‘Some of the skills are missing at the end of the building process, at the handover, when you get clients asking how you run these systems,’ she said. ‘There are too many examples of systems included in a building or fit-out, but never operated properly.’
Management skills in general need improving, said Heather Evans. Perhaps designers could take the lead in helping other stakeholders learn, particularly those in the construction sector?
The conservatism of some in the building process – ‘stuck in a rut’ said one of our guests, ‘running on tramlines’ said another – caused a groan around the table.
‘There are some – many – who care a lot, and they think it all the way through. Manufacturers and suppliers who consider everything: Who made this component? How? And so on,’ Heather continued.
‘And yet you suggest something new to some contractors, and they ask, ‘Has it been tested?’ And you say, ‘No’. You try to make it work, and it sometimes feels like they stick with old ideas just because they know them, and perhaps they are also worried about insurance?’
Most in the room agreed with Rob Valentine when he said there was still a long way to go.
‘We are a million miles away from where we need to be on manufacturing issues, but I’m encouraged even so. The government is talking about a green recovery, and about building back better, and that could be a real opportunity for designers and researchers to work with business to scale-up sustainable technologies.
‘It is up to the developer to take the lead, and help contractors if they want to take that step towards new ideas.’
Today, with policy obstacles and some ingrained conservatism, is the circular economy a real thing or just a pious ambition? The mood in the room was modest, but hopeful.