The appointment of a chief construction adviser is welcome, but in the 10 years since the Egan Report the game has moved on a long way

Unfortunately the job spec for the post reads like something from the early nineties. The responsibilities for “operational efficiency” look like yet another way to describe financial savings in procurement and construction.

The officer’s remit must be set in broader terms than can be perceived by a cost-fixated Treasury. The government must take this golden opportunity to require the chief construction adviser to address not only construction, but also the operational performance of buildings: functionality, occupant satisfaction and sustainability.

We are also deeply concerned that the inexorable erosion of technical knowledge and skills within the government will hamper attempts by the chief construction adviser to improve public sector procurement. The absorption of the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ Schools Capital Design Unit into Partnerships for Schools (PfS) is a classic example. PfS is a delivery vehicle, not a home for knowledge about designing buildings, nor for deep consideration of how they should evolve.

At the very time we need strong leadership, public accountability, and the development of robust knowledge within the engine of government, the public infrastructure is being dismantled. Clearly government sees its remit as going no further than handing out the money and to shed responsibility for the outcomes. If this shortsighted and immoral policy of outsourcing continues, the chief construction adviser will be a passenger in his own vehicle – railing at the industry for underperformance but lacking the controls to drive it anywhere better.

If this shortsighted and immoral policy of outsourcing continues, the chief construction officer will be a passenger in his own vehicle

The undersigned

Whole-life value is ultimately a function of how well buildings perform, and whether this can be sustained over the long term. Clearly understood operational outcomes should inform this. Sustainable construction doesn’t just need “co-ordinating” by the construction office – it has to be at the very heart of the job. As it stands, it is subordinate to Treasury objectives on time and money.

For these reasons we call on the government’s appointee for chief construction adviser to place the value for money remit within an overarching framework of whole-life building performance, rather than simply focusing on the performance of the construction industry.

With Copenhagen nearly upon us, it is getting a bit late to miss the point.

Malcolm Bell, Leeds Metropolitan University; Bill Bordass, Usable Buildings Trust; Roderic Bunn, BSRIA; Robert Cohen, CAMCO; Andy Ford, Fulcrum Consulting; Bill Gething, FCBS; David Hampton, Carbon Coach; Adrian Leaman, Arup & Usable Buildings Trust; Robin Nicholson, Edward Cullinan Architects; Adam Poole; Heinz Richardson, Jestico + Whiles; Fionn Stevenson, Oxford Brookes University; David Turrent, ECD Architects; Chris Twinn, Arup; Ant Wilson, Aecom