Collaborate to tackle big issues, institutions urged

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”.

These include:

  • 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.”

One thought on “Collaborate to tackle big issues, institutions urged

  1. The likely impact of Paul Morrell’s review of the professions, Collaboration for Change can be debated, however it has to take account of the potential influence exerted by the BIM Community. BIM is proving to be significant catalyst for change. Whilst the BIM Task Group has been financed to promote BIM and has supported the development of a BIM community, when you scratch beneath the surface you find a collection of volunteers that have been brought together with a common purpose. That common purpose is the desire to work together, share good/best practice and encourage others to engage in an exciting and hopefully better way of working. Is this not what spawned the creation of our current institutions?
    The BIM community includes the BIM 4 groups and the #UKBIMcrew. The BIM4SME group is focused on supporting SME organisations, from across the industry, to adopt and implement BIM. The BIM4SME group consists of individuals from the broad spectrum of the construction industry including the traditional professional institutions, contracting organisations within the supply chain as well as academia. It is truly pan-industry. Utilising the current technology, the members of the group are able to effectively and economically communicate with each other. Things happen and change is taking place, both within the individuals involved, but also the individuals that engage with the various initiatives.
    Taking a step back and reflecting on what the BIM4SME is doing and achieving, it is clear that is aligns with the original aspirations of our current professional organisations. The BIM4SME group is flexible and willing to adopt whatever approach is appropriate to engage any SME organisation willing to engage with BIM. It has developed various materials to share knowledge and has embarked on a collaboration with the RICS to promote BIM for SME’s via the BIM4SMe awards. It is a not for profit, low cost operation that relies on the dedication of the collection of volunteers. It cannot be underestimated the power and value of willing volunteers.
    Morrell’s timely review of the professions recognises the pressures for change and it’s appropriate that the institutions realise the dangers of not adapting. Change will be difficult without supporting from the governing institutions, however, it won’t stop it will just be by-passed. The institutions need to collaborate and support the progression of the industry.
    What is evident from my involvement within the BIM community and specifically with the BIM4SME group is that it does not recognise the traditional siloed boundaries of the professions. Individuals from the broach spectrum of the built environment have similar aims and want to work together for the better; I would suggest we are seeing change happen and the desired change perceived by the institutions. Paul’s analogy of the Hanseatic League is relevant, “the more efficient competitors less pre-occupied with their own internal struggles” already exist and are forging ahead.
    Rob Garvey for BIM4SMEs


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