Last month Hoogovens' managing director, Bill Guest, submitted evidence to Sir John Egan's Construction Task Force. Here is a summary of his recommendations:
Q In what ways can improvements in quality and efficiency be made across the construction industry?
A 'The best buildings are the product of a working relationship between the client, the design team and the contractors' - Alistair Sutherland, Austin-Smith:Lord
The industry must abandon its traditional, fragmented structure with its cost-based culture which has led to conflict. Instead it must learn to develop effective 'teams' who will work together with the client to deliver a building which not only meets but even exceeds his expectations.
Buildings must be costed in a new way. Until 'cost-in-use' is taken into the equation there will be little incentive to develop and use maintenance- free, energy-efficient and recyclable materials and systems. Neither will the industry be able to afford or justify investment in training and skill development - without which build quality and integrity will never be optimised.
Use of latest technology differs greatly from design through to installers, and very few, if any, simulation techniques are used to avoid reactive building managament as opposed to a proactive stance. Problems should be identified and eliminated at an early stage to build and develop an effective communication system to include all parties, especially subcontractor installers.
Q What examples of processes, technologies and skills can you suggest for the Task Force to consider as current and future 'best practice' in the construction industry?
Specialist suppliers should be brought into the design process at an earlier stage, when they can work together with the architect to develop the full potential of his design. This will not only help stimulate innovations in materials, systems and practice, but lead to designing to the materials' optimum use.
The process of costing should be revised to include cost-in-use and complete lifecycle costing. Only when these parameters are changed can suppliers of energy-efficient and environmentally friendly materials be seen to be providing true value for money.
Computer 3D modelling should be extended to site using on-line systems.
On-site communications should be improved to include the use of mobile headsets, digital cameras, video phones, etc, thus giving contractors access to specialist and technical advice at all times.
Thermal imaging should be used to test the true performance of building systems.
Suppliers should be open to new ways of delivering their product to site and even explore the possibilities of manufacture on site. For example, Hoogovens now has mobile roll-forming units, which form kal-zipregistered on-site at either ground or roof level.
Streamline 714 labour practice, which of itself inhibits training commitments and leads to inefficiency.
New technology demands new skills. Continual skill development is critical at all levels and should be given the utmost priority.
Communication and simulation techniques.
Manufacturers and suppliers should set up comprehensive training programmes for their approved installers to ensure best practice is employed at all times.
Existing government and professional training programmes should be reviewed for content and validity with regard to the levels of competence they deliver.
The industry should seek to promote itself and attract a higher calibre of entrant at all levels.
Q What efficiency and quality improvements are the best practices delivering?
A Buildings that meet or exceed design performance.
Snag-free completion, on or well ahead of schedule and budget.
Buildings that are exciting, innovative and yet truly efficient - throughout their lifespan.
Q How can these efficiency and quality improvements be measured and quantified?
A Benchmarking against the best in the world.
Against the contract.
Against the client's previous experience on similar projects.
Against the level of complaints and failures logged by iso 9002-accredited contractors.
Against similar projects which have been executed in the traditional way - competitive tendering, contractors working in isolation or in conflict with each other.
Q What targets for efficiency and quality improvements are currently being set, and what targets could be set for further improvements?
A New environmental targets should be applied to all buildings.
Energy efficiency, proportion of recyclable materials, levels of hazardous waste at demolition stage, emission levels, traffic management, etc. Compliance should be obligatory and enforced throughout the lifecycle of the building. These targets would impose a discipline upon the industry and ensure that the required quality and efficiency is delivered.
All companies in the industry should set targets for their own improved standards of operation. At Hoogovens this is a continuous process and we are currently participating in two complementary schemes - the 'World Class Manufacturing' programme, and the European Business Quality Model.
Q What planned construction projects can you suggest would demonstrate best practice and improvements in quality and efficiency?
A Hoogovens can supply detailed case studies to the Task Force of projects executed under partnering agreements with several major contractors. The company also works closely with clients to solve their particular building requirements, and all parties have recognised the benefits to be gained by working to a common design pattern with a limited number of preferred suppliers working together to an agreed budget and timescale, with the ultimate objective of reducing both.