That was a condition of Ian's chairmanship of the CIC in 1993/4, and he conscientiously and vociferously promoted it. Fewer than half the members of his own professional institution, the Chartered Institute of Building, work as consultants; most are employed by contractors, clients, insurance companies and so on. It would be interesting to learn what the comparable figures are for architects, surveyors and engineers.
For O'Brien and his CIC colleagues to suggest that the consultants' current difficulties are somehow down to Sir Michael Latham and Sir John Egan's bias against them (because they focused on construction) only shows how out of touch with the real world they are. It should be taken as read that good design is an essential part of any process.
At the end of the Second World War, consultants were the undisputed leaders and controllers of the construction process. Since then, the inefficiency and incompetence (of some), the lack of financial responsibility and commercial awareness (of many) and the indifference to change (of most) have been their downfall. Consultants were the architects of their own decline. Latham and Egan were simply the messengers.
It was left to the contractors, driven by the pent-up frustration of decades of abuse, lack of respect and embarrassment at the waste and aggravation of the old system, to lead the revolution to bring consultants back into the process team. The aim is to allow them to share the benefits of partnering and integration with the increasing number of professionals already on board.
On the positive side, the CIC recognises that the Rethinking Construction movement has not seriously engaged smaller enterprises and wants to correct that. Now that the Construction Confederation only represents the largest contractors, the CIC is about the only organisation left to promote the interests of all construction firms. A very large proportion of construction professionals work for small companies and through its constituent bodies, the CIC has direct access to them all.
If the CIC continues to champion the traditional independent supervisory role of consultants, it will fail
However, if the CIC continues in its "professional consultants vs untrustworthy traders" mode by championing the traditional independent supervisory role of consultants, it will fail. To succeed it needs to persuade its member institutions to help and guide all construction professionals into the partnering process and the fully integrated teams we know are construction's future.
But please, please, don't set up another regional network. Most CIC constituent bodies have their own, alongside those of the trade associations, Movement for Innovation, Construction Best Practice Programme and numerous "independents" on the fringe. We have already reached regional network overload and are about to blow the circuit breakers. There is a much better way. For a start, merge with the regional groups of the M4I and the CBPM.
Then the CIC should use the unique relationship it has with construction's chartered institutions and assist them to merge into one single chartered construction institute, pooling members, resources, policies and activities.
Integrate the chartered institutions, add the trade and client associations, gently blend (but not stir) and you will integrate the entire process at the same time. This is not an impossible dream. The CBI (now with Egan at its head) is the most effective lobbying and advisory business organisation in the UK, with its membership embracing all sizes and sectors – even consultants.
Colin Harding is chairman of Bournemouth-based contractor George & Harding.