But it is not only the public that is disillusioned. Clients have had enough of late and over-budget buildings, so they have thrown their weight behind Sir John Egan’s Rethinking Construction report. Improve or else is their message, loud and clear.
Now the industry is fighting back. The second National Construction Week kicks off on Monday. This week of events, which comes, oddly, 18 months after the inaugural week, is aimed at showing the public and clients that the construction industry is not so bad. And it will aim to convince children that a career in the industry can be exciting.
The industry hopes that this year’s events will have more impact than the first National Construction Week. The first attempt was largely ignored by the national media, unlike, say, National Science Week, which reaps pages of national coverage every summer.
To help kick-start this one, the organisers have enlisted the help of construction minister Nick Raynsford. On Monday, at the site of London’s Millennium Bridge in the City, Raynsford will launch a report which shows that construction clients are starting to recognise improvements made by contractors.
The report, Improving the Performance of the Construction Industry, shows that clients’ satisfaction levels with main contractors have risen 16% since 1995. In 1995, a survey of client satisfaction carried out by the British Property Federation produced an average score of 6.21 out of 10. In 1997, the BPF recorded a score of 6.73, and this year, in a Construction Clients Forum survey carried out for the report, the satisfaction level had risen to 7.20.
Contractors were scored on ability to keep to quoted price and time, quality of work, defects resolution and trust. The biggest improvements were in the ability to keep to quoted price and defects resolution. The performance in both categories rose 25%. The worst score was in ability to keep to time, which has dipped 0.2% in the past two years.
The report found that clients are slightly happier with consultants’ performance. In 1995, their overall satisfaction was 6.61, rising to 7.27 in 1999. The score was based on design creativity, ability to innovate, speed and reliability of service, co-ordination between team members and value for money. Steady improvements were recorded in all categories, particularly design creativity and the ability to innovate.
Although the results show steady if unspectacular improvement, consultancy teams are failing to deliver on projects larger than £20m. In 1995, they scored 6.50; four years on, the score is down to 6.09.
The report’s publication on Monday will leave contractors and consultants feeling pleased with themselves, but the rest of the week may prove more difficult. Tuesday will see the launch of new environmental targets for the industry – a clear message that companies are not doing enough – and Wednesday looks at skills shortages and the lack of good graduates joining the industry.
As well as themed days, there are a number of eye-catching events. Top of the list is a schoolchildren’s visit to Doncaster’s Earth Centre organised by the New Millennium Experience Company on 20 April. The NMEC will launch a construction pack for children during the visit. In Scotland, Forth Valley Curriculum Centre has organised an event where teams will design and build a castle to repel attacks from enemy siege.
MPs are also backing the week. Treasury minister Barbara Roche is visiting Heathrow’s Construction Training Centre on Wednesday 21 April and, on the same day, shadow environment secretary Gillian Shepherd will endorse Roofsafe, a scheme for reputable roofing firms, at the House of Commons.
So, there is plenty to stimulate discussion within the industry and good events. But will it be enough to put the industry’s good points in the national spotlight, or will the public’s opinion be unaltered by next week’s efforts?