Tony Bingham (18 November) once more goes to the heart of a big problem for the building industry: that it is still incapable of delivering a building in which design and integration of services are fully co-ordinated.
May I wind the clock back to a few fundamentals about the meaning of “co-ordination”. I think that the story must start with the increasing complexity of buildings around the time of the industrial revolution. Before that, it might truthfully have been said that the architect could, with a little help from builders’ pattern books, have designed the whole building. With the invention of electric lighting, the replacement of open fireplaces by central heating, and later the introduction of air-conditioning, the architect got left behind – after all, his was a learned profession, not to be distracted by such rude mechanicals.
But the fiction that he continued to design everything – and therefore co-ordinated everything – persisted well into the 20th century. Cracks were plastered over by the architect’s “getting the trade” to design and install the services. A part of the problem was, and remains to this day, his reluctance to admit his ignorance of building services. It was, and still is, no part of his training to understand even the basic physics of how liquids travel in pipes and electric current flows in cables. Yet all this time, his fee was calculated on the fiction that he designed everything. One can understand why he was so reluctant to admit a fundamental truth.
I would submit that the problems Bingham has exposed have their roots in the above. The tragedy is that the industry has, to this day, when almost any building is stuffed full of specialist services, not faced up to a serious gap in what it offers its clients.
Malcolm Taylor, Lancaster