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Find your guinea pigs in the marketplace

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I was interested in John Ruddock's letter (aj 13.5.99) on industrialised housing where he implied that it was not a design failure but a social one.

This is not quite right. There was a serious design fault in the precast concrete systems. The discontinuity of insulation at panel edges at the open drain joint resulted in a thermal bridge which was more severe than if there was no encapsulated insulation in the concrete panels. This resulted in severe condensation at the rc panel joints.

I was involved on the supply side at the time and ib Systems' main problem was that they were uneconomic. At the time a joint effort was made to sell the systems to us developers, who turned them down because they could see no economic advantage in the systems. The point is that the system builders never used their systems on their own private developments. They could only be used in the protected public sector where there was government (treasury?) pressure on local authorities to use the systems.

In the 1960s the procurement route for housing and schools in the public sector diverged from that in the private sector and it seems that the treasury is set to repeat that scenario. Before the Treasury foists ideas on the captive public sector it should first test them in the marketplace - the private sector. A few years ago the Treasury insisted on compulsory competitive tendering in the public sector, now it's not tendering at all.

Ken Dixon

London NW1

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