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News & opinion

4 JUL 2018

How could ICMS enhance Northern Ireland's construction industry?

RICS held policy discussions with senior decision makers in June to explore how the International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS) can support, protect and enhance the region’s construction industry.

Initial discussions took place with senior officials from Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure, the government department responsible for roads construction and maintenance as well as public transport and water/sewerage service policy.

In the absence of a devolved government, policy decisions in Northern Ireland are currently under the remit of the region’s civil service, although the scope of their authority to take significant decisions remains under question. This poses significant challenges for the adoption of new policy in a political vacuum.

The current development of multi-modal transport hubs in Belfast and the north-west would be well served by a cost classification system that brings together measuring and reporting methods.

Cost classification system

Officials responded well, however, to Steven Thompson from RICS who suggested that the current development of multi-modal transport hubs in Belfast and the north-west would be well served by a cost classification system that brings together the measuring and reporting methods of rail, road, commercial and residential construction projects.

The Department for Infrastructure is one of a number of Centres of Procurement Expertise (COPEs) in Northern Ireland providing professional procurement services. At the suggestion of officials and following a positive meeting with representatives of the Central Procurement Directorate, RICS will seek to bring together members of each COPE to discuss ICMS as a standard across government.

Cross-party briefing

Following discussions with officials, further conversations were held with political leaders at Stormont at a cross-party briefing on ICMS this week. Representatives of the Democratic Unionist Party, Social Democratic and Labour Party, Alliance Party and Ulster Unionist Party came together at Parliament Buildings to discuss the standard, how it might apply across government departments and the benefits adoption could bring to attracting further investment.

A presentation from Steven Thompson was well received and after questions from a number of MLAs, including the Vice Chair of the Stormont All-Party Group on Construction, the political representatives indicated they would be interested in exploring ICMS further upon the restoration of government in Northern Ireland.

There are now stronger relationships between the parties which could form a new Executive in Northern Ireland and RICS in common pursuit of the highest standards for our construction sector. As uncertainty continues to dominate the public sphere in the region, strong foundations have been laid for further cooperation and engagement in the months ahead.