The problem we are trying to solve
The property industry is predicated on delivering a built product to its customer, described by documents, specifications and legally binding contracts. In the process, its customers are compelled to employ a small army of professionals to make sense of it all. And all of this, just so that a business can refresh its workplace environment and continue to grow while maintaining control over its budgeted overheads and operational costs.
The result is the compilation of a mini-mountain of documentation to define a product building which faithfully fulfils the requests of the client’s C-suite executive team, while also performing that other necessity of legally deciding blame in the event of a contractual failure. And when the exchange of contracts is concluded, the ribbon on the shiny new demise is cut, the keys are handed over, its time for the designers and contractors to pack up, leave site, and allow the client to resume business in a refreshed property, and everyone is happy…or so that’s what we would like to think.
In peeling back the veneer, in going back to buildings that I had been a designer for, consistently and in some detail for over a decade, a rather different picture was evident for me and my research teams. I found that the definition of quality framed by us as designers is so very different to that of our end-users. Many of the buildings we completed were award winning, and judged by our industry peers as exceptional, exemplar even. However, these same buildings, evoked a very different response from surveyed end-users, who viewed them as “acceptable” rather than “exceptional”. I was finding there was clearly a gulf between what the property industry thinks, and its end-user customers think, the delivered priorities should be.
“66% of Edinburgh office workers believe that the interior layout and design of their workplace is important, but 60% think that if it were improved to match their ‘ideal’ layout and design, it would significantly increase their productivity.” What Office Workers Want – Saville BCO survey
The next question is…” does this difference in perception between providers and consumers matter“? In most fields of business, the answer would be yes.. of course it matters! But this does not seem to be the case for the construction industry who appear ambivalent to end user customers needs. What appears to matter more is contractual rigour, return on the investment capital sums that are put into property on behalf of the financial investment markets. Buildings like bonds or guilt’s are seen as a commodities to be traded and yields maximised. The constructed legal framework offers protection to all. End-user customers are but passive observers, spectators in the negotiation of contracts and heads of terms… a long way down the chain of influence.