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Professional Practice

How to Be a Good Client in Building Procurement

The process of procuring a building from conception to completion is long, costs money and requires tough decision-making along the way. Being either a client in any form comes with immense responsibilities, especially where large amounts of monies are in question. By definition a building client is ‘any individual/group or institution with the task of procuring a building project’. A president or CEO, a board of directors, a designated project manager, a building committee, or even various stakeholders who ultimately inhabit the project can all be clients to some degree. The decisions made by any of these individuals or groups of individuals still have long lasting impart on a project, meaning the success of a project to a certain extent depends on how good a building client one is. Although there is no template for what one has to do to be a ‘good client,’ there are essential principles of project procurement that are worth noting:

Getting professional advice: Building consultants such as architects, quantity surveyors, engineers and others are there to offer professional advice which as a client you will need when procuring a building. If you are not an industry professional, chances are you will not be familiar with a lot of process and procedures involved in building procurement, therefore it pays to solicit advice from reputable professionals who will give you valuable advice; these will of course cost money and as such be prepared to pay competitively to get the best (treat this as investment).  Having paid to get advice, be willing to be advised rather than being a dictator client who always wants their way. Of course as a client your word carries ultimate weight, but if you pay for professional advice and you don’t take it in consideration, then you will be short changing yourself and worst stifling the best out of your consultants.

Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know (that’s why you’ve assembled a team of experts to help you). Hire the best talent, use the best technology, set the bar high, and be innovative in your approach. Then let the team do its job. After all, design is inherently a value-added enterprise, and if you think strategically and act accordingly, you’ll always get your money’s worth. (Scott Simpson, AIA)

Clients who don’t take this advice into consideration usually end up making decisions that affect the scope, the schedule and ultimately the cost and viability of the project.

Know your rights and exercise them: Being a client gives you ‘contractual rights’ that you have to know in order to get maximum benefit for your money’s worth. These ‘contractual rights’ are many across each consultant and some should be annexed in your contract agreement to safe guard your investment as a client. For example, as a client you should actively pursue the ability to be presented with options through your scheme development or to be briefed regularly on the progress of the project by being represented or party to any critical project milestones. These could be in the form of client briefing meetings and progress reports. Where deliverables have been outlined in the contract agreement, then you are entitled to receive these as per the contract.

Honour Your responsibilities as a client: Importantly of course is also being aware of your responsibilities as a client. Clients responsibilities are many and some are collateral in contract and could jeopardise your project if not met. Key to some of these is your responsibility as a client to provide project information that could jeopardise health and safety, or payment of consultants within the stipulated time in the contract. In Botswana, especially in Government projects, consultants have been known to complain of instances where they go unpaid for months on end. The repercussions of this seemingly singular issue could have critical effects on project delivery.

Clarity and passion about your project: One of the best clients to work for is one who has clarity or is willing to attain enough clarity on what they want and are ambitious and passionate about what the want. This is of course very subjective, but world class projects have been developed not only through financial muscle or economic soundness but also for clients who have belief in what they want to achieve. This usually becomes a bonus to consultants, especially where creativity is called for, to work cohesively with a client to attain his/her project vision. Crafting such a client vision becomes a joy that designers and creative people thrive on. Of course there are many more aspects that could make one a good client, but the above should be a good start in that direction.



© 2011, Boidus. All rights reserved.


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