Your leader (9 May, page 3), coupled with Sir John Egan’s personal comments (page 32), rightfully acknowledge the progress that has been made in implementing some of the recommendations of Rethinking Construction.
And you are right to remind us that the report’s benefits have been largely confined to the larger contractors, supervisors and consultants that make up Virtual Construction. But on the positive side, the steady increase over the past 10 years of design-and-build work shows that more and more clients are recognising the benefits of process integration, one of Egan’s principal points.
However, you got it wrong by suggesting that another of the key recommendations, to apply the mass production manufacturing principles of car assembly to construction, was unrealistic. The innovative Verbus volumetric modular construction system, with its growing order book, proves that they work very well, leading to significant improvements in the reliability of the service and the quality and price of the finished product – also important recommendations of Egan’s report.
Verbus Systems was formed as a direct result of the collaboration (yet another recommendation) of two board members of M4I, the group formed to implement Rethinking Construction’s conclusions. Rod Macdonald and myself, chairmen respectively of Buro Happold and George & Harding, set up Verbus to develop our idea of adapting car and shipping container manufacturing techniques to create high-strength steel construction modules. The Verbus system really is the first significant advance in construction design and technology since the introduction of the steel frame 100 years ago.
And not a little of the credit should go to Egan’s personal foresight and evangelism, whatever the industry’s vested interests thought of it then and now.
Colin Harding, chairman, Verbus Systems