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Why is construction so backward? - reviewed by Bernhard Blauel

We are grateful to Bernhard Blauel, Principal of Blauel Architects, for his review of Why is construction so backward? If you wish to contribute your critical review please email Ian Abley. We welcome a discussion.

Why is construction so backward? James Woudhuysen, Ian Abley, Stefan Muthesius and Miles Glendinning

It has been argued that the emotive aspect of the built environment is the underlying cause for the backwardness of the building industry. Such explanations readily forget the bold post war departures into contemporary environments which sprung up in the 1950s and 1960s in Britain and elsewhere in Europe.

Forty years later economic pressures and political expediency produced first Latham's and then Egan's reports, which attempt to pinpoint and rectify areas of mismanagement and lack of productivity in this important sector of our national GDP. In truth, the debate about the manufacturing process of the building industry and how to bring it in line with the fabrication methods of the automotive industry goes further back than that. Ever since Ford's revolutionary assembly lines for the first mass-produced car, the building industry has been exposed to sporadic attempts of industrialisation. Never has this been more exemplified than in the civil engineering efforts which have been advanced in connection with war efforts, particularly during and after the Second World War. Few engineers seized the opportunity to utilise these inventions in civil construction more than Buckminster Fuller. In this book, tribute is given to him and to contemporary protagonists of the most appropriate method of construction in order to establish a meaningful agenda for tomorrow.

Why is construction so backward? is a welcome and timely publication, which takes into account material as well as historic factors, and develops a coherent argument for the advancement of the building sector in our time.

The book traces back the obstacles within the industry and goes beyond immediate parameters by investigating such important factors as the control of the land, the jurisdiction of the production process, management methods, procurement routes and the dynamics of capital investment. It throws into question a great deal of assumptions which have dominated the industry for too long. By challenging the status quo it not just identifies the inhibitors of progress but explores ways out of an impasse.

The authors are to be congratulated for taking on an industry, which has been neglected by analytical stimulus and which has revelled in complacency for too long.

Bernhard Blauel, Principal of Blauel Architects

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