Morrell’s Edge Commission to set out view on future of professionalism

Former chief construction advisor Paul Morrell to deliver new report into how institutions must be reshaped for the future following evidence from across the built environment.

Collaboration for Change

Former government chief construction advisor Paul Morrell will next week set out wide-ranging new views on how the built environment institutions must prepare the profession for a rapidly changing future.

Morrell, as chair of the independent Edge Commission on the Future of Professionalism, has formed his conclusions following evidence submitted from industry bodies including CIC, CIBSE, CIOB, ICE, IStructE, Landscape Institute, Royal Academy of Engineers, RIBA, RICS and RTPI. 

The work is intended to look forward to identify the ways in which the professions will have to change to meet the needs of the industry and clients as the built environment profession meets the varied challenges of 21st century infrastructure delivery and management.

“There is the perceived weakening of some as Learned Societies as monitors of professional ethics and a reluctance to collaborate on these bigger issues,” Robin Nicholson

The detail of the actions will be revealed by Morrell next week at an event on Monday 18 May at Arup’s office in London but is likely to include more work on a common Code of Conduct and the more effective dissemination of research plus a call for greater collective action on Climate Change or Building Performance.

According to Robin Nicholson, convenor of the Edge and a senior partner at architect Cullinan Studio, the challenges identified by the Edge Commisison include increasing globalisation, the growth of multi-disciplinary international firms, the ageing of their members, climate change and building performance – or the so-called Performance Gap.

“The Commission called for evidence to be given in four sessions in which ten Built Environment Professional organisations were invited to explain how they were preparing for the future,” he said.

“Then there is the perceived weakening of some as Learned Societies as monitors of professional ethics and a reluctance to collaborate on these bigger issues,” he added. “In response to the challenges put and the responses received, the Commission has identified key areas for joint action.”

The Edge is a voluntary think-tank that promotes multi-disciplinary collaboration in the built environment through invited debates on issues that the professions find difficult with Climate Change and Building Performance being two of our key areas of concern.  

Set up under the auspices of the Arup Foundation in 1996, it has now held 69 debates including two on what became known as the 'New Professionalism'. Out of these and a special issue of the refereed journal Building Research and Information it established the Edge Commission with Paul Morrell as chairman. 

For details of the report and to attend the launch event contract Edge on

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The likely impact of Paul Morrell’s review of the professions, Collaboration for Change can be debated, however it has to take account of the potential influence exerted by the BIM Community. BIM is proving to be significant catalyst for change. Whilst the BIM Task Group has been financed to promote BIM and has supported the development of a BIM community, when you scratch beneath the surface you find a collection of volunteers that have been brought together with a common purpose. That common purpose is the desire to work together, share good/best practice and encourage others to engage in an exciting and hopefully better way of working. Is this not what spawned the creation of our current institutions? The BIM community includes the BIM 4 groups and the #UKBIMcrew. The BIM4SME group is focused on supporting SME organisations, from across the industry, to adopt and implement BIM. The BIM4SME group consists of individuals from the broad spectrum of the construction industry including the traditional professional institutions, contracting organisations within the supply chain as well as academia. It is truly pan-industry. Utilising the current technology, the members of the group are able to effectively and economically communicate with each other. Things happen and change is taking place, both within the individuals involved, but also the individuals that engage with the various initiatives. Taking a step back and reflecting on what the BIM4SME is doing and achieving, it is clear that is aligns with the original aspirations of our current professional organisations. The BIM4SME group is flexible and willing to adopt whatever approach is appropriate to engage any SME organisation willing to engage with BIM. It has developed various materials to share knowledge and has embarked on a collaboration with the RICS to promote BIM for SME’s via the BIM4SMe awards. It is a not for profit, low cost operation that relies on the dedication of the collection of volunteers. It cannot be underestimated the power and value of willing volunteers. Morrell’s timely review of the professions recognises the pressures for change and it’s appropriate that the institutions realise the dangers of not adapting. Change will be difficult without supporting from the governing institutions, however, it won’t stop it will just be by-passed. The institutions need to collaborate and support the progression of the industry. What is evident from my involvement within the BIM community and specifically with the BIM4SME group is that it does not recognise the traditional siloed boundaries of the professions. Individuals from the broach spectrum of the built environment have similar aims and want to work together for the better; I would suggest we are seeing change happen and the desired change perceived by the institutions. Paul’s analogy of the Hanseatic League is relevant, “the more efficient competitors less pre-occupied with their own internal struggles” already exist and are forging ahead. Rob Garvey for BIM4SMEs