To many consultants, whole life costing is an aspiration, but not yet a reality. Highprofile, larger projects attract a lot of interest in this area and have the time and resources to devote to the ‘established systems’ – by which I mean that a whole life approach is expected to be included. This is understandable, given that much of the industry functions on the basis of adopted common practice, although many in the team may have doubts that it will be undertaken. On one hand, there are also many projects with neither the resources for, nor the

expectation of, a consideration of whole life issues. This creates – or at least contributes to – a two-tier system: large and small. On the other hand, projects fully embrace the concept and take on the process of endeavouring to establish the project’s whole life cost; on the other hand, the subject does not get off the ground and is currently not part of the agenda. In my opinion, both camps are wrong and there is a need for a more open-minded

approach. Consultants are an unusual breed, sitting between the client and the ‘hands-on’ construction world. They can be both immensely influential and significantly destructive, sometimes at the same time. We, as a society, look aspirationally to consultants. Most people know them as professionals providing the moral high ground, the innovation and the ethical correctness required by the built environment. Pressure caused by ever-increasing demands on resources, and limits on energy and

carbon, increase this dependency. We look to consultants to ensure the ‘right’ thing is done. But their influence, logic and ability to argue the case for the good struggle to carry any weight against the hard steel of commercial viability and political expediency. Consultants have, above all, a duty of care to their clients, combined with the principles of their professional standing. This implicitly means delivering the best possible outcome, given the criteria and resources available. It also may mean that they challenge the client’s approach and attempt to add value to the enterprise. However, this is only rarely successful; often key issues are overlooked, or developed in a way that is highly questionable if our goal is the best possible outcome. The bigger the project, the bigger the effect. This also assumes that consultants have the appropriate level of understanding for the

process they are recommending, and are experienced with it on live projects. Often, there is little understanding or experience enabling a full and reasonable exchange of views and allowing sensible progress to be made.