Consultants are Subcontractors

24462534There is a common factor that leads to some projects being less successful than others. It is not the team, the budget or the client, it is the design. It amazes me that often let the design cause us problems even when we control it. The classic design and Construct contract.

In a D and C contract it is usual for the client to kick of the concept design  and as the design progresses the design team are novated to us, the builder. At what point this takes place and can vary from almost the whole design being locked in before we get a chance to influence it, to a full in-house design control set up. Whichever end of the spectrum we find ourselves, we still have to manage the design process.

So why do builders all too often mis-manage consultants? The reasons are quite simple if you compare how we award subcontracts to how we engage consultants. With subcontractors we issue scopes of works, drawings, specifications, program, maybe an ungauranteed B of Qs, together with the subcontract they will have to sign, plus anything else that encompasses the package of work they are pricing. We receive their prices, compare them, carry out financial checks, then have a post tender interview to ensure they have included everything and understand what they are providing and what we expect.

On the other hand, the consultant’s brief is often nebulous, deliverables ill-defined, time lines not cast in stone, the list goes on.

Right away there is a difference in language in between the two processes. it should not be. Consultants need to be issued a scope, a program, expected deliverables, exactly the same principles we apply to subcontractors.

Every trade subcontractor understands what a monthly progress claim should be. Some consultants I have had the misfortune to work with cannot grasp this simple idea. I have forgotten how many times i have argued with consultants about the quality of their monthly report. It is usually a requirement for them to provide one, so when we get upset at either the lack of or quality of the report, the consultant often tries to shrug it off.

Then there is the issue of set off, or in the vernacular “Back Charges” If a subcontractor cause us to incur cost we set off dollars or back charge him. When we even dare to suggest back charging say the architect for an incomplete design that costs us plenty, we seem reluctant to take him to task.

We need to hire consultants with the same rigour and diligence that we do when hiring subcontractors. If consultants cause us pain we should  seek our recompense in the same manner we deduct dollars from the trades when they fail to clean up or damage finishes.

Published by

Gerry Keating

Construction Professional

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