The Design in Construction Alliance, to be launched in the next two months, is part of the government's concern to deflect criticism of public architecture. This concern was underlined by its backing for this week's Building for the Future conference, held in Church House, Westminster.
The DCA will be run by the Movement for Innovation and CABE. Movement chairman Alan Crane said the alliance would be a great leap forward from Sir John Egan's Rethinking Construction report.
"Its purpose is to make sure that what CABE is trying to do is joined up with the Rethinking Construction process. It's an attempt to ensure the design process and the construction process are enmeshed together." Crane added: "What the hell is the good in having a building that is superbly designed but poorly constructed, and vice versa?" The body met for the first time last month, after almost a year of preparatory discussions between Crane and CABE chairman Sir Stuart Lipton. The Office for Government Commerce and the Confederation of Construction Clients have also signed up.
The DCA's priority will be to remove the perception that design and construction initiatives are out of step with each other. A source close to CABE said it would address criticisms that Egan concentrated on process at the expense of product.
What the hell is the good in a building that is superbly designed and poorly built, and vice versa?
Alan Crane, M4I
Echoing Crane, he said: "You can have the most effective construction process in the world, but if it's poorly designed, you still end up with a poor product." At Building for the Future, the government renewed its commitment to improving design quality. "Good design can actually save money," said Andrew Smith, chief secretary to the Treasury.
The prime minister has put his name to a new design award, to be announced at the British Construction Industry Awards in October. The prime minister's Better Public Building Award will go to the most outstanding public building.
CABE chief executive Jon Rouse warned that tight budgets and entrenched attitudes in Whitehall could hinder the government's plans. He said: "There's a permafrost out there among education authorities, NHS trusts, the prison service and so on. It's going to take a long time to thaw.