Best Value: Construction Industry Must Take a “Whole Life” Approach
Best Value: Construction Industry Must Take a “Whole Life” Approach
- Jeanette MacIntyre
It is frequently referred to these days as “value engineering”, but the practice of cutting costs by removing perceived ‘expensive design features’ during the construction phase of a project has been an unfortunate reality within the industry for a long time.
I say “unfortunate” not because of the direct impact this has on companies like ours – though Indeglas has certainly at times been on the unfavourable end of value engineering – but because of the wider deleterious effect on society. In a cost-driven economy, it is too easy to overlook the long-term benefits that are sacrificed in favour of short-term savings.
What our industry sorely needs is a procurement model that focuses on the whole life of a building, rather than purely the cost to build. What are perceived as savings at the construction stage can end up being extremely costly to those who inherit the structure, and the organisations which will occupy it in the future.
I was recently making this point at the Scottish Parliament, where I had the opportunity to give evidence to the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee as part of its inquiry on the construction sector. Among the others giving evidence that day was Robin Crawford, chair of the Review of Scottish Public Sector Procurement in Construction*.
It has been six years since his group issued its 2013 Procurement Review, in which it urged that greater emphasis be given to the “whole of life” cost of running, maintaining and repairing our schools, hospitals and other public buildings. “Sadly,” as Robin noted, it still “remains the case that lowest construction stage cost often wins.”
Short-termism has the potential to sway decision-making at various stages of the procurement, design and construction phases. Even after orders are placed with specialist subcontractors, significant amounts of omissions can feature with’ last in’ trades if former work-packages have been proven to go over budget.
Well specified internal glass screens facilitate maximum penetration of daylight to the very heart of a structure. I am passionate about the benefits of natural light and fresh air, benefits expounded as far back as the Victorian era. These beliefs are today backed up by scientific evidence which proves that contact with natural daylight improves both physical and mental health and supports human performance levels.
These factors are especially valid in healthcare facilities, where patients are attempting to recover and staff tend to work long shifts in buildings with deep floor plates. Higher levels of contact with natural daylight boosts human performance levels and can significantly reduce absences due to illness – a major long-term cost consideration over the lifetime of a care facility.
Indeglas provides a variety of glass screens systems to the educational sector, where we engage with architects and designers on the appropriate specification of glass within interactive learning spaces for primary up to university level. Our expertise in this field led to our appointment to design, supply and install the internal glass screens for the largest single educational building delivered in Scotland in 2017, the City of Glasgow City College.
To maximise the life cycle value of these high performance, multi-functional educational buildings requires a cultural change in the construction procurement process to focus on how a building will be used and the human activities, both subconscious and conscious, it requires to support. Some excellent examples of these values being prioritised from the procurement through design and construction phases can be found in the Maggie’s Centres network of cancer care facilities across Scotland.
Expert knowledge at the procurement stage in construction is essential. Procurers require to’ buy in’ to life cycle cost values and protect these interests throughout the design and construction phases, fostering trust between designers, main contractors and specialist service providers. They also need to own a proportionate amount of the risk and responsibility for a building’s construction and performance as a long term support mechanism for the core activities of the organisation they are building for.
*Full report has been published - "Under Construction: Building the future of the sector in Scotland" - Skip to pages 45 & 69 for Jeanette's input:
"What our industry sorely needs is a procurement model that focuses on the whole life of a building, rather than purely the cost to build. What are perceived as savings at the construction stage can end up being extremely costly to those who inherit the structure, and the organisations which will occupy it in the future."
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