Between the Lines: Building construction tie-ups across Scotland

Social value, environmental and wider economic impact are all important considerations, says Beaton. Picture: McAteer Photograph
Social value, environmental and wider economic impact are all important considerations, says Beaton. Picture: McAteer Photograph
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The voices calling for change are getting louder and, importantly, they can be heard across both sides of the table, as construction companies and clients grapple with the significant challenges facing the built environment sector.

Our CEO was recently invited by a national newspaper to speak on the topic of how our industry can transition from competition to collaboration – not just to ensure the long-term future of our sector, but to provide better solutions for clients. Thinking about what this means to us in Scotland – it strikes me that we’re already doing much of what was discussed at that London event.

We forge quality relationships with clients and deliver what we say we will do – but there are key areas where we can bring real value to these trusted partnerships. Many of our framework projects already show the real benefits of early contractor and supply chain involvement, helping to develop new ideas and innovations.

But we should be looking to get involved even earlier and have more meaningful conversations with our clients about the difficult subjects that are so instrumental in defining construction outcomes. The most important of these issues is cost – and this is where there are signs that things may be starting to change.

Let’s think about our great Scottish institutions, with large numbers of property assets in multiple locations. The cost of a new building is a relatively simple spatial calculation. But have we given enough consideration to operational cost, the social value, environmental and wider economic impact of this cost decision? Have we procured for longevity, for operational and environmental efficiency and to maximise social outcomes – or are we simply focused on a budget number?

Transformational thinking

Without addressing this wider context and enabling all parties to see beyond a binary focus, we often reach decisions that are sub-optimal in the lifespan of our buildings. These conversations require transformational thinking and bold actions, but in an environment of collaboration and shared goals, there is a great opportunity to break the cycle of historical systems and hierarchies that stifle our ability to innovate and create exceptional spaces that deliver across all metrics of success.

It’s about transforming the view of cost and value and utilising the expert skillset of built environment professionals to guide and inform. As an industry, we have to get much better at collecting and evaluating data to support this process – but there are already promising signs from our ability to better calculate social value outcomes from our projects.

Changing entrenched views is hard to do, but there is a growing recognition that we can’t continue the way we have and expect different outcomes. Maybe we are finally edging closer to that golden era of greater collaboration.

- Paul Beaton, regional director of ISG’s Scottish arm