I was sorry to read (in Building magazine, 18.02.11) that the Australian construction company Lend Lease is to drop the word Bovis from the name of its UK operation – although I quite understand the desire of the company to have a unified international brand. Bovis is, for me, a distinguished part of UK construction history. Others will know more about that history than I do (please add your comments if you do), but I recall very clearly the part that Bovis played in raising standards of professionalism in UK construction. The company pioneered fee-paid contracting, in which the contractor works for an agreed management fee, rather than tendering a price and seeking to maximise profit. I seem to recall a front-page story in (I think) the Sunday Times, probably in the 60s or 70s, when Bovis announced that it would no longer engage in lump-sum tendering. Many other firms played similar roles in the development of subtly-different procurement routes such as management contracting and construction management, but Bovis was one of the UK leaders. It also led in the development of long-term relationships between construction firms and clients – especially in its work with the retailer Marks and Spencer. It is not quite RIP Bovis, because the name will live on in the quite separate firm Bovis Homes.
Speaking of homes, it seems I was unduly pessimistic (Blog, 03.02.11) in my estimate of how many dwellings had been built in the UK last year. The out-turn figure (102,570) has just been published, so I was still right in my prediction that it would be the smallest number of dwellings built in the UK in any year since 1923. I find it staggering that we built fewer homes last year than in any year in the lifetime of anyone reading this blog – please prove me wrong about that! Sadly, there is little sign of the trend reversing: planning permissions for housing in the last quarter of 2010 were 22% down on the same quarter of 2009. All of us (industry, government and academe) need to talk about housing policy; we don’t seem to have one, although some good work is being done which may point the way forward.