly that there is enthusiasm for M4I and illustrated what it is out to achieve. The people involved in the projects are perhaps starting to believe they are setting a new order for construction.
'The change will come from the grass roots,' said M4I board member Andrew Wolstenholme of BAA.
He pointed out that the demonstration projects were grouped into geographical clusters and will initially share learning among themselves. Once the clusters build confidence they will then share their experiences with the wider industry through the Best Practice Programme. That done, said Wolstenholme, 'there will be a sea change in the way construction operates'.
But as with all religions, the success of M4I's quest to create a world class construction industry is as much about the numbers committed to the idea of change as the miracles enacted on one or two sites.
So M4I is looking for more demonstration projects. 'We don't have a limit,' said M4I board member Stella Littlewood of Arup. 'We are looking to create a critical mass.'
A second Rethinking construction conference, to follow up the inaugural event last year, is to be held in Birmingham in July. M4I is hoping it will attract even more projects, particularly in the Midlands, North, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
'In July we will see a gap between the people who have taken on board Rethinking construction and those who have not,' Wolstenholme promised.