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Egan report ignores lessons of evolution

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If you have an interest in Darwin, you will understand that the process of evolution determines that the best way to survive is to diversify - the creation of new species to adapt and respond to change. Nature demonstrates a simple lesson: the more diversity, the greater the chances of survival.

Sir John Egan's new report ignores the value of this lesson. He would ask the construction industry to consolidate, concentrate and standardise, to produce fewer products, fewer services, fewer processes, fewer people . . . an example set by the automotive industry.

Have you noticed how most cars these days look the same? Is this healthy for consumer choice?

Imagine designing a building for the Norfolk Fens, and then using the same model for a site halfway up Mount Snowdon. How many compromises would be required to produce a product that would suit both environments and have enough similarities to be produced cost-effectively in the same factory? A car is a product that meets a specific function without relying heavily on site conditions, and is highly adaptable - you can drive it through a petrol station, down a country road or on to a Eurostar train.

As long as buildings are fixed to their individual sites, they will be individual creations. It is all very well to call for factory-made buildings, but how many standard components will meet the user's every need? There already exists a market for factory-made sheds and such, but these are seen by many as temporary solutions to accommodation problems.

Sure, I am all for scrapping some of the many unnecessary contract documents that exist, and various bureaucratic and obsolete procedures. I think the real problem with the construction industry is not just a question of efficiency, but a question of enthusiasm - the death of which some would equate to the death of 'craft'. This scarce resource of enthusiasm doesn't cost a penny; it demands passion.

What kind of world do you want to live in?

CARL HARPUR

Bedford

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