The lessons of history

Published:  19 June, 2005

There was a time when those knowledgeable and experienced in the art of building-services engineering at all stages of the supply chain could work together for their mutual benefit and the benefit of the client. CIBSE’s new president, Donald Leeper, has 40 years’ experience in the industry and recalls in his presidential address how in the 1960s consultants routinely worked with key manufacturers to improve design solutions and aid product development. It was integrity of the same level as the professional quantity surveyor that made such co-operation possible.

Times changed, and it was soon not possible to pre-tender and specify suppliers without adding ‘equal and approved’, followed by not being able to name any supplier but write only a generalised performance specification. The unsatisfactory situation developed where suppliers participating in developing engineering solutions did not necessarily win the order.

As recently as 15 years ago, consulting engineers risked being sacked if they attempted to build relationships with key suppliers. The recent reversal of policy to stimulate partnerships and collaborative working is surely recognition that traditional practices were best.

All the rules and regulations fall far short of the proactive commercial approach based on trust that Donald Leeper knows works from more than 20 years’ experience in his own practice.



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