I was asked this question by a journalist, and found it difficult to give a straight answer, but on reflection, came up with this:
Construction can indeed deliver more for less. The sector always has done. It has always been possible to cut corners and substitute good materials with low quality substitutes. Apart from substituting poor materials for good ones, we are also routinely de-skilling and de-professionaling the design and construction processes in every way possible to respond to clients who are not willing or able to pay for a good job. In the current economic downturn, it is inevitable that construction quality and social responsibility will be low on most agendas. But this does not provide more for less, in the long run. Perhaps what we need is a concerted attempt to persuade our clients of the medium to long-term benefits of good design and construction?