- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 14 Jun 2018
Building to the skies
Bossom was an architect who went to the USA in the early 20th century, where he was involved in the design of skyscrapers. This impressed on him that construction was a process like any other, and that if all the parties worked together it could be planned in advance and then carried out to an agreed schedule. He found that contractors in the USA were able to build faster than their counterparts in the UK, but at the same cost, and as a result they were more profitable and were able to pay higher wages.
When he returned home, the deficiencies in the UK construction industry were obvious to him, and he became an advocate for change. He saw an adversarial and wasteful industry in which construction took too long, was too expensive and was not satisfactory for its clients.
He wrote, ‘The process of construction, instead of being an orderly and consecutive advance down the line, is all too apt to become a scramble and a muddle.’
He also saw that this inefficiency impacted on the wider economy, writing, ‘All rents and costs of production throughout Great Britain are higher than they should be because houses and factories cost too much and take too long to build… Bad layouts add at least 15% to the production of the cotton industry. Of how many of our steel plants and woollen mills, and even our relatively up-to-date motor works, might not the same be said? The battle of trade may easily be lost before it has fairly been opened – in the architect’s design room.’
Similar criticisms have followed Reaching for the Skies, most notably; the Latham Report, Constructing the Team in 1994; The Egan Report, Rethinking Construction in 1998; the Government Construction Strategy in 2011 and Construction 2025, published in 2013.
Sir Michael Latham described the UK construction industry as ‘ineffective’, ‘adversarial’, ‘fragmented’ and ‘incapable of delivering for its customers’, largely the same points as those set out by Bossom.
Several reports have also made projections of substantial savings within the industry if their recommendations were adopted. Notably, the Government Construction Strategy sets out an intention to achieve savings of 15 to 20%.
However, the recommendations of such reports largely fail to gain traction within the industry and the criticisms continue. It might be inferred therefore either that; under the circumstances, the industry operates more effectively than it appears from the outside; or that expectations are unrealistic; or that recommendations have been consistently poorly implemented. It is worth noting that criticism of construction is not peculiar to the UK, and that similar assessments have been made in the USA, for example see Constructing the team: A US Perspective, King 1996.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Accelerating change: A report by the Strategic Forum for Construction.
- Banwell Report.
- Construction 2025.
- Egan Report.
- Government Construction Strategy.
- Levene report.
- List of construction industry reports since 1944.
 External references
- Constructing the team: A US Perspective, V. KING, 1996.
- Profitable Partnering for Lean Construction. Clive Thomas Cain 2004.
Featured articles and news
Balfour Beatty fined £500,000 for exposing workers to hand-arm vibration.
James Brokenshire launches a consultation on banning combustible cladding.
A year after Grenfell, we have a collection of 30 articles telling you everything you need to know.
ICE publish a policy paper on the UK’s future interconnectivity with the EU and the challenges for infrastructure.
Detailed guidance about construction waste management.
The changing identity of London communities in the face of rapid urbanisation.
Can you help? We have 300 industry acronyms beginning with 'C' but none beginning with 'Y'.
From the sinister Carceri d’Invenzione to the triple portrait of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn and his Grand Tour travelling companions.
BSRIA launch the 5th edition of the Design Framework for Building Services (BG 6/2018).
Stella Rimmington famously said the construction industry was just as tricky as the KGB.
Construction site visitor cards are to be withdrawn.
3 WTC opens, RSHP’s first built project in New York.