The Simon Report ‘The Placing and Management of Building Contracts’ was prepared by the Simon Committee, chaired by Sir Ernest Simon. The Simon Report was commissioned to investigate how the placing and management of contracts could improve the efficiency of the construction industry. It was published in 1944 and is seen by many as the first in a long line of major, public reports criticising the modern construction industry in the UK.
The report was prepared at a time when most construction projects in the UK followed a traditional procurement path, where design and construction were separated. Sometimes referred to as 'Design Bid Build', the design of the project was completed before the construction contract was tendered, often by open, competitive tendering.
Even at this time however, some new procurement methods were being used, partly due to American influences, and Simon recognised that “...it has become impossible for any single Architect or Builder to have specialist knowledge and experience to deal effectively with all the new processes…… as a result specialist firms are operating on a substantial scale engaged under differing terms and conditions and to differing standards.” As early as 1944 Simon estimated that two thirds of construction work was carried out by specialist firms.
The report criticised the practice of open tendering (allowing anyone to tender for a construction contract rather than using a pre-qualification process to create a short-list of suitable companies that would then be invited to tender) and suggested that the tendency of clients to simply accept the cheapest price created a situation where tenderers would submit low bids, and then make up their income by reducing quality or making claims. The report also recommended better training of construction managers and a more collaborative approach to design and construction with earlier contractor involvement.
However, the Simon Report had little impact and attempts to implement its recommendations were overshadowed by the demand for rapid reconstruction in post-war Britain.
In 1948 Simon published a second report ‘The Distribution of Building Materials and Components’ which focussed on supply-side issues in the industry. Also in 1948, The Phillips Report on Building by The Working Party Report to the Minister of Works was published. This was followed in 1962 by the next major report into the construction industry, the Emmerson Report, ‘Survey of Problems Before the Construction Industries’.
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