Three readers watch the state, another takes surveillance photos and a fifth tries to decipher Building

Everyone’s a winner
How right Jack Pringle is about the “battalions of consultants and lawyers” hired to structure PFI variants that added “tens of millions of pounds” to the cost of public sector projects (1 October, page 26). For them, it was like hitting the fruit machine jackpot at every pull.

Also, he alluded to the need for the government to borrow expertise from the private sector “where intelligent clients choose the best and leanest procurement routes”. The reality is, however, that until the government realises it needs property and construction expertise within the corridors of Whitehall, it will continue to be dependent on private sector expertise, with the vested interests that that entails.

What we need is a return of a streamlined Property Services Agency which was abolished by the Thatcher government and has done away with a generation of government employees expert in the delivery of public sector projects.
Steve Hale, managing director, Crofton Design Consulting Engineers

For consultants and lawyers, the PFI was like hitting the fruit machine jackpot at every pull

Steve Hale

Masterful inaction
It has struck me that what the coalition government is doing at present is pretty canny. Every public sector client knew an election was coming from about February,
so they put off making a decision on their new buildings until after it was held. The new government said there would be an emergency Budget in June - so it made sense to put if off a bit longer. But the June budget said spending details would be revealed at the end of October, so all capital projects were put on hold until after then.

What the government has done, without really upsetting anyone or making any decisions, is to build a nine-month delay into its capital works programme. The total UK construction output for 2009 was £108bn, so assuming the public sector is worth about half that, a nine-month saving would add up to about £40bn. That was a stroke of genius. Let’s just hope that they now get going with something that takes into account what they’ve already just saved.
Bob Whittington, chairman, Stride Treglown

Passivhaus über alles
I heard Chris Huhne’s speech on Monday that said new homes should meet Passivhaus standard, and I wholeheartedly agree with him. It is a real shame that there are so many myths and misunderstandings about the Passivhaus standard and methodology. I do wish that people would take time to understand what Passivhaus is before reinforcing these stereotypes.

Passivhaus buildings are based on a profound understanding of building physics and unlike the poorly ventilated and constructed buildings in the UK that purport to be low energy, they really are.
Chris Herring, director, Green Building Store

Now, see here
As a 55 year old who reads your magazine every week, can I put a word in about the growing tendency to use thin, pale grey text on a red background?

I am sure that many others also find this difficult to read. Please, can we have black on white? I know it may not be very arty but I presume you do want us to be able to read it? Or do I just have to put my glasses on? Don’t forget about us partially sighted readers!

Many thanks for an excellent magazine.
John Webster, conservation and development manager, Boughton Estates