It’s not often that you see posters about cladding proudly displayed in the lobby of the department for business, innovation and skills. More often than not, the government has been more interested in shinier, whizzier industries than construction products. So it was a welcome invitation when journalists were called up to speak to construction minister Mark Prisk on Monday, where he ran through just how big a part the products were to the British economy.
Conversation was never going to linger on glazing for long however, and soon the ever eloquent Prisk moved on to the government’s bid to cut 20% from construction costs by standardising, changing procurement, and thinking more about whole life costing of buildings.
Prisk, in contrast to the populist and highly critical tone education secretary Michael Gove has struck against architects who were “creaming off cash” from BSF, sought to calm nerves. Standardisation, he said, would “not remove the opportunity in design and innovation in design.” He said that architects can help keep costs down, and, in a reassuring coda, said: “We do value the role of good design.”
Yet when pressed on whether the proportion of government spending that went on architects would fall, he said it was “difficult to judge”. To be fair, this is a tough call to make. Paul Morrell is still working on the details of standardisation and quite how architect’s fees will be impacted is anyone’s guess.
Architects seem to be only group that have cried foul over the 20% target so far, and it looks like Prisk wants to avoid an unnecessary bust-up with a profession that has a very loud voice for its size. Perhaps Michael Gove should be taking notes (in a prefabricated classroom).