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Movement for Innovation calls for new demo projects

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The Movement for Innovation (m4i), the body dedicated to pioneering new ways of working in the construction industry, has issued a call for a third wave of demonstration projects. These aim to address the perceived shortfall in the first two rounds of projects by bringing in more schemes from the North of England and Scotland, and more with a value of less than £500,000. The first two rounds comprise 84 projects, with a total value of £3 billion. This is more than six times the total in John Egan's report, Rethinking Construction, the catalyst for the setting up of m4i.

The organisation has also set up two new interest groups, and will be seeking projects which show innovation in these areas. They are: respect for people (primarily health and safety); sustainability, the environment and elimination of waste.

'The concept of respect is very powerful in the [Egan] report,' said cic chairman and m4i board member Robin Nicholson. 'It is not just about respect for those doing the work. Also, contractors have to respect the designers.'

The crucial aspect of m4i is communication, believes Nicholson. 'The most potent idea,' he said, 'is to allow people to come together to talk about what they have done. Architects are used to it , but it is foreign to others. m4i disseminates knowledge and best practice by encouraging openness through sharing knowledge and experience.'

Nicholson is involved with the southern Home Counties cluster of projects, which has just held its second meeting, and where he was impressed by the level of discussion and frankness. m4i has also launched the first phase of what it describes as 'The Knowledge Exchange' on its website, at www.m4i.org.uk. The first phase, launched at the second m4i conference on Monday, is called 'Insite', and is a place for organisations to post up information. Further phases will be more interactive, with the most sophisticated demanding that participants contribute important information about their own projects before accessing knowledge at a similar level about others'.

The Key Performance Indicators, launched at National Construction Week earlier this year, are now being used on all the demonstration projects. Nicholson said: 'Getting measuring is probably the most important thing that will change the way we do business.' But he also emphasised that there are some things, such as design, 'which are fantastically important but which are very difficult to measure'.

Construction Minister Nick Raynsford, speaking at Monday's conference, said: 'It saddens me to hear the defensiveness of some in the design community who see the Rethinking Construction initiative as a threat. Everyone is crying out for better design. So why be so scared, so timid, so negative? Why not grasp the opportunity, join in with the team approach, contribute and share your expertise, [and] demonstrate what good design can deliver?'

Raynsford also outlined the five challenges for m4i laid down by deputy prime minister John Prescott, who was unable to be there. They are: to ensure that the radical agenda of m4i is made effective throughout the industry; to make m4i self-sustaining; to give a much higher profile to sustainability; to make sure that all those involved in construction 'are doing all you can to improve your contribution, your performance, your respect for people'; for the whole client community to take further the good work that has already been done; and to draw up a clients' charter.

This aim of broadening the innovations to the whole industry was also stressed by Nicholson, who said that the institutions play a crucial role.

'We are dealing with five per cent of the industry. How do you spread this on? You have to go into the schools.' Institutions, he said, were vital for doing this, and he therefore welcomed the preparation of a paper called 'Rethinking Architecture', written by Sunand Prasad for the riba practice committee. Its proposals include:

promoting and developing partnering

hosting a conference on the value of design

developing key performance indicators for design

making process-mapping a part of professional practice

developing appropriate benchmarking tools to measure performance

making post-occupancy evaluation a standard service, and trying to link this to riba awards

hosting a conference on the relationship between architectural education and the industry

focusing the clients' advisory service further towards clients' needs

becoming more involved with m4i.

Enacting this agenda will, Prasad writes, require a collective effort across the institute. 'Only by such a collective effort will we be able to justify a claim to be amongst the leaders of the construction industry,' he warns.

The paper was given to last week's riba council for information, and will be discussed at the next meeting in October. Prasad said, 'The construction industry is the middle of change. There is an enormous amount that architects can do and only they can do. ... But we need to be on the inside, and not on the outside looking in.'

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