Imagine a world in which all building projects had superlative design, ultra efficient costs, sustainable solutions, spotless health and safety - and there were no outraged letters to publish

Top class design

Regarding your story “James Review says new national contracts should be set up”, some of the very best recently built schools have been built for significantly below average costs. If designs similar to these are used as a basis for the new schools then you will have outstanding designs at much lower costs. Unfortunately there are no indications that these schools are, or ever will be, used as examples of best practice.

If a contract is issued for a national school design then the only people able to pass – and afford the cost of – selection procedures will be the biggest design practices, and there is little evidence on the basis of their current school designs that top quality high functional schools will be the result.

Richard Wearden, via

Retrofits could be better

With far reaching government cutbacks forcing many UK construction projects to be frozen or scrapped, and amid increasing demands for more sustainable buildings, renovation of existing stock looks likely to dominate the construction industry’s activity over the coming years.

While the delivery of new structures will remain an important part of the country’s output, the need to bring old buildings up to the necesary standards required to meet carbon reduction targets will become much more critical.

At the same time, the financial savings to be made are colossal. Earlier last year, our property consultancy, Robinson Low Francis (RLF), conducted a study into the amount of money wasted a year as new occupiers fit-out existing premises. We found that over £400m is needlessly spent on furnishing offices with little thought given to utilising what was already in place. Over half of all central London office space under construction in June last year would not meet the requirements of the landlords set to inhabit it once complete.

Ripping out new fixtures as soon as a lease is signed is madness but it has become an acceptable part of the construction process in this country. What is required for a more sustainable, cost effective way of designing and building new structures is for developers to construct to a shell and core finish - a blank canvas that is easily adaptable to any tenant moving in. The benefits of such a finish include enabling a new-build to be brought to market faster - the build time is often reduced and they are becoming more desirable as tenants take more of an active interest in the sustainable qualities of the buildings they occupy.

Where shell and core isn’t an option, what does have to be addressed is the need for improved levels of communication between developer and tenant to ensure that when commercial property is handed over, newly fitted fixtures such as flooring, lighting and ventilation are agreed upon already.

s retrofitting begins to form part of a much more lucrative market, we must be careful to ensure any renovations that take place are making a meaningful difference to the surrounding environment. What we want to avoid at all costs is a situation where a commercial landlord pays lip service to the issue, greening a building “on the cheap”.
It is encouraging to see that well known structures around the world such as the Empire State Building are taking the issue of sustainability seriously. The hefty $12.5m (£7.7m) worth of investment in sustainable solutions in the building looks set to reduce its carbon levels significantly while saving the company that own and run the place roughly $4m (£2.5m) a year too. This is certainly a sign of things to come.

Steven Barker, senior partner, Robinson Low Francis

A high price to pay

Regarding the online story “Construction deaths up during recession”, it is hardly surprising when clients are trying to drive prices down and down. If the HSE can demonstrate that an unreasonably low price has been accepted, the client and design team should be prosecuted too.

Gary Davis, via