Peter Rogers’ argument for one professional institute to replace all the existing bodies (24 September, page 24) is a step too far – too radical for the “silo mentality” of the individual professions (the unhappily accurate words of your perceptive leader that week, page 3). But perhaps more importantly, the merger he proposes would be a recipe for conflict of interest.
There is good reason for separating construction and design at institute level. Essentially, a construction body exists to make profit from construction. For a designer the profit motive is (or should be) secondary to the desire to provide independent advice to the client. Some of the country’s best-known buildings owe their success to this creative tension between builder and consultant designer. Creation of a single professional body, and its inevitable struggle to reach consensus between builder and designer, would destroy a very important and precious element in the whole process and thus disadvantage both client and society.
There is another more pragmatic way of testing the willingness of the professions to liaise more closely. Each of the construction institutes has individually developed standard terms of engagement for its professions: the Association of Civil Engineers for engineering, the RIBA for architects, the RICS for quantity surveyors.
While each of the contract forms has been honed to produce a comprehensive set of rules as between specific professional and client, there are some substantial examples of ambiguity where the professions have to work together as a team. Before we start to consider any mergers between professions, let us see how well they can co-operate in writing a decently co-ordinated set of standard documents.
Malcolm Taylor FRICS, via email
… and co-operation
The number of professional bodies involved in the built environment is large because of the diverse skills and expertise necessary in modern construction. For example, at the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers, the disciplines encompass an array of distinct areas: lighting, heating, ventilation, public health engineering, lifts and facade engineering – each requiring different skills and expertise.
Of course the institutions are changing. The Construction Industry Council’s newly formed Futures Group, which includes all the professional bodies in construction, has already made real progress in mapping out 19 areas where immediate co-operation is desirable. Three have been identified for immediate action: careers, influencing government and industry, and knowledge exchange between members.
I do not recognise the “silo mentality” referred to by Peter Rogers. CIBSE’s national conference at the end of September will feature speakers from a multitude of other construction sectors and is being actively supported by 13 fellow institutions. This is where the future lies.
Julian Amey, chief executive, CIBSE
… and provocation
Whitby and Rogers’ superbly provocative comments have been long overdue but in this sustainable age they should know better than to waste valuable energy on calls for the revocation of anachronisms such as royal charters.
A more productive strategy (and one I hope they are privately pursuing) would be the establishment of a new body that provided both real guidance and support for built environment students, and acted as a comprehensive resource for the full range of clients. They could then sit back and let time and market forces quietly resolve the situation on their behalf.
Of course this new body would require a headquarters. I wonder how many takers there would be for assessing the winning competition entry?
Andy Greig, director, Greig Ling
… and a little support
The calls by Peter Rogers and Mark Whitby are ones I fully endorse. As a lifelong multidiscipline practitioner, I see the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration but I can also see the reasons for institutional and academic drift into unrelated skill groups with little shared understanding. The whole is no longer even equal to the sum of the parts: we can’t do urbanism or sustainability well, or deliver value over the life cycle of facilities, all for lack of a shared view and of integration skills.
Everyone needs more interdisciplinary training as all doors to the industry lead into the same room. A common institution would be a natural and helpful step.
Richard Saxon, chairman, be