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HS2 design panel chair tells contractors: 'Design is not a dirty word'

Knowing which words you should and shouldn’t use in your working environment is usually a case of simple common sense.

But what about the D word: Design?

According to Sadie Morgan, the recently appointed chair of HS2’s design panel, some contractors think that’s a dirty word .

Lipton Rogers co-founder Peter Rogers told Construction News last month that contractors are often too passive, afraid or unable to speak up in the design phase.

Traditionally, the disciplines of design, building and operating have stayed separate: architects design, contractors build and operators maintain.

But these lines have become increasingly blurred, with contractors taking on design-and-build work and handing over buildings in a way that sees them take an active role in managing a property long after giving the client the keys.

This ability to straddle disciplines, and particularly to take care over design, is something that will affect any contractors wishing to win work on the biggest infrastructure project the UK has ever undertaken.

With this brave new world in mind, Ms Morgan’s panel will oversee every aspect of the design of one of the UK’s highest-profile projects.

And as she exclusively tells Construction News, if she has anything to do with it the procurement for civil engineering and construction contracts will include design in a prominent way, whatever construction firms think of getting their hands dirty in the design world.

HS2 has its very own nine-point design vision, which Ms Morgan recommends all interested contractors look at and understand before putting their bids together.

The design panel is tasked with ensuring this vision permeates all aspects of the project, meaning that whether contractors are laying track, carrying out landscaping or building new stations, they will need to know about it.

The panel itself is still considering applications for membership, and will include among its number people from across the industry, including contractors, but also from outside. These newcomers may include “an artist, a curator, a philosopher, or a writer”, according to Ms Morgan.

Ms Morgan is a breath of fresh air and a positive voice behind one of our most politically sensitive projects.

She worries people will think she’s taken a “happy pill” due to her enthusiasm for HS2 and is clearly determined that the project will be the best it possibly can be, especially in how it looks, feels, and fits into the wider urban and rural context in which it will sit.

That’s why design should not be a dirty word for contractors who want to win HS2 contracts – in fact, it’s something they will need to start shouting about sooner rather than later.

Aecom enters construction

Construction News exclusively reveals today that consultant Aecom has launched a standalone UK construction arm as part of a strategy to take on the country’s biggest contractors.

The global consultant has already secured five construction contracts and is poised to take on UK firms in the commercial and residential markets.

It’s a move that could really shake up the UK construction sector – and Aecom’s established relationships with clients could stand it in good stead to win more work in the coming months and years.

Deputy news editor Robyn Wilson has all the details.

Streetwise school

Aecom was the civil and structural engineer for our weekly project report, which focuses on Fife Council’s Levenmouth Academy.

The £42.5m scheme, being built by Bam Construction, will see a new 1,800-pupil school replace two older institutions and includes a spacious ‘street-based’ design with huge spans and column-free floors.

Read the full story here.

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