Too many build projects still fail to deliver their intended value. This toolkit has been designed to achieve outcomes that are truly wanted, says Ann Bentley

Ann Bentley DEC 2018 BW CUTOUT

As I write this, we are only days from the launch of the crucial testing phase of the Value Toolkit, a project in which I have been privileged to play a leading role. 

A unique, collaborative initiative, bringing together more than 150 experts from all corners of industry and government, the Value Toolkit comes at a pivotal moment for our sector. As we emerge from a year of unprecedented turmoil and uncertainty, fundamental questions are being asked about the kind of future that we want for our sector. Chief among these is how we tackle, once and for all, the elusive issue of value.

Understanding the need

The debate around value-based decision-making is nothing new in construction. From boardroom to building site, it is a widely accepted principle that value must be viewed beyond the narrow prism of cost. Client advisers already play a key role in helping to translate this principle into reality. Why then, we must ask, are many build projects still failing to deliver their intended value for the client?  

Not all clients necessarily value speed and cost; for many, environmental impact and whole-life value could be equally

To get to the crux of this problem, we first need to closely examine what is happening at the very outset of a build project – and where the role of the client adviser comes into play. For many projects, be they schools, homes or hospitals,  there is an all-too-common tendency to dive straight into solutions before properly addressing the “need”.

Imagine that you were advising the Department for Education on providing greater school capacity for a growing community. Does the client in this instance require an entirely new school building, or could an extension or redevelopment of an existing asset deliver the same or indeed better outcomes? And is the asset intended now, or in the future, to deliver wider benefits for the local community? 

These are the fundamental questions which can have a huge bearing on whether the asset delivers its intended outcomes. Armed with the Value Toolkit, client advisers will be able to guide their clients in a more logical, structured and intuitive way towards what it is that they actually need – and, crucially, what they do not. 

What the client values

Along with understanding the “need”, it is vital at the very early stages of a build project to understand what exactly it is that the client values. While cost and speed are undoubtedly important considerations for many, not least in times of economic uncertainty such as those we are now facing, they are not the sole factors at play. 

Not all clients necessarily value speed and cost; for many, environmental impact and whole-life value could be equally – if not indeed more – important. Or perhaps they value all of these things together. 

Going back once again to the example of schools, the role that the asset can play in supporting local community non-educational activities could be another important consideration for the client. The Value Toolkit will allow clients and their advisers to drill down to what it is that the client truly values, and how best to deliver these things. 

The means, but not the end

As a sector, we do not need to be convinced of the virtues of value-based decision-making. Thanks to the excellent groundwork laid by the CLC Procuring for Value workstream which I was privileged to lead, and the Construction Playbook published by the government late last year, value-based approaches will become the modus operandi for construction in the months and years to come. 

Value is of course not a static concept; the learnings from each new-build project must be fed back into the process so that we are continually improving and fine-tuning that process each and every time we build. The Value Toolkit is designed to facilitate a host of different metrics across a range of areas. In essence, we will for the first time, be able to compare “apples” with “pears”.

The pace at which we embed value-based approaches will hinge very much on the crucial role of the client adviser. The Value Toolkit provides the means, but not the end, in our sector’s transformational journey. That end can only be achieved by the adoptors – the clients, their advisers and partners along the supply chain. 

By following the user-friendly process set down in the Value Toolkit, clients will be guided, confidently and clearly, towards the best solutions to deliver the outcomes that they truly want.

Ann Bentley is  a global board director of Rider Levett Bucknall, a member of the Construction Leadership Council and a collaborator on the Value Toolkit