Buyers reject accusations of short-term cost focus

28 November 2002
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28 November 2002 | Liam O'Brien

Civil engineering clients have rejected claims that they focus too heavily on cost when they choose the design for construction projects.

They were responding to comments by Professor Adrian Long, the new president of the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE), who said too many clients focused on low-cost designs.

In his opening address to the ICE, Long said: "It is a question of pennies wise, pounds foolish.

"Clients are saving money initially, and then finding money is going out all the time. If you drive down the cost of the design, there will be a higher cost in the longer term."

But the Confederation of Construction Clients (CCC) said it had long been accepted that cost should not be the only focus.

Its executive secretary, Tony Pollington, said: "Cost is not the determinant for our members, it is best value.

"They do take into account costs in use and are concerned about the long-term costs of the constructions they purchase.

"Professor Long is right to identify that low cost should not be the basis for decisions, but this has been widely accepted for a number of years."

Long, who was previously Dean of Engineering at Queen's University in Belfast, told SM that too many procurement managers were unaware of the long-term implications of such a focus on short-term cost.

He also said they did not know that maintenance costs during the lifetime of a building were reckoned to be 500 per cent more than the cost of its construction.

He added: "It is reckoned that if a design costs one unit, the salaries paid to those using that building will be 200 units, so it makes sense to have the best design and satisfied clients.

"If you are regularly in the business of building procurement there is not a problem, but if you only do it occasionally, or once in a lifetime, you go for the cheapest option and are unaware of the longer-term implications," he said.

Long is inviting representatives from the CCC to a meeting to discuss how the issues of low-cost design can be addressed jointly by the ICE and the confederation.


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