School of Construction Management and Engineering, University of Reading, PO Box219, Reading, RG6 6AW, UK
Whole-life thinking for engineers working on the built environment has become more important in a fast changing world. Whole-life thinking is not new, every project attempts to balance the initial capital cost with the operating and maintenance cost of an asset. Engineers are increasingly concerned with complex systems, in which the parts interact with each other and with the outside world in many ways — the relationships between the parts determine how the system behaves. Systems thinking provides one approach to developing a more robust whole-life approach. Systems thinking is a process of understanding how things influence one another within a wider perspective. Complexity, chaos, and risk are endemic in all major projects. New approaches are needed to produce more reliable whole-life predictions. Best value, rather than lowest cost, can be achieved by using whole-life appraisal as a part of the design and delivery strategy.