Observations outside the world of construction: whole life value and cost
Linking decisions to outcomes is possibly the most difﬁcult task in the quest to establish the success of whole life costing measures. It questionable whether any real evidence exists that this ever succeeds or has any real beneﬁt. The result of actions will not be truly evident for many years – in many cases, decades. Success, in whatever form it takes, may differ from one person’s perspective to
another’s. This is certainly the case across much of the built environment. And on many occasions we put effort and resources into objectives and activities that in the end deliver little or nothing. This is wasteful of human and natural resources, and clearly cannot be sustainable in the future. This is less of a problem in manufacturing, where a speciﬁc product is being
produced. Possibly the construction industry can learn from the issues here. When developing a product, it can be prototyped, road-tested, and even destruction-tested. This will give the designers a clear idea of its performance, durability and assembly quality. Taking it to market can then be a well planned process. Of course, this is a simpliﬁcation, and there are just as many pressures in manufacturing as there are in construction, and many examples of this process going very badly wrong. But in general, especially since the advent of computer-controlled manufacturing, signiﬁcant errors are rare. This focus on the product can enable whole life values to be determined very clearly.
Certain manufacturers have life values as a unique selling point, and some even make it their primary message. In nearly every sector, there is at least one manufacturer making the claim that they produce products that have durability, reliability and long life (some more justiﬁably than others). There is a market for products that have proven reliability, performance and an almost guaranteed life. End-of-life criteria are spelt out equally clearly, mainly as a result of increasingly robust legislation to ensure products are recyclable. These days, especially in consumer goods, whether or not these claims are borne out
is easy for all to see – via the internet, the performance of almost everything is itemised, analysed and endlessly debated. For those who care, consumers have provided a wealth of research and development. Clearly very little of this sort of information is available to the construction industry.
Perhaps in future we will see the development of these sorts of online forums.