Context of whole life costing
A concept has grown up that, by identifying the whole life cost, rational feedback can inform the choices made at the early design stages. But is this really the case? How does this help, and what does it help to achieve? Any reference to whole life issues may be swamped by much more demanding pressures from a host of other issues. It is therefore not surprising that not much concerted attention is paid to considering either the process or the results of any whole life analysis, and that it has little or no impact on real-world issues in the real world. Other concerns stemming from this concept are many and varied, not least the need
to keep to time, comply with regulations, and ensure that the project is on budget. It is, however, important that the beneﬁts for the client’s business are clearly identiﬁed, as far as possible, from the very start. The client and the design team should be in the position of understanding the implications of their actions and being aware of the ultimate cost of the project – the whole life cost over the project’s total life. But in considering cost, is it not value that should be deﬁned, but true beneﬁt. When trying to ascertain what happens in the real world, there is little informed
information available. It is very difﬁcult to ﬁnd any evidence that, in real situations, all the analysis and systems produce any tangible beneﬁt. From personal experience of many teams over several decades, I am aware that a considerable amount of effort is employed in discussing this. The usual course of events is that the team conﬁrms the correct path is being chosen and ensures that the given solutions to be built produce a self-congratulatory audit trail that is in fact just a smokescreen – admittedly, a very good smokescreen that fools most of the people, most of the time. Some may disagree with this suggestion, but I have yet to see anything to the contrary in practice. While clients continue to be taken in by this approach, teams will continue to spend time perfecting a story with limited appeal and certainly no tangible outcome. As the world wakes up to the need to limit resources and to use them wisely, there
will undoubtedly be more focus on achieving a good balance between today and tomorrow. Unfortunately, while we continue to base solutions on false premises, the results will not provide the beneﬁts that are undoubtedly needed. The plain fact is that most of these systems do nothing more than add administration
to a project, through an enormous and complex risk assessment to conﬁrm that we are on the right path and that the client need not worry. It is disturbing that so much can be produced for the justiﬁcation of very little, in many cases nothing at all.