Hackitt: 'Drive value engineering out of construction'
Dame Judith Hackitt speaking at the CABE conference
The construction industry needs to embrace a culture change rather than looking for quick fixes following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, while value engineering should be made a thing of the past.
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That’s according to Dame Judith Hackitt, who was addressing the annual Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE) conference and exhibition at Chesford Grange in Kenilworth last week.
Hackitt, author of ‘Building a Safer Future: Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety’ told CABE members about the need for a joined up regulatory process that goes hand in hand with a tougher regulatory reform regime with real penalties and sanctions for those who don’t conform.
“People are looking for quick fixes but they need to understand that root and branch reform is required. This has to be a turning point to bring about the culture change we need,” she said.
And she argued that the term ‘value engineering’ should be driven out of construction, remarking that it was a phrase she would be “happy to never hear again”.
“It is anything but value. It is cutting costs and quality,” she said. “The structure of industry has to change to make it more effective. We need to put a focus on the way in which buildings are procured. If we have a process that makes people bid at a cost they can’t afford to deliver at, we set ourselves up to fail.”
She pointed out that in the past, construction health and safety was seen as a difficult problem to crack but noted that in the past 15 years the industry has made huge improvements in this area.
It now needs to do the same again in the delivery of buildings that are fit for purpose, she added.
Meanwhile, residents and the public also need to be brought into the process as the industry changes the way in which it thinks about the design and construction of buildings and the legacy those buildings leave behind.
“Currently construction safety is focused on the workforce but we need to also consider residents and the public. We need to think about buildings not as jigsaw puzzles that magically come together, they need to be treated as a complex system – a change in one small thing can have massive changes and impact integrity of the buildings,” she said.
Hackitt also attempted to clarify the role of the approved inspector, a role key to CABE’s membership. Dame Judith said: "There is no reason why approved inspectors can't be part of the Joint Competent Authority, there just can't be a conflict of interest. You can do both roles, just not on the same project.”
The Hackitt review, published earlier this year, made 53 recommendations aimed at strengthening and simplifying the regulatory system, as well as promoting a culture change within the construction industry.
At the time of its publication, it received criticism for not recommending a ban on combustible cladding of the type found on Grenfell Tower. Nonetheless the government quickly announced that it would consider such a ban and earlier this week, housing secretary James Brokenshire confirmed that he would outlaw the use of combustible cladding on new residential buildings above 18m, as well as at schools, care homes, student accommodation and hospitals.