Our irrational approach to risk is well documented, with our behaviour a response to perceived rather than actual risk. A good current example is public reaction in the wake of the London bombings, with many shunning the Tube for the roads, even though they are fundamentally more unsafe.
In construction there has been a dawning realisation that properly run contracts are all about fair allocation of risk. Clients looking for 'no-risk' solutions are putting themselves in increased danger of financial loss. So the latest JCT contracts, as described by Mark Klimt on pages 60-62, are to be welcomed for their attempt to simplify relationships and make them more transparent. However, Klimt does warn that the allocation of risk may change little if the dynamics of building projects remain the same.
The risks of unreasonable contracts and the need to sort them out comprise a danger of which most architects are well aware. But there is a danger looming of another scale entirely - one that will not be visible today or tomorrow but that could change practice fundamentally in the next few years. It concerns the threatened shortage of architects, of which we may be seeing the first portents this year (page 12). For years, architects have managed to listen smugly to tales of shortages in the other construction disciplines, secure in the knowledge their own profession is over-subscribed. But no longer. Spiralling student costs, combined with long training and uncertain earnings, will make students reject the subject.
Buildings will still go up of course, and somebody will 'design' them but, even more than today, it will not necessarily be an architect.
What price protection of title? If nothing is done to reduce the risk, both perceived and actual, to the financial safety of potential architecture students, the chickens will really come home to roost. And with the imminent threat of bird flu, that is a metaphor we can all understand.