Last edited 18 May 2015

Submission of evidence to the Edge commission of inquiry on future professionalism

This proposal was submitted as evidence to the Edge commission of inquiry on future professionalism.

The inquiry is intended to '...examine how the professional institutions and other representative bodies should address pressing issues facing the design and construction sector.' The Commission is chaired by Paul Morrell, former Chief Construction Advisor. Find out more.

The report of the Commission: Collaboration for Change, The Edge Commission Report on the Future of Professionalism, was published on 18 May 2015.

[edit] A common standard for construction industry knowledge

There are complex and perhaps intractable issues surrounding the future of professionalism and whether institutions and other industry bodies will act together to reinforce the value of professionalism.

However, a number of straightforward steps can be taken to help the disparate industry disciplines integrate at a process level, without affecting the vested interests of individual organisations or professions. The introduction of Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been one such step, bringing about a significant leap forward in collaboration and efficiency without disrupting the historically established roles that make up the industry.

We propose a further, simple step that can be taken, which would build on the precedent established by BIM.

The construction industry, and its institutions in particular, recognise the necessity of sharing and disseminating knowledge, however, the processes and formats they adopt can mean they struggle to do this effectively. Currently a great deal of construction industry knowledge is published in pdf format, having been prepared as if it is a physical, printed document. This exploits none of the enormous potential of electronic publishing and makes knowledge difficult to find, share, interrogate, and use.

Construction industry knowledge should be:

  • Flexible, so it is reusable across different platforms.
  • Indexable, so different sources can be related to one another.
  • Information rich, so it can be interrogated.
  • Clearly attributed, with authorship and status information.
  • Clearly licensed, so the conditions for re-use are easy to understand.
  • Open, allowing, where appropriate, sharing and collaboration.

To achieve this, it is proposed that a simple, common standard should be established for the preparation and publication of construction industry knowledge:

  • Providing straightforward guidance for the preparation of knowledge.
  • Defining the properties which should be attached to knowledge, such as; date of creation, authorship and unique identification number.
  • Offering a range of licences that set out the conditions for the re-use of material.

If the industry agreed such a standard, it would be easier to collaborate in the preparation of knowledge, easier to index and find knowledge, and easier to interrogate and use knowledge. It would be easier to take lessons learned from one project to the next and easier to share knowledge between different professions.

At its most basic level, if the industry simply agreed to allocate a unique identification number to each piece of knowledge it created, it would then be possible to index the entirety of construction industry knowledge in the UK and search it by subject, project, product, company, author or building.

This process change is entirely achievable, and would help to integrate the professions without changing their structure. Early consultation with industry institutes suggests there is strong interest in making this happen. The next proposed step is to fully assess the nature of construction industry knowledge and consider the options available for creating or adopting a common standard.

--designing buildings 13:17, 16 June 2014 (BST)

For more information see: Construction industry knowledge standard


I would totally support this initiative. As professionals we always say we should never reinvent the wheel but yet we do on almost every project. By we, I mean if not ourselves, our opposite professional and or even our colleagues. Basic practices continue to be, for want of better wording, not practiced.

Re the use of pdf, university students and I am sure many others in the industry use a crack to cut and paste from pdf documents so why not make it easier as they are doing it anyway and promote the cut & paste and edit-ability for project purpose. As long as reference is used of the original author, why not? or perhaps they could be purchased on line as working docs?

The sharing of lessons learned is crucial for ongoing development of individual professionals as mistakes made during construction are common. It is easy to comment with hindsight and criticise, it is the support of basic knowledge that should be available to all not just in specifications written by another for a specific project. Method statements for example is classic. Failure to adhering to a method statement can result in failure of the end product. For example a failure to carry out pretesting prior application of a material.

Perhaps a Lessons Learned file could be started entitled, "Defects,the reasons for occurrence and for their prevention." it could start with underground and substructure works and finish with for example roofing. Separate files for MEP / Data, Telecom etc. obviously.

Lastly Operational & Maintenance Manuals should have a standard layout, I am working on that myself as we speak.