Searching for the ideal process
Is there ever going to be an ideal process? Perhaps not – but we can do a great deal better than at present. We need to look at how to match the issues of practical control with the beneﬁts of
whole life cost and analysis. As has been demonstrated, this is currently a challenge. The industry, the constituents, the protocols and the current methodology all combine to prevent this taking place. Perhaps it is not so much an ideal process that is needed so much as a direction leading to better methods that may improve delivery in time. So where is the sensible line? Where is the logical pathway to drive this forward and
ensure we can advance these issues without embarking on another fruitless and resource-consuming methodology that, in the long term, will not work or deliver any tangible beneﬁt that is apparent above other, ﬁnancial considerations. A combination of periodic review and audit will bring some beneﬁt in the direction
we need. We know that a project can be procured with whole life value in mind. Possibly, it will be built close to these values, but it will not be maintained in the manner prescribed. There is currently no focus or desire to put any effort into this, almost certainly due to the lack of proven beneﬁt. It is possible to establish a set of criteria to provide a framework for the review process.
First, the building’s nominal life is agreed with the client. This is superﬁcially easy, but in fact poses a real challenge. What does ‘life’ mean? What will be the client’s ‘on-the-ground’ requirements? Not all parts of a building will or can have the same life. Is it just the main elements that are of concern; or should we take in as much as we can practically look at; or will we not see any real beneﬁt unless the whole building is assessed? This is complex, but taking one step at a time will bring results. A formula can be agreed and built into the project requirements. The building’s expected use and performance should be agreed with the client.
Allied to use and performance, there needs to be a deﬁnition of the range of these – a clear band of what the building will be called to do, outside which the whole life values will not apply. This is needed to bring certainty to the process and perhaps to inform checks on future operations. We then have an agreed process and protocol for driving the design. This can ensure the
materials, the details, and the way they are designed to be combined can deliver the whole life cost and value that are required. This should establish a baseline for the project.
We need to lock these client principles in during procurement. The key areas need to be red-lined and identiﬁed as critical to the whole life value or cost outcome. Any change to these needs to come from the client after a full impact assessment. This overarching structure and control needs to exist and to be checked at every
point in the progress towards starting on site. Limits need to be imposed and checked.
The same is true during the construction process from the start on site. Clear controls are needed to ensure the prescribed standards are met and what was required is delivered. Periodical review, analysis and feedback are crucial, and at every stage this is where
direct cost can accrue due to the need to ensure accuracy. Checks need to be made against the brief, the design, physical progress and emerging details. Closeness of ﬁt to these is essential. To make this work, a control regime in proportion to the project is needed. For the
average project, I suggest monthly reviews: during construction, six months after completion and handover, followed by 1-, 3-and 5-year reviews would suit most projects. This will change if the building is not occupied directly on completion, which may often be the case in the commercial world. The principle of the review is to check that the building is still on course and, if not,
to make adjustments to the day-to-day running to bring the project back to the expected position. There may be budget issues, and it will be up to the client or the building manager to keep the project on course. This is all about outcomes, and it remains to be seen if any level of control can
deliver the needed result. But a tight, regular arrangement has at least some hope of success.