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Sustainable development depends on clients taking a realistic approach to tenders and insisting that consultants maintain high professional standards, Currie & Brown chief executive Euan McEwan told a major conference in Dubai today (Tuesday, Nov 24).

His comments reflected industry concerns that corners are being cut in the name of cost efficiency, a problem exacerbated during the current economic conditions.

During a presentation to the Big 5 International Building & Construction Business Conference, he maintained that a sustainable approach should be taken through every stage of the modern-day procurement process.

“There is no doubt that professional disciplines are changing and converging, and that professional advisers – including Currie & Brown – have to adapt to changing demands and in line with the other disciplines within the industry,” said Euan McEwan.

“However, just as sustainable development has been defined by the Brundtland Commission (the UN World Commission on Environment and Development) as development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, so we must pay attention to sustainable consultancy.”

He cited recent examples where certain contracts have been awarded to bidders who have priced work at a significantly lower level than their rivals. In one case, a bid came in nearly two-thirds cheaper than its rivals.

“This would be a real achievement if you thought that the successful bidder could achieve such a price profitably on the basis of lower overheads or lower labour costs,” pointed out Euan McEwan.

“However, it is quite obvious that this is the unlikely answer. Much more likely is the probability that corners will be cut, that unskilled and lowly-qualified staff will be engaged in the delivery process, and that less attention has been paid to delivering a high quality, sustainable project.

“A short-term reduction in the tender price may have a long-term effect on the quality and cost of maintaining the building. When people bid really low to win work, they often find it too easily tempting to cut corners and take risks.”

He urged the industry, and especially the buyers of services, to ensure that bidding consultants have the resources and the numbers of suitably qualified staff to deliver projects to a high technical and professional standard.

“The alternative is unsustainability and short-termism, poor return on investment, and in the worst case a situation where buildings are completed to unsafe standards.

“The industry must support the work of professional bodies such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and make sure that the high standards that they set for professional services are adhered to throughout the bidding process. It is a proven fact that quality will outweigh short-term cost cutting in every case when it comes to establishing real value for money.”


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