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Foundation World / Talking points / Article

Close knit
Relationships between clients, general contractors and specialists are changing for the better – and buildabilty is becoming a prime consideration, says David Sherwood

Historically, the vast majority of specialist geotechnical works were procured on a construct only basis. Architects and consulting engineers were the kings, not only of the contractual situation between the contractor and the client, but also of all matters related to design.

Since the designer was rarely subjected to the raw pressures of efficiency and cost effectiveness, and was very conscious of his professional indemnity liability, designs were generally robust, conservative and expensive. Although the designer sometimes consulted specialists for advice, his enquiries were often veiled in secrecy and confidentiality to such a degree that the assistance given was often haphazard and misleading.

Buildability was rarely a top priority in design, particularly in northern Europe. This contrasted dramatically with the Latin countries in Europe where construction had been largely a design and construct business since time immemorial. While the Anglo-Saxon countries were extremely strong in analytical soil and rock mechanics, giving them world leadership in deep understanding of geotechnical mechanisms and behaviour, the Latin countries and to a lesser extent Germany originated and developed the vast majority of geotechnical processes that we take today as part of our day to day lives as specialists.

Today, the UK designer is, like his or her French or Italian counterpart, often part of the contractors team and many of the stronger contractors have become extremely competent designers in their own right. Buildability is a prime consideration throughout design and geotechnical process selection.

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