Rigidity in Institutions is harbinger of failure

My good friend James L. Salmon has a blog called Collaborative Construction I know some of you read, but for those of you who don't check out this link to his post entitled (SMART)X Public Policy? While the article James refers to is interesting and on point to the medical profession, it is also a shade of foreboding in the Built Environment as well. As more and more public policy is enacted in the areas of building performance, emissions from the built environment, water purity, water usage and the like, we continually restrict the creativity of human minds and calcify the momentum we need to maintain to make the huge changes needed to create environments which are both environmentally and economically sustainable.

While legislation to improve air quality has seen some success, there is also abuse on both sides and this results in further draconian reaction from regulators, legislators and litigators. Like Professor Mead, the author of the cited post, points out, we need to refocus our efforts on getting the bloat out of policy and legislation and focus on more responsive means. The AEC industry needs to take note, we are already heavily regulated in the areas of building design performance, labor, material safety and job safety. The business does not need to bear more regulation for the sake of trying to be more responsive to the needs of society.

As an industry, we need to be more productive, innovative and responsive and supportive business relationships with a goal in mind to shed our old thinking for new relationships and better performance negating the need for more legislation and administrative oversight. Responsible change is less expensive for everyone concerned.

This is s continuing series of ideas based on Connections and Links which form Strings of knowledge related to the Built Environment and the issues surrounding project delivery and regulatory compliance. 

1 comment:

  1. Andrew, I think that ever 20 or 30 years, something comes along in construction, that more or less defines the landscape for what professionals are asked to do for their working lives - and bearing in mind, that relative to the longevity of the working lives of many professional - the results of their activities, and their thinking lasts around for a lot longer.

    I am much too young to remember this, but a professional here in Ireland commented in a key note not so long ago, that the thing that defined his early working life, was the coming of the metric system in construction.

    I am of a different generation, but it is still 20 years now, since I was a young teenager, taking my first classes at architecture school in Ireland. Back then, the big bang, were the building regulations of 1991 that had just come in.

    It is worth mentioning, that the building regulations were only a set of paragraphs, put down in legal speak, that were required to be interpreted by professionals. That is, there was flexibility inherent in how the regulations had to be complied with.

    However, to make things a little easier, the department of the Environment introduced a set of 'guidelines', that one could purchase from the government publications office. Those were the technical guidance documents.

    Very soon, the professionals who were meant to be present in the system, in order to translate the concise wording of the actual regulations, into real interpretations in real projects - began to reference the technical guidance documents - and soon the construction supply chain in Ireland became convinced that the TGD's were the 'regs'.

    Which is not the case.

    There was one particular instance, I do recall, where one of the TGD's showed a wheelchair user beside a light switch, and a dimension of 1200mm shown to the centre of the light switch.

    I worked for a development company in Ireland, and we had completed construction of 1500 new apartment units in Dublin city.

    The architects showed up on site one day, and requested that all light switches be moved down approximately two inches, because they were 1200mm to the bottom of the light switch, and not to the centre of the light switch.

    'It said so in the regulations'.

    However, it didn't say anything like that in the regulations. Instead of making an honest assessment of the situation, as required by the professional, in the actual regulations (not the TGD's), instead the professionals out of sheer laziness began to use the TGD's as a club, with which to hammer the Contractors and trades with.

    The TGD's refer the professionals, in their bibliographies to relevant British or European Standards, to which professionals are supposed to go, in order to gain a more complete understanding of the technicalities involved.

    But the problem appears to be, that when regulatory bodies do try to be 'good', and publish things - it only has the impact, that it moves professionals who ought to study relevant codes of practice - one more step away from that, and one more step towards a very hostile, zero sum game vis-a-vis Contractors and trades persons who have to carry out work.

    The technical guidance documents, had been intended for use by small practitioners involved in small works, who may have needed a guide in regards to basic small problems that they may encounter.

    But it was a far extreme from that, when you had the largest consultant firms in Ireland, making copy and paste judgements based on guidance documents, on multi-million euro developments - without bothering to go and actually consult with relevant standards and codes.

    Sometimes, the regulators would be better had they NOT made things so easy for large consultants, who really should be investing more effort into their interpretations of the simple legal paragraphs, which the regulations actually are.