The Construction Industry Council has revealed its Design Quality Indicators - a measurement system to assess good design - hailing it a new 'language' for the construction industry to talk about design.
Government has thrown its weight behind the DQIs - developed over the past two years with the backing of the DTI and CABE - which will now be used on all government spending departments' building projects.
The CIC has invited 100 designers, contractors and clients to take part in an initial 'trailblazing' scheme. For a cost of £300, the chosen 100 will be allowed to use the measurement system on up to six projects.
Ex-planning minister Lord Falconer outlined the government's support: 'Government is already piloting adapted versions of the DQI toolkit, and the emerging findings have convinced me that the DQIs have the potential to become a key stage in a broad swathe of public sector construction projects and in the pursuit of improved design standards.'
But RIBA president Paul Hyett expressed the worries of the design community that there was a danger that the measurement system could become 'the bottom line'.
Sunand Prasad, CABE commissioner and one of the team developing the DQIs, rejected fears.
'All systems are open to abuse, ' he said, 'but I am confident they can only help the process.'
They will not demystify design and reduce it to a box-ticking exercise, he said. 'Demystification is an overused word.We need to put mysteries in context.'
Those who believe in design must take on responsibility for the measures, he argued, rather than allow others to impose their own standards.
Prasad added that he anticipated the DQIs would soon be taken on across the industry and would become a normal way of talking about buildings. 'But it shouldn't become a cosh to beat people over the head with, ' he said.
DQIs will focus on the building produced, as opposed to the emphasis given to the process by the Egan Report and the Rethinking Construction movement that has followed it.
The questionaires, intended to be used by all members of the construction team at all stages of a project, contain a set of statements organised into three categories - functionality, build quality and impact. Participants are asked to respond whether they agree or disagree with the statements. Questions asked range from the more practical - whether the building weathers well and whether it is easy to clean - to the more esoteric - if it lifts the spirit and if people like visiting it.
The one-year pilot will be used to develop the DQIs, after which the CIC will be encouraging all within the construction industry to take them up.