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‘Chain of custody’ aims for better buildings

Words:
Matt Thompson

Institutes join forces to develop a quality risk tracker which links commissioning client to end user

Designing processes for safer buildings: RICS president John Hughes, RIBA president Ben Derbyshire and CIOB past president Paul Nash sign the Joint Memorandum of Understanding.
Designing processes for safer buildings: RICS president John Hughes, RIBA president Ben Derbyshire and CIOB past president Paul Nash sign the Joint Memorandum of Understanding.

The RIBA’s influential Client Liaison Group (CLG) is spearheading an industry-wide ‘Building in Quality’ initiative to overcome the acknowledged structural and cultural barriers that hamper consistently good outcomes in construction project.

While the CLG was already pursuing this cause in the wake of its revealing 2016 Working With Architects survey report, recent high profile building failures – not least the Grenfell Tower disaster – upped the ante and hardened the group’s resolve to address this thorniest of questions.

CLG chair Nigel Ostime of Hawkins\Brown thinks quality is arguably the most important issue facing construction today. He said, ‘Think of the positive societal impact to taxpayers – ordinary citizens – of good quality hospitals, schools, public housing, and infrastructure. Even in the private sector, think of the long-term positive effect on the British economy of state-of-the-art offices, shops, manufacturing facilities, and so on. We owe it to our clients and occupiers to fix it.’

The initiative is underwritten by a formal high-level Joint Memorandum of Understanding signed at Ecobuild by RIBA president Ben Derbyshire, RICS president John Hughes, and past president of the CIOB Paul Nash.

It commits these three centrally important institutes to working together, and in effect launches a consultation period to collect evidence and hear expert views from across the industry. In particular, it will ask questions about a proposed system for establishing what the CLG’s working group has intriguingly been calling a ‘chain of custody for quality’.

In an echo of Dame Judith Hackitt’s ‘golden thread’ idea outlined in her Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Interim Report, the proposed system links the end user to the commissioning client through a quality risk tracker.

 

The commissioning client would set his or her quality benchmarks using a number of key quality risk indicators. Thereafter, the project team would monitor risks regularly

The commissioning client would set his or her quality benchmarks using a number of key quality risk indicators. Thereafter, the project team would monitor risks regularly, probably at the end of RIBA Work Stages, updating the tracker by consensus as they go. In what is likely to be the trickiest point, the tracker would stay with the project regardless of changes in ownership or the project team. It would ultimately become available to be scrutinized by end-users, thereby completing the chain of custody.

RIBA President Ben Derbyshire said at the launch, ‘We want to facilitate safer tender pricing and better align design to end-value. Ultimately, we want quality trade-offs to be openly and regularly disclosed all the way through to end-users, closing the loop back to the project originator.’

Deceptively attractive at a first glance, the working group behind the idea is under no illusions about the complexity of the task or the possible snags. However, as the CIOB’s Nash said at the launch, ‘We professionals all have a responsibility for the reputation of our industry and, most importantly, the wellbeing of those who use the buildings and the infrastructure that we design, build and manage. This is why the consultation is so important.’

The CLG is seeking expressions of interest from not just architects, surveyors and contractors, but engineers, consultants, agents, developers, investors, insurers, lawyers, representatives from industry institutions and organisations and others with an interest in the quality of the built environment. The consultation closes on 6 April 2018.           


To sign up to the consultation go to architecture.com and search JMU

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