Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Architecture: Process or Product?

Now there is a question to think about.Is architecture a processor a product?

In recent weeks it is something I have been giving considerable thought to. Most of my regular readers will know about my frustration at the construction industry and its cartel of poor performance.

We will certainly have lots of debate about whether architecture is a process or a product,however ,for me,I have a very clear view. I'm not really interested in the discussion. What I think is we should be more interested in is the product itself.

In design and construction we do get very involved in the process. In reality all that matters is the product. We seem to overlook this in our industry . The architects are keen to get the killer photo for the website. The structural engineer is long gone and onto the next job. The M and E engineer is really pleased he has got away with producing a performance specification and passed the hard work onto the sub contractor.

The main contractor has packed up and is working on the next job. His commercial manager is working on the final account and trying to make some money by not paying his supply chain.

Meanwhile the client and building user is trying to understand what they have bought. They are not sure how much energy the building will use and they are waiting to see how the building performs on a hot day and a cold day.

They also have to deal with the regular problems such as the flooding toilet and the leaking roof.

This is all because everyone focused on the process and not the product. There is no overall responsibility for the product. The contractor blames the architect. The architect blames the M and E engineer. The M and E engineer blames the sub contractor.

What we are very good at in the construction industry is pointing the finger, avoiding responsibility and understanding contracts.

While all of this is going on is anyone thinking about the customer, their business or the product they have just bought. All of this is embarrassing for us all and a sad reflection on our industry.

We must focus on the product and its performance. We must look to continually improve buildings and their performance.

There is no one simple answer but I think the move towards intelligent and useful data through design and construction will go a long way. We can now be clear where issues lie and quantify them. There is nowhere to hide and we can see issues before we commit to site.

Building Information Modelling has provided us with some fantastic tools but we must ensure we don't continue to do what we have always done but with better tools. We must use these tools and the information it provides us with to improve our products and deliver a better long term result for our client.

A car manufacturer who produced cars which overheated or leaked would not last long!

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