‘Change or Die’ – Architects Journal July Column

We are delighted that Nick is writing a monthly column for Architects Journal in their Specification publication. This is a great opportunity for us to support designers by sharing our knowledge, and exploring and challenging some key issues and topics relevant to our industry. We hope that you find the articles interesting and enjoyable, and we always encourage and welcome any feedback that you may have.

In Nick’s first column, found in July’s issue on page 22, he explains how he became a ‘guru’ of the specification world and the importance of change in our industry. You can find the online version of the article here, but we have provided article in full below also. It was great to also get a mention on the front cover!

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“On my return to the UK in 1986, after three years living and working in Hong Kong, I was asked by Foster and Partners to help them prepare specifications for Stansted Airport. The relationship developed during my time working on one of the world’s most innovative and exciting projects, namely 1, Queens Road Central, better know as the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank which remains an iconic building today.

I was not a member of the design team, but a quantity surveyor for the Management Contractor, which may seem like a strange place to build what has become a very long, close and trusted relationship with the architectural fraternity.

Those years in Hong Kong gave me a unique insight into the minds of talented designers who wanted to challenge the way buildings were designed, procured, manufactured and built, using tools like “performance specifications” and terms like “working with industry”.

They understood that to deliver the unique design of 1QRC they needed to take a different approach which included awarding trade contracts, based on performance and design intent information, adapting to management contracting procedures and working very closely with manufacturers around the world to ensure that when products and systems were delivered to site they fitted together rather like a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle with minimal adaption.

This was very challenging and was only made possible by having a very enlightened client who trusted the design and construction team. Much of what we do now can be traced back to 1QRC, including the way we specify buildings where we have evolved from BQ Preambles to the national and procurement specific documents that we use today.

1QRC taught me how important it was to get specifications right, so when given the opportunity to directly influence their style and use on Stansted I jumped at it and for the last 27 years I have been fortunate to work with many leading architects on projects around the world, and it is my intention to share much of what I have learned in this column.

I will address three key questions:

  • What is a specification, what are the different types and what does a designer need to consider when producing them?
  • Why do we need specifications now or in the future?
  • How are they produced and used at home and abroad?

One thing for certain is that our industry is changing and we all need to change with it. Change, done for the right reasons, is good although it is often resisted because people worry that it might affect their status, influence or even worse the need for them at all! I believe in the premise “change or die” and to succeed and prosper the best approach is to innovate and lead change rather than passively follow and carry on doing things as we did in the past.

The way we design, procure, manufacture and build varies enormously from project to project, region to region, country to country, but the basic need to “design it”, “buy it”, “manufacture it”, “assemble it” and “maintain it” is constant everywhere and as such there will always be a need for specification in one shape or another.

I have always looked at specifications as being a key contract document that defines what the client is buying for a defined sum. As such it assists with successful procurement, manufacture, assembly and maintenance dealing not only with defined design solutions but more importantly with elements that have not been fully defined at the point of contract award such that the contractor can provide a lump sum price upon which the client can rely.

I will endeavour to educate and instigate debate.”

Mark Schumann

Mark Schumann

Mark Schumann is the Founder and Director of Schumann Consult.
Mark Schumann

Posted on July 23, 2013 in Specifications

Response (1)

  1. […] monthly column for Architects Journal Specification publication. Nick’s first article “Change or Die” looked at providing advice to architects pondering the future of specification procedures. […]

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