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Our industry purports to be forward looking, innovative, highly skilled, etc, and yet the path many are going down appears to be sacrificing quality, in many forms, in the search for convenience, commercial advantage and higher profits…but is this good for the reputation of the industry and can we stop it?

We have all experienced instances where a contractor or supplier provides an inferior product but seeks to justify it by saying that it is all the budget could afford. Similarly, we know that the design by some contractors is more focused on maximising profit rather than quality, performance and longevity.

It is not just one sector of the market that is at fault. Consultants have endured a squeeze on fees ever since 2008 and, in order to be competitive, we have all cut fees even though costs and salaries march ever northwards. So something has to give; it may be the scope of duties, the time spent, the quality of design or simply passing all responsibility onto the contractor, but consultants should be informing their clients exactly what is being sacrificed in order to trim fees.

Clients need to understand that you get what you pay for, and sensible profit is a good thing; it is an incentive to perform and provide ‘value add’ beyond the confines of the appointment. A cut price fee buys the time of inexperienced personnel, or simply a concept design or outline performance criteria, but clients should be given a choice; is that what they want or would they prefer the design to be done by experienced consultants? Worryingly, fewer consultants are retaining the skills to actually deliver detailed design because of the trend for passing everything down the line to contractors.

If the budget for the works is insufficient the client should be told rather than forcing the contractor to delve into the bargain basement for materials, and cutting management resources to an unsustainable level. No-one is benefiting from these practices so why are we letting it happen?

Managing client expectations has always been a key aspect of good project management, and as responsible professionals we all need to look at ways of reversing the trend.

We should be targeting best practice, not cheap as possible and never mind the (lack of) quality.

 

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