He’s long been one of construction’s enthusiastic modernisers, but now the London Games has spurred Peter Rogers to redouble his efforts. In fact he and his 2012 task group have come up with a 12-point manifesto for change

It was not really the sort of moment that leaps out at you, saying: “I am the moment construction changed.” It was simply a meeting much like any other that has taken place in the offices of the Construction Industry Council – a largely male group sitting round a table discussing, well, construction. For Stanhope technical director Peter Rogers, however, it was much more than just another gathering of the Forum’s 2012 Olympic Task Group. It was the first shaft of light in a new dawn for construction.

“Initially we were going to call these the ‘Olympic Commitments’,” says Rogers from his car-phone as he races between appointments, “but then suddenly the penny dropped – these Games were going to be a catalyst for the whole industry. It is a tipping point that should enable us to change the industry by and beyond 2012.”

So it was that a document whose genesis had been as The 2012 Olympic Construction Commitments suddenly morphed into the 2012 Construction Commitments. A Magna Carta for construction. A work to take its place alongside the serious construction heavyweights of Latham and Egan. It’s only a shame there weren’t 10 of them – the Ten Commitments has a certain ring to it.

But what exactly are these latest set of construction commandments – what does Rogers want to change now that hasn’t been addressed by Latham or Egan before? And more importantly, will part of the legacy of the Games be a better construction industry?

For Rogers, who chaired the 2012 task group, not to change is simply not an option. When asked to describe the current situation in the construction industry he does not mince his words: “There is still a very ‘silo mentality’ in the industry. If you went to a hospital with all the nurses and doctors fighting then the chances of getting out alive are pretty slim. That is what construction is often like just now.”

Yet get out alive from the Games the patient, or rather client the ODA, must. Rogers is hopeful that once other clients see how effective the delivery of the London 2012 venues is using “the commitments” – as Rogers refers to them – that they will want the same treatment.

Rogers knows he is taking a big bite. Despite the fact that he claims the commitments are “supported across the industry”, contractors have already voiced fears, albeit in private, that the impact will be seen in their profit margins.

In particular Rogers wants to stamp out the practice among contractors to frequently force suppliers and subcontractors to wait for up to 90 days before receiving payment. “I know the concerns that they have, but this is a key area,” he says. “It is incredible that we can convince people further down the supply chain to take on huge amounts of debt and risk. It is immoral never mind being bad for the industry. You expect your salary to be paid at the end of each month, not 60 or 90 days later. So why should construction be any different?”

These Games were going to be a catalyst for the whole industry. It is a tipping point that should enable us to change

Peter Rogers

Fighting talk indeed and, at the time of going to press, some 68 firms from all walks of construction life had signed up to Rogers’ vision. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, large contractors are conspicuous by their absence. “People are signing up for the commitments but not fast enough,” says Rogers. “There are gaps. We need more professionals and all the major contractors need to sign up.” He cites a recent letter from contractor Carillion to its suppliers, requiring them to sign up to a 60-day payment period, as a prime example of this pressing need to improve.

So we know that further changes need to be made to the industry, but will this hectoring approach work?

Rogers says he has already sent out a letter to the industry at large explaining why they must sign on the – literally – dotted line and “thinks it worked”. He also explains that: “I don’t expect everyone to slavishly follow the clauses – just to endeavour to improve working practices. We have tried to produce a document that individuals could take up across the board. To set the foundations of change you can’t be too ambitious. You can have a goal but you need to get people to take that first step otherwise it won’t happen.”

And as for the cry that he is simply going over old ground that has already been exhaustively covered by Latham and Egan in their reviews of the construction industry, Rogers scoffs: “The difference is that mine is on two sides of A4. Theirs are just slightly longer than that. Also people have frequently not complied with what they said. As we have had so many people sign up to [the commitments] we have a far better chance of making it stick.”

So just how will Rogers make it “stick”? When asked about how he will succeed where perhaps Egan and Latham stumbled, Rogers cites an upcoming meeting with ODA chief executive David Higgins to thrash out precisely these issues. He says the solution could include “embarrassing” contractors who don’t play ball and, more likely, getting individual trade bodies to ‘police’ their members.

However, Rogers argues that the real reason why the commitments will be a success is not because he but the industry wants them to be. He talks eagerly of meetings which have reportedly been taking place involving culture secretary Tessa Jowell and construction minister Margaret Hodge. As a result of these talks and sustained pressure from industry lobby groups such as the National Specialist Contractors’ Council, Rogers is convinced that the government will adopt these commitments. “If a contractor says ‘I want a 60-day pay clause’ and if the government has stipulated in the contract that this can’t happen and that it has to be 30-days then this’ll make a huge difference,” he adds.

So come the 2012 Games, how will we know that the commitments have been a success and Rogers can justifiably be lauded as the man who changed the face of UK construction forever? “I would like to see all projects run in the way of the commitments across the construction industry. [The industry] will see that the path it is on is working and will want to follow it.” Simple really.