There can be little doubt that towards the latter part of the twentieth century, the creation of many new buildings in the UK had become an excessively confrontational process, encouraging clients, designers and builders to seek to gain advantages from one another rather than to work constructively together. Strict adherence to ‘professional’ roles and an unwillingness to step over historically defined boundaries discouraged co-operation and collaboration.
Blinkered by contracts, time scales and costs, the process often appeared to be cramped in an over-demanding, claims-conscious environment, fixated by narrow aims and responsibilities, seemingly unable or unwilling to reflect a genuine concern with quality or customer care. The Latham and Egan Reports, published in the 1990s described this situation as wasteful and very significantly, that it was contributing to a diminution in the quality of both design and construction.
The reports laid the foundations for substantial on-going changes in practice and guidance developed during the past 10 years. The process of designing and constructing new buildings is a complex activity reflecting the skills, perceptions and expectations of many individuals, who must attempt to respond to technical and philosophical challenges, resolve debates and deal with the inevitable conflicts associated with working together.
The associated personnel difficulties and contractual obligations cannot be dismissed lightly, but in an ideal scenario, everyone should be capable of appreciating how and why decisions are taken so that there is a better chance of achieving the best possible results under the prevailing circumstances. Understanding the process of building design in terms of what should be done rather than who should do it helps to minimise the negative restraints of professional boundaries. This book is based on my experience as an architect, but I use the term building designer to describe the process of design and construction of an imaginary new building offering a broad stage-by-stage explanation of the way in which ideas can become reality.
Although reference to some technical issues is inevitably based on current UK practice, for the most part my intension is to discuss general principles, which I believe to be universally applicable. My involvement with the construction industry began at Bath University in 1968, and since qualifying as an architect I have helped to design and supervise the construction of many new buildings. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to gain experience with a variety of different building types including public and private sector housing, sports, leisure and museum facilities, as well as a wide range of commercial and industrial developments.
I have worked in both large and small organisations for Bath and Nottingham City Councils and in private practices. I have worked on my own as a self-employed, freelance architect, and although I occasionally occupy the traditional role of team leader or ‘director of operations’, offering my clients a full design and supervision service, more commonly I work as one part of a team, contributing design and construction information to contractors and project managers who are able to offer their clients a full design and build service.
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