Construction’s professional institutions need to work together to tackle key challenges like climate change and the gap between designed and built performance of buildings, advises a report from a commission led by former government chief construction advisor Paul Morrell. “Why do we collaborate happily as individuals, when we don’t as institutions?” Morrell said at the report’s launch.
Morrell was invited by campaigning built environment think tank The Edge to chair a commission of inquiry into the future of professionalism in the built environment/construction industry. The report analyses key threats and pressures for change that the professional institutions and their members face, which “if not yet existential, are real and profound, and demand change” and makes a series of recommendations to the institutions on actions on “which it is both necessary and realistic to collaborate”.
- Ethics and the public interest: Develop and standardise a national code of conduct/ethics across the built environment professions, building on shared experience in the UK and internationally.
- Education and competence: The built environment institutions to commit to a cross-disciplinary review of the silo nature of the education system
- Research and a body of knowledge: Establish a joint think tank that could pool the resources of the Institutions to conduct research and develop policy for the industry – a King’s Fund for the built environment.
- Collaboration on major challenges; including industry reform in the interests of a better offer to clients, climate change and building performance.
At the report’s launch Lord Deben urged the professional bodies to take an ethical stance with clients and policymakers when their members are expected to create buildings that would be unsustainable. He added, “A doctor has to say that they won’t do what is not right. I’ve never heard anyone in the built environment professions say they won’t or shouldn’t do something.”
The commission heard evidence from chief executives, presidents and other senior representatives from some of the key professional institutions in the construction industry including; Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), Institution of Civil Engineering (ICE), Institution of Structural Engineering) IStructE, Landscape Institute (LI), the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), RIBA, RICS, RTPI and the Society for the Environment (SocEnv), as well as, in a collective capacity, the Construction Industry Council (CIC) and other informed parties.
What they said?
Chris Blythe, chief executive CIOB said: “The recommendations in the report highlight that change is almost impossible without industry-wide collaboration, cooperation and consensus and the professions and other key institutions can lead the way in ensuring that this collaboration is in the public interest.”
Sean Tompkins CEO of RICS said: “The title of the Edge Commission’s report: Collaboration for change neatly encapsulates the challenge facing professions today. If professions are to remain relevant in an ever more interconnected and technologically advanced world, they will need to work together more closely.”
Stephen Matthews, chief executive of CIBSE said: “Relevance is an important issue for all the professional bodies and especially in the construction sector where old practices are being swept away and engineering in the built environment faces significant challenges. While we are all products of the past we must face the future with a real determination to embrace change. The issues around urbanisation, fuel poverty, food production and fossil fuel depletion against the impact of climate change are stark enough. CIBSE looks forward to the challenge and hopes, with others, we can adapt and change to serve society and provide the tools for our members.”
Chris Brown, chief executive of Igloo Regeneration said: “The relevance of the built environment professions in the future will be founded on a shared mission to make great places for people and the planet. Advancing specialist expertise will be important and the ability to work collaboratively with others for a shared purpose for public good will be what attracts the best people, achieves the best outcomes and guarantees the future.”
Paul King, managing director of sustainability, Lend Lease Europe said: “There is much that is uncertain about the future, but what we can be sure of is that built environment professionals will need to be far more agile, responsive and adaptable. Lines will be blurred, disciplines will overlap, new actors will enter our markets and linear relationships will increasingly be replaced by collaborative and circular ones. It follows that our professional institutions should be at the forefront of change not resisting it, championing innovation rather than perpetuating historical silos.”
Ben Derbyshire managing partner of HTA Design said: “I believe the RIBA must begin a process of redefining the covenant between the profession and society. At a time when society is re-evaluating the role of professionals we must redefine what the profession offers, raising standards and improving value.”