Calling out bad practice part 2 of 2.

In the last article we reiterated the effectiveness of chrome-free systems and the importance of their undoubted health benefits. We also criticised the practice of specification breaking.

In Part 2 we are challenging two issues. Environmental responsibility in construction and the role of experts and consultants.

Environmental responsibility.  For many years the automotive industry has recognised the importance of recyclability -  not just of parts but also of chemicals used in production. The principle of end-of-vehicle-life responsibility is well established, and Chrome VI was banned from new vehicles over 15-years ago. The construction industry has a good reputation for recycling aluminium and steel parts, but does this take into account  the treatments those metals underwent to become part of a building? Chrome-based  systems used in the processing of the metal are carcinogenic and mutagenic and there are tried and tested environmentally sound alternatives to its use, yet chrome VI remains authorised, albeit under tight scrutiny. It is the responsibility now, of architects, specifiers and developers to refuse to accept chrome-based processes. We can’t see the chromium that exists in our buildings, but it cannot be ignored. We should now aim to build with chromium-free metal and avoid the legacy of poisoning a future generation of buildings. Architects have a duty to their environmental legacy as well as a design legacy.

Process and technical awareness. This is increasingly delegated to consultants and technical experts, which makes sense, we can’t all be experts, but we CAN all ask questions. There are British, European and International process standards, manufacturer specifications and industry bodies – a lot of information to absorb. At Powdertech we see many technical specification documents, some of which are either wrong, out of date or contain subjective opinion not objective information. It is our concern that the reliance on external technical advice leaves clients open to subjective influence. If developers, architects, main contractors or professionals rely on the expertise of others without asking simple questions about why, where or how a product is specified, this becomes an abdication of responsibility and ignorance is no form of defence.

Specialist contractors can be a vital source of good sound information. A lot of information flows down through the supply chain with no mechanism for information to flow back up. For example, if a specialist contractor has a better (and proven!) solution or if a specification is incorrect then there should be a process of upward communication so that this knowledge can influence future work. This would seem to be an obvious mechanism for ensuring continual improvement in the construction process.


Our responsibility to future generations is frequently raised in the media, and by young people. The construction industry needs to accept its responsibility, not just by allowing chrome free pre-treatments in specifications, but insisting on it, so that buildings from 2019 onwards are known to be free of this carcinogen. The supply chain should advocate honesty and responsibility by ensuring that the specification is adhered to. Upward information flow, encouraged by architects and contractors will help to ensure conformance to their specification and ultimately their vision, across the supply chain.

What would
you like to do?
What would you like to do?