Clients are either unaware of, or insufficiently impressed by, whole life costing to consider it worth including in most projects. Many projects I have been involved with have debated it at the start, but considered it irrelevant. This may be due primarily to the financial structure behind most projects in the commercial world. It may also be that whole life costing is not considered critical or relevant. Most construction in the UK involves funding from third parties and to a large

extent projects, once complete, are passed on, with many enterprises taking their cut from the profit made at the exchange of ownership. It remains to be seen, following the recent financial turmoil, if this state of affairs will continue in the same way as in the past. The fight between value and performance is all too apparent in the client’s dilemma. Projects will, of course, have a design life. This is more a gauge of quality at the

build completion than a real assessment of the ‘life’ of the building. In the briefing and design development stages, clients will often set a design life. This enables the team to set the specification standard and to provide evidence to the funding organisations that the project will have financial backbone. One possible exception in this is the government client (see below). Having set some parameters, requirements are usually very general: structure, façade,

windows, finishes, services, for example. Client’s requirements will rarely go deep, and are often included for the sake of the usual process, rather than for any considered tangible benefit. I have asked many times for the definition of design life in these circumstances. Some

quote the British Standard; some quote several reference documents that have been well used over the years; and some will provide a relatively arbitrary definition based on the feeling during the meeting at the time. All of this points to a relatively devolved industry that does not have any real feeling for whole life issues, which rarely have an impact on early decision-making. Rarely, if clients are not motivated to take up an issue, will these factors be introduced

into projects. The client is the driver, and the team usually respects the client’s position – if the client doesn’t pursue whole life costing, then it won’t be part of the project’s make-up. But many clients are waking up to the idea of sustainability. This is being driven by

increasing interest in all things environmental as a result of climate change issues. Many clients now have a corporate and social responsibility programme, and many will also have shareholders pressing this home. This leads to much more consideration of how we use materials and resources, and the effects on people and the environment.