Why wouldn’t you build as well as design?

There has been quite a lot of discussion in the press about AECOM’s decision to become a contractor as well as a consultant. Much of it centres around how the giant organisation will fare, and whether it will discourage other contractors with whom it has worked.

There has been quite a lot of discussion in the press about AECOM’s decision to become a contractor as well as a consultant. Much of it centres around how the giant organisation will fare, and whether it will discourage other contractors with whom it has worked. Indeed, Construction Enquirer quoted another contractor saying: ‘Surely they are now competing with the same firms who they are trying to get as clients?’ What a sign of changing times that is. Once, the consultants would have handed work to the contractors. Now those contractors are the ‘clients’ for the consultants.

But discussions about who should have the whip hand obscure the real oddness of the situation. Construction loves to compare itself to the car industry. And although there have been some celebrity automotive designers, they have worked for the manufacturers. James Dyson works for … Dyson. He designs and builds. Ah, but construction is a one-off you say. Well what about making fancy cakes? Nobody goes to a cake designer, and then to somebody else to actually make the cake.

There have of course been attempts before to put design and construction into one package, and they have ended up being rather niche. If it were to happen for real, the mistrust that has led clients to believe that they need a Chinese wall would have to vanish, and so would the practice of contractors bidding low and then wangling greater income throughout the job. Oh, a lot would have to change. It will be interesting to see if it does.

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