How was the Government Construction Summit for you?

The Government’s Construction Summit has come and gone; what has it achieved?

I hammer home to my students the need to understand why they are attending my lectures; what is the opportunity cost of spending time in my classroom? And so I, naturally, challenged myself to do the same with the GCS2012. I intended to write a blog last week, but struggled to articulate the purpose of my attendance; and now, reflecting on the event, I’m equally challenged to articulate what I got from it.

The biggest benefit for me was the networking opportunity and connecting with individuals, face to face, that will assist with my principal aim of integrating BIM into the curricula of the University of Westminster’s School of Architecture and Built Environment (SABE). So it was definitely worth attending, but I have a sense that my lack of clear purpose reflects that of the event itself; who was it aimed at and what was it really trying to achieve?

As someone who has read the Government Construction Strategy it is pleasing to hear such positive action by the implementing working parties; it was, therefore, appropriate that all the individuals that are contributing their time and effort are acknowledged and there is a forum for disseminating the progress. However I didn’t feel the summit summarised the progress as well as the article in the Building Supplement; Has the Construction Strategy been a success? I suppose I need to read the report One Year On published yesterday.

I’m personally encouraged by the work being done, but I hesitantly raise a couple of concerns:

  • Professor Stuart Green in his book Making Sense of Construction Improvement examines why ‘construction’ hasn’t achieved what has been advocated by Latham, Egan et al. Green explains that individuals jump on the bandwagon of the latest initiative and unless you are toeing the party line you are seen as an agitator and potential social pariah. Are we doing the same again?
  • Moreover, Green outlines the influences of the trends in outsourcing and subcontracting; it is understood that the supply chain (as it is now called) adds the real value, yet where were the SME’s?
  • Whilst Marks Prisk and Farrar identified themselves as preferring the carrot to the stick, it was noticeable that Ray O’Rourke, as a businessman, promoted his willingness to invest in what he perceives will make money, not whether he’s being offered a carrot or beaten with a stick.

Building organised a well produced event, whether we needed the fanfare is debatable, but there are more important issues to discuss than this. Was it a commercial success? Did it need to be? Normally after such events, I have a buzz that energises me for the next few days; I don’t feel that buzz and that concerns me. So what did the event achieve? If it was update on progress of the Construction Strategy, I’d suggest my time would probably have been better spent just reading the One Year On report!

My concluding thoughts echo the discussion with others, that whilst the Construction Strategy outlines ‘what the industry needs to do’ and the working parties are identifying ‘how we should implement the strategy’, the ‘why’ has to be more than just cost reduction. And now I fear being cast a social pariah!

Thank you for reading.

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