Building procurement is a complex process costing a lot of money, and it is a component which, when done correctly, enables the building construction itself to proceed smoothly. The complexity of the procuring process is compounded by the many professions involved, all of whom are separate of each other but need to work together to realize a building project. This is unlike in many other fields, for example in medicine, a doctor often would refer to all the other specialists’ fields found in medicine. One goes to a doctor as a first point of health consulting and trusts that from then on, all the advice would then lead to where they need assistance.
In architecture and the building industry however, things are very different. There is not necessarily a one point of contact where one can get all the assistance and advice. For the corporate client with resources, the process could easily be outsourced to contracting managers and project management specialists who would offer advice, and in some cases undertake the whole procuring process on behalf of the client.
For an independent client who just wants to procure a one off building project with limited funds, the process is a complex matrix with an array of specialists and consultants all needing to be coordinated at the same time. These consultants, ranging from architects, engineers, surveyors, planning officers, environmentalists, real estate managers, bankers and others all cost money. If not properly instructed and understood it could be the difference between a successful building project and a white elephant.
In fact the poor choice of procuring systems and/or poor management of the systems might lead to litigation disputes, unfinished or poorly finished works, project delays and cost overruns.
Criteria for procurement paths and implications:
A building project usually has many intentions behind its conception and many of these are personally driven and unique to each project. These could range from the project being conceived as a business ambition, a shelter provision or as a profit driven development, but all of these different scenarios have implications on the criteria of the procurement process. Some of the core priorities of these aspects are:
Time factor: Time factor is a critical aspect tied to the procurement process to ensure certainty and fixed economy of the project. Some projects have to be delivered on a specific time for the whole development to be viable.
Cost related criterion: Similarly, project costs could properly be annexed to the procurement process ensuring controlled economy of the project. Where project costs are the driving element, appropriate procurement processes are needed to ensure the success of the project.
Control criterion: In some cases the project risks are annexed into the procurement process so they can be apportioned accordingly to the contracting parties in the project. The benefits and risks of the project being procured are shared amongst parties as a core part of the procuring process.
Size/value and or complexity: The project scope in size and complexity could also be a key factor in determining the procuring criterion or system. In this case procuring a simple family house and, say, a specialist research laboratory, are distinguished by their level of complex special skills needed to undertake the project.
With the above different criterion for determining a procuring route, appropriate systems of procurement can therefore be adopted. These are contracting systems which can be used to contract different consultants for your building project. Principal to these systems include:
Traditional procurement method: Architect as the key consultant
Project Management: Project Manager as the key consultant
Design and Build: The Contractor as the key agent
Design and Manage: Hybrid of Project Manager and design consultants as client agents
Constructing Management: Hybrid of Contractor and Project Mangers and key client agents
These methods are standards with different contract forms and contracting conditions. They all are used varyingly to achieve a project with specific priorities. The most common method that a day to day individual or independent client would use is the Traditional Method, which we will focus on later in the essay. Other methods such as Project Management are usually employed by corporate clients (even though this can be adopted within the traditional procurement route).
Under Project Management, a dedicated project manger is engaged to advise and sometimes supervise the whole building project process on behalf of the client. Under this route the project manager would conduct the procurement process from inception to completion depending on the agreement. Project management emphasizes on timely delivery and cost control. Also, the project risks are apportioned to second parties guaranteeing the client endures reduced potential projects risks.
Under Design and Build (sometimes referred to as turnkey) the client relies on the Contractor to carry out the procurement of the project, who hands in the keys to a client with a completed project. This method of procurement goes through stages, and primarily clients who prefer it are more concerned about timely delivery and cost control. Cost overruns and other risks are reduced as the Contractor assumes full responsibility of the project delivery.
Other methods such as Design and Manage and Construction Management are usually employed in complex schemes where corporate clients are involved. Projects undertaken through these systems often are phased projects with many ‘clients’ and funding arrangements. In Botswana projects such as Public Private Partnerships (PPP) schemes where government and private sector are procuring a project in partnership would be using these methods or a hybrid variation of them.
Traditional Procurement method: Architect as the key consultant
In broad terms this is where the client commissions the Architect to take a brief (or develop one), produce design and construction information, invite tenders, administer the project during the construction process, and settle the project’s final account. This process is probably the most used in Botswana by independent developers. The Architect is the core driver and offers advice to the client on other related aspects of the project such as required consultants for the project, project statutory requirements, planning and local authority requirements, and project funding and fundraising procedure options. Here the contractor is non design related and is only responsible for executing the building work in accordance with the drawings and specifications produced by the Architect and other professionals. This highlights the critical importance of what an Architect could bring to a project. It is therefore a role that a client should acknowledge as very important, doing everything in their power to get the right architect for the job, and making sure to cultivate a good relationship with the Architect.
Instructing the Architect
Under usual procedures, a client would have a brief with which they would use to instruct an Architect. However, most independent clients do not know how to develop a comprehensive project brief, and therefore the Architect needs to be a part of that process, developing the project brief with the client at the earliest conception of the project. Often a client would have land on which they want to undertake a development without really knowing what the value of the proposed project could be or other development potential.
In this case you need an Architect, and it is critically important to know how to instruct your Architect. We have discussed here before how one could know who is and who is not an Architect, which is equally important. Visit www.boidus.co.bw to see the discussion.
An Architect is trained to advise clients on the feasibility and viability of a potential project and options. After a feasibility study, an Architect should be able to advise whether the client’s land would be better in developing a hotel, housing, shopping complex or any other development. This feasibility study should be undertaken even before the architect does any scheme drawings. Depending on the feasibility option chosen, they should then be able to work with the client to develop a project brief which will outline the scope and size, development phasing, and appropriate procurement methods for the project. Plans and drawings are in themselves a late process which should only be fully engaged in when the scheme has been tested for its viability. Usually independent clients jump all these critical stages and ‘BUY A PLAN’. It is highly discouraged to buy a plan off the shelf when undertaking any development, because no building plans ‘fits all’ scenarios. Building plans are developed with their feasibility and viability having been tested and cannot just be substituted for one another.
Once the project has been found viable and funding secured, the Architect would advise the client on different consultant professionals required for the project. Often an Architect should also be able to recommend reputable professionals and negotiate fees on behalf of the client with the project’s feasibility in mind. Alone an inexperienced client would face challenges in determining which professional the project would need and how much they would cost.
Beyond these array of consultants to deal with, the risks of the project where appropriate advice has not be sought all fall on the client. Buying a plan does not come with time delivery schedules, and its cost control and implications are left to the client. The project procurement risks are universally known and that is why all building consultants are required to carry Indemnity Insurance as cover. The Architect would advise on the PI insurance for the other project’s consultants; hence, a client properly taking the Architects advice would have some cover to project risks related to the building process. Therefore under traditional method of procurement, the Architect is central to the client’s ambition of undertaking a successful project beyond just drawing plans and supervising the building.
H. Killion Mokwete, ARB Registered Architect, RIBA Chartered Architect
Lecturer at University of Botswana, Department of Architecture and Planning
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