As editor of Building Services Journal, I appreciate the sentiments expressed in your editorial leader (aj 23.4.98).The messages coming from the Elizabeth Fry building are, as you graciously pointed out, far more important than the competition which exists between our magazines.
As you rightly said, the key messages from the building is the high degree of teamwork between the client, consultants and the contractors. This teamwork came not just from a good mix of people, but because the team had already worked together and also with this client.
It is unlikely that such a quality job would have come from a shuffled pack. In fact the individual team members on Elizabeth Fry have been trying to recreate this spirit on subsequent projects, but without the same level of success. Clients note: familiarity can breed contempt, but not before it has produced better buildings.
The Elizabeth Fry Building also demonstrates the virtue of humane forms of architecture, particularly in terms of building scale, a willingness to work with the natural forces of wind and daylight, and the importance of user satisfaction. These are qualities that architects and clients in the commercial office sector in particular are still failing to understand.
Architects and engineers alike are not immune from criticism, pandering to the shortsighted demands of speculative developers without attempting to close the circle between design aspiration and actual in-use performance. They are also too quick to escape the site after practical completion.
The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers has recognised the virtue of building 'sea-trials' and post-occupancy studies to inform the design process, and guidance to assist services engineers to carry out their own audits will be published shortly. The riba should be doing exactly the same.