Tactics for high quality delivery now the industry is working full throttle

Nick Offer

Over a year ago I asked the question: can building services continue to serve? This was in response to the unprecedented amount of upcoming work we were due to see in 2015. Now the work has arrived and the industry is working full throttle on mega-projects.

Particularly in London we are seeing residential and commercial buildings go up at a height and scale that is uncommon in our country. I remember when a 1 million sq ft. project simply didn’t exist. Now our team is working on five simultaneously. We can sense that it is increasing more challenging to attract the calibre of candidates that match the great team we have already assembled. Thankfully, this year’s merger creating WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has added to our resource and enabled us to win projects by working together that we might have found more difficult before. But there is no escaping the fact that it is now an employee-led market.

Going forward consultancies will have to be creative to service their clients to the high standard the industry has set itself. Looking at resources from elsewhere is one option, and we are bringing over colleagues from China and New York, where very tall buildings are more numerous and so more experienced expertise is available. The added benefit is that many of our new clients are arriving from these markets, and having colleagues who understand the client culture, especially the language, is proving beneficial.

The next challenge is to ensure that being busy doesn’t lead to complacency. As the market booms these great projects can’t be finished soon enough, but this isn’t an excuse to build tomorrow’s buildings at today’s standards. You wouldn’t design a train today without a wi-fi hub. BIM should help answer this question, but adds a layer of complexity that could become a hindrance if we don’t master it, and quickly.

The best approach remains being able to replicate techniques across projects. Engineering has never been as easy and copying and pasting but invariably we are finding solutions that are translatable across different buildings. The trick isn’t to provide a blanket answer but to apply logical designs from a tried and tested template.

The next stage in our journey is the move from concept to detailed design, many of my industry colleagues are riding the same wave of projects in this economic cycle. This will be the next test for our expertise, and the prize will be the depth of experience necessary for this country to deliver the much-needed regeneration of our built-environment.

Nick Offer is WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff London head of building services