- Specifying inappropriate materials and systems and then walking away from the problems created
- Distancing everyone else from the client and the design process
- Poor knowledge of building construction
- Not understanding buildability
- Unwillingness to accept budget constraints
- Inability to manage the design process so that information provided is accurate and on time.
Incidentally, readers should be aware that at the last draft, not wanting to overdo it, I deleted a seventh lapse:
- Always blaming others for their mistakes. One of the many architects who have actually spoken to me since asked about my tactics. "I presume you think," he said, "that if you repeat enough times that architects aren't doing their job properly, eventually someone will believe you."
Everyone in the world outside architecture has been painfully aware of architects’ deficiencies for many years
He appeared to be surprised at my reaction, which was that everyone in the world outside architecture had been painfully aware of architects' deficiencies for many years, and it was only the architects themselves that we now had to convince. The complaints come not just from contractors and specialists, but from engineers, quantity surveyors (in particular), suppliers and even clients. I make no apology for revisiting this issue because it is too important to the future of construction to be brushed under the carpet yet again, particularly if it is only because most people in just one sector are blinkered.
"Blinkered" is the key word here – only a small proportion of architects have even heard of Sir John Egan's report, Rethinking Construction, and are taking positive steps to adapt their thinking and their businesses to suit the new structure of construction management, partnering, lean construction, prime contracting and so on.
At the Construction Industry Board conference in June, Zara Lamont, director of the Construction Best Practice Programme, showed a slide illustrating the interest shown in best practice by the various construction sectors. Main contractors had by far the biggest chunk of the pie chart, but most other sectors also had respectable slices. All except the architects, that is, who could manage only a very thin line on the chart – more of a crumb than a slice.
We cannot allow this lack of understanding of what most of our experienced clients (taking government as 40% of our workload) are demanding to impede progress towards a unified and therefore far more efficient construction industry.
We have the business plan to turn us into a truly world-class industry from top to bottom in the form of Rethinking Construction. It shows that if we integrate the client's input and the design with the rest of the supply chain, we can improve the product, service and profitability of the whole process, and give far better value for money. But to do this, everyone must reject the old adversarial ways and embrace partnering. A big step for us all, and an even bigger step for architects, but we need them in the new team as equal partners.
Before dipping their pens into the venom again, correspondents should remember that I am just the messenger, albeit insensitive enough to "out" what is to some architects the unpalatable truth. It is the same message that should be going out to all small and medium-sized businesses in construction. The major players are investing considerable resources to restructure their businesses along partnering lines, because they realise that partnering is the profitable future.
If these smaller firms, both consultants and contractors, do not embrace partnering, they will be cut out of the public sector and larger commercial market altogether. Those traditionalists who insist on clinging to the old ways will be condemned to eking out a living from the difficult, adversarial clients that the real professionals have rejected.
Speaking for myself and my colleagues, we want the increased profitability, peace of mind and job satisfaction from an improved product and service that partnering and lean construction will bring. That means working happily with like-minded architects.
Colin Harding is chairman of Bournemouth-based contractor George & Harding.