Regulations that cannot keep pace with change are hampering the design team's efforts to Eganise itself.
Sir John Egan's Rethinking Construction reassured the industry. It told clients, contractors and consultants that were taking tentative steps towards lean construction and increased co-operation that they were heading in the right direction.

But many engineers and designers find their efforts to become more efficient are frustrated by antiquated, rigid and overly strict regulations. What is needed is a thorough examination of the Building Regulations and the accompanying codes of practice.

The problem of outdated codes is exacerbated by the regulator's semidetached role. Building control officers usually sit outside the design team and, as such, are unaffected by the realities of construction, such as architectural constraints, value engineering, guaranteed maximum prices, client needs and accelerated design programmes. This often results in officers having a lack of understanding of the problems encountered by design teams when dealing with some of the more rigid regulations.

There have been exceptions. At the new Tate Gallery of Modern Art at Bankside, in which I was involved, the design team and building control officers co-existed in a cordial atmosphere, developing the design for this unique building together.

The experience was refreshing and motivating, but the usual frustrations and challenges reappeared when I moved on to another project in a different authority. My hope that the Tate project would set a precedent seem doomed.

Integration aside, the biggest problem for engineers and designers are codes that rely on historic data and do not take advances in technology into account. As an everyday user of these codes, I get the feeling they are written by committees that meet just to produce the document and then disappear.

Sure, we get the opportunity to comment on the final draft, but I'm not convinced that this helps. For example, whoever drafted the clause in BS 5588 that deals with the draining of fire-fighting lift lobbies has clearly never had to incorporate this requirement into a building. I waste hours on this topic on every job.

Some building control officers refuse to be swayed by reason when stumbling on anomalies and errors

I regularly work with codes that contain anomalies or plain errors, and, as these codes are the mainstay of the Building Regulations, some building control officers refuse to be swayed by reason when stumbling on such problems.

Users of the new drainage code BS EN 752 that replaced BS 8301 and 8005 will sympathize on this point. Shortly after some sections were issued, a reliable source told me of an error in one of the tables. Of course, everyone makes mistakes, but how – and when – do these get rectified? Addendums get published eventually, but what happens in the meantime when I have to justify an anomaly to the drainage inspector? Some of the local building acts can be more difficult. Take, for example, the 1929 Petroleum Consolidation Act. This is enforced in underground car parks in London where more than 12 cars are parked. It covers ventilation, gradients of floors, fire protection, spacing of drainage gullies and the provision of petrol interceptors.

What continues to baffle me is how 12 parked cars can be a pollution risk to the public sewer. What are the chances of a dangerous amount of petrol finding its way into the building drainage system and then into the public sewer? Whenever I've spilled petrol, it has evaporated before I've had the chance to scoop it up. Surely there is a greater risk of pollution from cars on streets. It seems unlikely that the criteria that brought about the introduction of this act in the early days of motoring still hold fast as we approach the millennium.

But what can be done to resolve the problem of outdated or inappropriate codes? Well, perhaps an agreed third party could be elected on to the team for speedy arbitration of Building Regulation issues.

Codes of practice could be restructured to include a method of redress. An efficient process could be introduced to allow errors or anomalies to be raised with the relevant committee with the guarantee of a swift response and action.