Equal & approved – says who?

Harriet Cooper, Global Marketing Manager

In more than half of the projects where product substitution took place, the substitution was not discussed and agreed among the project team, and the performance criteria of the replacement product were not compared to the original to ensure that they were equivalent.

This statistic recently highlighted in the CPA’s research paper made us stop in our tracks.

Let’s break it down – the experts have requested a product – that product gets substituted and nobody then qualifies the new choice. Is it any surprise that our construction industry has had so many issues and no resolutions?

The first stage report following the Grenfell tragedy makes very upsetting reading. Our emergency services who put their lives on the line and subsequently took huge criticism   – with the real crime seemingly put to one side.  We can only hope that the second phase will look into the real issues at hand. At the moment it feels as if the sectors who diligently monitor themselves and follow procedures are being held accountable purely because the other parties involved cannot be held accountable due to lack of traceability. And why? Because the construction industry refuses to look at itself and change.

We recently published an article about what we call the Construction Chain of Custody (CCC) and the more research we read and complete ourselves, the more it becomes crystal clear that something needs to be done, and now!

Yet another serious fire happened this week in Bolton which put lives at risk and caused huge amounts of damage to property, not to mention the trauma that will remain with the survivors forever. A fact that always seems to get lost in reports, we seem to only be concerned with loss of life and property but we mustn’t forget the psychological effects of being a fire survivor – the mental and physical repercussions can and do stay with people for the rest of their lives.

It will be nearly impossible to expose what went wrong and who is to blame.  Why? Because there’s often no way of tracking product selection and substitution.

In a recent study we completed we asked the question regarding product selection and ultimate responsibility in case of a failure in fire. The responses came back overwhelmingly weighted towards the architect – and this was confirmed by the architect themselves.

(we interviewed 226 architects, specifiers and commercial directors across UK, France and Germany – 38.9% of respondents cited the architect as having ultimate responsibility when materials failed due to fire in a building)

So taking those findings and cross referencing them with the CPA’s – you’ve got a lethal cocktail of product substitution being completed and not discussed in over 50% of projects, with the architect holding responsibility for the product selection but having no say or sometimes no idea that it has occurred at all.

When it’s put that way isn’t it unbelievable to think that this industry is erecting and maintaining the places we live and work in? and isn’t it quite unsurprising that tragedies like Grenfell have happened and will continue to happen until something changes. It’s amazing that more issues have not occurred when you think about the lack of common sense let alone irresponsible nature of the process.

To learn more about our research please contact Harriet Cooper

To read more articles and white papers please visit our Knowledge Center