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Paul Morrell warns construction industry bodies could become 'irrelevant'

Former government chief construction adviser Paul Morrell has warned that professional bodies in the construction sector are in danger of becoming “irrelevant within five to 10 years”.

He said organisations needed to collaborate to provide a better offer to clients and companies.

In a report published today, Mr Morrell urged the professions to come together to provide “a body of knowledge for the built environment akin to the Kings Fund for health, instigate a ‘trip advisor’-style public feedback system and improve the ‘guarantee’ of a particular quality of individual”.

The report, Collaborating for Change, also recommended bodies worked together on strategies to tackle climate change, improve the performance of buildings and to draw up a code of ethics to ensure they act in the public interest.

Mr Morrell added: “The authority of the institutions would increase exponentially if they presented a shared view on major matters of public interest.”

The report urged collaboration on:

  • Industry reform – developing a shared vision of how to improve efficiency and the offer to clients and society.
  • Climate change – developing the policies, industry capabilities and skills necessary to respond to the impact of the built environment on climate change. 
  • Building performance – tackling the divide between what is promised by the industry and what is delivered, developing common metrics, committing to measurement and evaluation, and the dissemination of findings.
  • Ethics and the public interest – developing and standardising a national code of conduct/ethics across the built environment professions, building on shared experience in the UK and internationally.
  • Education and competence – urging built environment institutions to commit to a cross-disciplinary review of the silo nature of the education system and establish a joint think tank that could pool the resources of the institutions to conduct research and develop policy for the industry.

The report called for the collaboration to be led by a “rebooted” Construction Industry Council, which should be developed and empowered as a shared vehicle for joint initiatives.

Speaking to Construction News, Mr Morrell said: “There has had been a clear shift of power between consultants and contractors, with architects now getting half their work from contractors.

“It is increasingly difficult to set professions apart from other people and companies offering similar services.

“If they’re not careful then within 10 years they’ll just become servants of a construction delivery process which they’re no longer able to control.”

The report followed a commission of inquiry set up by the Edge group, made up of figures from across the professions.

The commission heard evidence from chief executives, presidents and other senior representatives from some of the key professional institutions in the construction industry including CIBSE, CIOB, ICE, IStructE, LI, RAEng, RIBA, RICS, RTPI and SocEnv, as well as, in a collective capacity, the CIC and a range of other informed parties.

RICS chief executive Sean Tompkins said: “If professions are to remain relevant in an ever-more interconnected and technologically advanced world, they will need to work together more closely.

“We look forward to working with fellow professionals as we develop international technical and ethics standards, and as we seek to build global professional capacity for the public good. “

Tim Chapman, Arup director and lead of its London infrastructure design group, said: “This report is a valuable reminder for our whole industry of the need to adapt in rapidly changing times, and that our institutions especially need to keep up.

“In particular, the call for institutional collaboration to address the threat of climate change resonates most strongly with me.”

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