There should be better collusion between contractors and consultants

By Jamie Darragh, associate director at Black & White Engineering

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Jamie Darragh.
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Jamie Darragh.

The UAE construction industry is more competitive than ever and consultants and contractors all face significant challenges to deliver client satisfaction.
Consultants are under more scrutiny than ever to deliver design solutions that meet an ever-increasing number of targets including cost, sustainability, buildability and programme, all of which need to stand up to the challenge of the design teams, contractors, approval authorities and other third-party consultants.

At Black & White Engineering, we understand clients must maximise the opportunity to reduce build costs and improve programme with construction contracts evaluated against delivering such opportunity.  For every new project, contractors need to deliver more for less, to be competitive.  Consultants need to understand this to ensure they take opportunities which are best for a project and avoid re-work of designs.

In the UK, design-and-build contracts are common, and the UAE has re-entered the design and build route as the more common procurement path as it one time did (albeit on a lesser scale). We can all anticipate that the design-and-build model will continue to become more prevalent in the region. This transition to a collaborative arrangement must be developed alongside the common regional approach of a traditional contract, with the consultant frequently novated to various roles, including site supervision duties affording further control over the quality of the contractor’s installation.
The relationships between a consultant and a contractor can often be testing, particularly from a contractual perspective and especially when a client is instructing variations to the design. It is therefore crucial that the consultant’s design is robust and that the contractor is adhering to the design, working safely and installing to the standards expected. The consultant must, however, be open to contractor’s proposals where they have merit. The collusion between contractor and consultant often provides a more practical solution. 

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Following the design-and-build approach, the client may wish to retain the services of a consultant in a technical advisory position, ideally maintaining involvement following the production of the RIBA stage 2/3 design and the employer’s requirements. Alternatively, many clients have an in-house expertise who can also execute this role efficiently. In a market where consultants and contractors are looking for efficient, successful and profitable working environments, everyone is driven towards improving performance and achieving a competitive edge. The relationships between consultant and contractor is imperative to the ultimate success of a project.

B&W Engineering has built a reputation of being aware of the needs of both the client and the contractor to ensure that when decisions need to be made, they are made with full knowledge of the cause, solutions, benefits and implications. The role we undertake, and at what appointment stage, can vary, but the need to add value to the contractor which can benefit the project is consistent.

It is commonly the case that the design-build contractor is afforded the opportunity to undertake value engineering and constructability reviews as part of the appointment process. At this stage, interrogation of the preliminary design is vital, and it is something which B&W Engineering have successfully undertaken with a number of the region’s main contractors and MEP contractors.

It is a challenging and rewarding appointment for a consultant - ensuring designs are developed in compliance with the employer’s requirements, managing the in-depth reviews of the client’s technical advisors and delivering to the contractual agreements with the contractor, maintaining procurement programmes, interrogating cost saving alternatives and liaising with local authorities. The role requires trust to be developed with the consultant and with the client’s team who may initially be sceptical of some of the proposals. A ‘one team’ approach is vital.

This trust is developed by focussing on achieving and exceeding upon agreed targets and proving the value of aligning each other’s expertise. It is imperative that careful selection of a project is undertaken to suit the model, whilst ensuring the employer’s requirements are robustly prepared, the bid documents are detailed and accurate, quality control procedures are in place and the design reviews are frequent and constructive. In addition to trust and effective management, we need to achieve excellent communication, from the outset, ensuring our contractual agreement captures the scope, provides a detailed timeline of deliverables and leaves no ambiguity on costs. Our objective is to reduce the contractor’s conflict with the client’s team, so it is imperative our role with the contractor is not open to dispute.

It should also be said that the selection of the design build contractor on a value basis rather than purely basing appointments on cost is essential. When design-build contracts are delivered properly, they do not pose a threat to quality. A successful project takes effort and commitment from all involved, creating a sense of teamwork, collaboration and joint ownership thereby resulting in the best possible outcome.

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