7 red fighter planes in parallel with an 8th plane cutting across to represent ISG's disruption and innovation

Dismantling construction's hierarchies - a change you won't regret

Whether we embrace it or not, change is here to stay. ISG’s design manager, Charlotte Meeks, reveals why redefining roles in our industry could hold the key to delivering smarter and more sustainable spaces.

Change may be something we embrace personally to grow and thrive, but in the context of construction programmes, change is most often associated with delay, cost inflation and potential dispute.

Redefining roles to embrace change

Now I’m not suggesting that change is a bad thing. We need to be pragmatic, alert to opportunities to improve outcomes, and of course blindly moving forward when circumstances change is a near certain guarantee of missing expectations. The key element here is the consideration of time and how customers, contractors and the supply chain can, at a basic level, mitigate, but also deliver benefit from change if we embrace closer and earlier collaboration.

The general problem I see is one of boxes. We tend to broadly define roles and responsibilities by our experiences and historical precedent. At first glance, construction conforms to a typical hierarchical structure – we even refer to ourselves as Tier 1’s in the main contractor space. Everyone knows where they are in the pyramid – customers at the top, with consultants, architects, contractors and the supply chain neatly slotting in below.   

Benefiting from change

The results speak for themselves when customers adopt an early engagement strategy. The Ministry of Justice’s pioneering Alliancing Framework is receiving critical acclaim for its approach to maximising the expertise and outcome value of its built environment partners. The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership’s new HQ – The Entopia Building is a global exemplar for deep office retrofit – delivered via early contractor engagement. 

Road next to CISL construction site with people walking along pavement. Branding reads 'This is not your average building, but it needs to be'.

World-first sustainable office retrofit for the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), The Entopia Centre, Cambridge

Technology brands are also increasingly seeking out built partners – not transactional relationships as they recognise that construction activity on their estates is as much linked to their ESG credentials, as it is to creating space to drive creativity and attract and retain the best global talent. A pandemic and the inexorable march to a 2050 global net zero target have transformed perceptions of physical workspace – technology companies are now at the forefront of creating physical assets not reputational liabilities. 

Smart contracting is rapidly evolving up and down stream and customers alert to this capability are benefiting. Technology has a key role to play, but so do early conversations around project drivers and desired outcomes, design intent and buildability, modern methods of construction, ESG and in operation performance. Change is already here in our sector, for customers, it’s just a matter of time.  

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