The cost of everything and the value too.

Looking at the Model Format for Building Services Specifications.

In the May issue of MBS, editor Ken Sharpe discussed the launch of the ‘Model format for building services specifications’. The laudable intent of this document is to encourage consultants to write better specifications so that contractors and installers can ultimately deliver better buildings.

It is always good to see industry bodies such as BSRIA, B&ES and CIBSE grasp  such problems and dealing with them firmly. Poor specifications are one of the main causes of buildings that do not perform as intended.

However, clients also have to take some responsibility for construction outcomes. Take the public sector – traditionally construction’s largest client. Examine any government report on construction from the last decade and the phrase ‘value for money’ will leap out from almost every page.  And the private sector is looking for the same thing as well.

Unfortunately, the term ‘value for money’ is all too often interpreted as a reason to cut capital expenditure. All of us in building services know that approach leads almost inevitably to increased long-term operational costs. It is a difficult challenge to overcome this view.

For example, the government’s report on the construction industry, ‘Vision for 2025’ states that it aims to reduce by 33% “the initial cost of construction and the whole life cost of built assets.” Sometimes it seems that the emphasis is very much on the first part of that objective, rather than the second.

Suppliers to the construction industry need to push for greater recognition that value and price are not the same when it comes to building performance. If public and private sector clients are looking to take advantage of the latest technologies, then lifetime value has to be the focus of any cost calculations.

The building services sector is already aware of how important it is to prove value for money – manufacturers and installers have been doing this for many years.  But we also need to work together to ensure that others in the supply chain pay closer attention to that phrase ‘whole life cost of built assets’. The BCIA worked with the B&ES in 2014 on a joint conference to address that very issue – an important statement of cooperation between our organisations. 

Karen Fletcher is Director of Keystone Communications

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